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153 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
2001 ML320 VS. 2001 MDX

I know there is a somewhat heated discussion about a 2002 ML320 and 2001 MDX going on, but I thought I would share my experience with a 2001 ML320 and 2001 MDX.

First of all, we got both 2001 ML and MDX less than 3 weeks apart. Though we wanted to purchase them at the same time, the MDX has a wait time as many of you know. Before purchasing, I did spend about a month surfing the net for to find any and all information available on different SUVs not just these two. We needed two cars and through a grueling process of elimination, we chose these two cars.

Major reasons the competition was eliminated from consideration.
1. X5
a. The dinky thing in the rear that they call cargo space (I'll try to tone the cynicalism down.)
b. The price!!! What you get for the money IMO was not worth it; but also, I probably couldn't afford it.
2. RX300
a. Too many of these around.
b. Most of them seem to be driven by women.
i. Yes, I do see men driving them, but I'm under the impression that they are just running an errand for their wive's.
c. It looks like an egg with wheels... he he.
3. Passport, 4 Runner, Montero, Pathfinder, etc...
a. Be honest... Given theses choices, how many would choose these over the X?

To compare both ML320 and MDX, I guess I'll start by stating that my preference is for the MDX. In fact, I've mentioned before in a previous thread that I use Zaino on the X and the ML gets the supermarket stuff that I have leftover from previous cars. For those of you who may be shocked at my bias, let me say that cars are not like children, and having a favorite is okay... Not only do I give the X the Zaino, I also gave Stainless Steel Sidesteps (instead of black), and whenever I wash the cars, I even make sure that the X gets 100% cotton towels.
This is not to say that the ML is inferior in every aspect but there are some negative just as there are some positives. With that being said, let me start by telling you the features and benefits of the ML, that stands out.

The "Kudos to Mercedes" list:
1. Autolocking doors.
a. The locks seem to know when they are locked or unlocked so it you don't hear needless clicks and engages.
i.For instance, if you drop someone off and they pull the lock open to get out or use the auto lock, the car knows to relock.
b. This feature can be easily disengaged/engaged by holding the unlock/lock down.
c. For those who do not live in a rough metropolitan area, you may not understand the need for this feature.
2. The key.
a. I like the way the key portions flips out from the remote.
b. The only drawback I can say about this remote is that you almost always have to look at it when you unlock it whereas on the MDX remote, you know which button is what without looking.
3. Measuring/guessing the length of the car when parallel parking.
a. The front is difficult to measure just like the MDX, but the rear is so much easier...
4. Rear seat comfort.
a. The seats in the rear are longer and passengers have stated that they are more comfortable because of that.
5. The gear shifter -TOO COOL!!!
a. It has P, R, N, -D+
i. Once you shift to D, to shift down or up a gear, you tap left or right...
6. Body Side Moulding.
a. It's standard and not a DIY option.
7. The dead pedal area...
a. I know, I know... I'm 5' 7" (5' 8.73" with thick socks and Nikes) but I have difficult time with what to do with my left foot in the MDX...
8. Available Skyview option. *This was a major factor for us that made the ML so appealing.
a. Instead of a sunroof, we opted for this option. It is 9 panels that open up from the front of the car all the way to rear antenna.
b. I'm sure the MDX sunroof is standard size but it seems so small for that car.
9.Front windshield size. (Laziness factor)
a. It's not as slanted and so it's shorter than the MDX... I like this cause it means less rubbing putting on Rain X.
10. No need to carry spare key.
a. If you lock your keys inside, a telephone call can unlock the ML.

The "Kudos to Acura" list:
1. The sunglass storage compartment - it sure makes up for the lousy dead pedal area...
a. You don't know how convenient this is until you don't have one.
2. How easy it is to folding down seats to use extend the cargo space.
a. On top of that, almost all of the space is useable.
3. The size of the glove compartment.
a. It fits the owners manual, flashlight, disposable camera, Thomas Guide for L.A. and Orange County (used by us that couldn't afford the NAV), envelopes for ATM deposits, and then some. *. If only they had made the glovebox flushed...
4. Ergonomics.
a. Volume controls on the steering wheel.
b. Compass - I'm one of those people that feels almost claustrophobic if I don't know which way is north.
c. Better use of the LCD screen for those without the NAV; however, I don't think the gas mileage visual had to be so prominent on the display.
d. Ease of controlling climate. I did read someone complain that they are located too far but once you set it, that's that being automatic... and in comparison to the ML, the reach to the climate controls is about the reach of the volume control knob.
5. Child safety locks on rear door.
6. Ease of changing C.D.s
7. The little "beep" when you push lock twice on the remote.
a. However, the ML alarm is more "intelligent"
i. ML - Has window and tow sensors.
ii. ML - Able to disable alarm by Inserting the key in ignition.
iii. ML - Pushing unlock on the remote doesn't needlessly engage the unlock if the vehicle is already unlocked;however, it does turn on the interior lights for a set duration of time. Same with pushing lock when the car is locked, you don't hear click.
8. The standard 3rd row seats. *This was the reason we got the MDX, if not, we've probably have gotten an Oddesey instead.
9. How fast the windows and sunroof opens and closes compared to the ML which is slower than molasses.
10. The ride.
a. You do feel the pebbles in the road more (from the firmer seats/suspension?) but the overall feeling in the MDX is that you are sitting tall in a luxury vehicle instead of a SUV.
b. Transmission is smooth as a babies bottom and silent as ...(I can't think of anything right now.)
11. Gas Mileage
b. Perhaps compared to a another car, the mileage stinks but compared to another SUV it is very effecient especially for the power you get.

*I drive mostly city and in So. Cali. with MTBE and A/C on, I think I'm getting about 2 mpg on the ML320. probably not, but it feels like it

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153 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Part II
The "What crack was Mercedes smoking when they came up with this?" list:
1. Stereo
a.The volume button. They placed it too far from the driver and on the passenger side of the radio. I think this location would have worked well if they offered steering wheel controls.
b. The Utilization of the display screen. Without the Navigation system, the LCD is used pretty much a glorified radio station display.
c. CD changer access. - I'm sure most of you have heard about this how difficult it is to change cd's, I'll just say that if we want to keep anything valuable in the car, we put it the c.d. changer.
2. Windows, locks, and mirror control.
a. They are all located on the center console area and not the individual doors. I understand that this requires getting use to but unless you've drilled yourself to memorize the buttons, you need to look away from the road (or use a trial-and-error method) to operate.
b. The rear window controls are another story, you almost have to unbuckle and take a motion sickness pill to open or close the windows.
i. Believe it or not, taking off your shoe and working the control with your toe is the key... I kid you not.
3. Front center console is too low.
a. By low, I mean that it difficult to use as a arm/elbow rest; in fact, to support yourself on it, you got to lean towards the middle. It's also very unbalance from the door rest which does seem to be the right height. Imagine going to the theater and not having one armrest for the whole movie...
4. Non-working buttons that are standard on every ML.
a. These are buttons on the car but don't do anything if you don't get the appropriate options. For instance: NAVIGATION, TELEPHONE, AUX. (Fog) LIGHTS
5. The cruise control lever.
a. Cruise control is operated by a separate lever above the turn signal lever... first timers will often use the cruise control to signal.
b. Difficult to use while driving unless you have memorized the four different positions.
6. The unusable amount of cargo space in the rear.
a. Attached to the seats are these detachable covers that are flush with the rear cargo space only when you have the rear seatbacks folded down and the seats lowered. With these seats in normal position with those covers on, the covers angle downward from the seatback to the flat cargo area. With covers off, the open concave storage area that's suppose to house the headrests (I think) is there.
7. The difficulty to fold down the rear seats.
a. There is a round pull handle to fold down the seatbacks, but to make it flush with the cargo area, you have to engage a button with your thumb and pull a different lever with your other hand, while simultaneously exerting a forward force with both arms while pushing off with leverage from having one leg on the tire. *On the bright side, when the seat does eventually move, it's glides smoothly. :)
8. Visibility hindered.
a. Granted, overall visibility is not bad... but with the rear headrests in place, they blocks too much of the rearview.
9. The steering wheel is not center in relationship to seat and gauges.
a. 10 minutes of Hula Hooping daily helps to contort your body to the steering wheel being offset.
10. The size of the glove box.
a. Basically, it will hold registration, proof of insurance, and a pen.
11. Protruding drink holders.
a. All the holders are concealed which is great for the interior beauty; however, the problem lies in that when they are in use, unless you are very "mindful" that the drink is there, you will bump/kick it getting in or out of the vehicle.
12. The sunshade.
a. When you pull down either shade, it hits the pillar everytime.

The "What crack was Acura smoking when they came up with this?" list:
1. The dead pedal area.
2. The coin tray.
a. I do use the coin tray a lot and it is a convenience I wished the ML had, but I have skinned my nuckles trying to take coins out at the drive-thru in the MDX. The "chopsticking the coins with two fingers" method doesn't seem to work too well for me, maybe I'm trying to pick up too many coins at once?
*The ML does have a small platic tray on the front-inside of the console tray...but it's very easy to drop coins between the seats and console and you have to try and stand up the coins.
3. No side protections.
a. My GG - body side mouldings are on backorder with Tim (not his fault), but when will the nightmares stop?

My dream SUV - the MDX320
To sum up, I guess if I wanted the both of both worlds, simply put, I would take the MDX, and put the ML's auto-door locks, dead pedal, and skyview on it...

And finally, let me say that specs., numbers, reviews, performance comparisons, etc. are readily available so I did not go into comparing in that aspect.

Most of the above statements are personal opinions derived from my personal experience as an owner. Please note, opinions are like arm-pitts, everyone has them and they usually all stink.

For those who disagree, I'm very open to hear.
For those who have questions, I'm very open to help.
For those who want to add anything, I'm very open to learn and agree.

· Registered
317 Posts
Thanks for such a thorough review.

The dead pedal area bugs me too a little bit. I do remember it seemed more obvious on the 2001 model and on my 2002 seems to bother me less. I don't know if this area got modified a little bit in 2002 but it was no where mentioned in other reviews.

You are so lucky to be driving both.


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8 Posts
Originally posted by proskunetes
b. Transmission is smooth as a babies bottom and silent as ...(I can't think of anything right now.)

How about, silent as:
- The Red October
- the lambs
- the time between the joke and the laughter
- the Chihuahuan desert

Great post. I learned a lot from your owners experience.

The 2002 ML320 attempts to solve a few of the issues on your "what were they smoking" list. But you'd have to live with it the way you have to see whether their remedies really work.

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650 Posts

Thanks for an EXCELLENT comparo...regarding the X5--and this is a very subjective valuation--but would you agree that it was the most refined and luxurious feeling of the competitors?

I came to the same conclusion with the X5, deciding that I could get a 5-series wagon (though I'd prefer the A6 Avant) with more room for the same or even less $$.

I really like the ML--it was a close 3rd/almost 2nd behind the RX for me. I thought the RX had the next most refined interior...

Thanks again for your comprehensive thoughts--should be helpful to perspective buyers!
Rob :cool:

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153 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
As if this comparison wasn't long enough...

Just wanted to add that today, I saw two dings on the ML. My first thought was, "I'm so glad it wasn't the MDX."

I guess more and more, the one major flaw I am seeing in the ML is that it's not an MDX...

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554 Posts

i get the feeling you are regretting your decision to buy the ML. I was wondering why did you pick the 2001 ML320 in the first place? if you had to make the decision again, would you wait and buy a 2002 MY ML instead of the 2001 MY or would you go for another MDX or another SUV?

btw, good comparison, regarding Acura's negatives-- i agree it was silly for acura to not provide a dead pedal, regarding BMS's i am still debating them. I am not sure if i will like the looks of it.

my only comment regarding the ML would be that it seems that a lot of your positives are "bells and whistles" kind of things. I mean if you(MB) can't provide basic safe, reliable, and well engineered product for $35K+ then i really don't care if you have a cool key fob, or that the doors are auto-locking. I do like the fact that it comes with VSC, and all the airbags as standard equipment.

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338 Posts
Great comparison list

Great comparison -- thanks -- much more helpful than reading specs on edmunds -- you bring up the things that frustrate or bring a frown to your face every day of ownership.

I think that the only other things I would add:

Smoking crack:
The MDX roofrack

Benefit to the ML - no wait, and some of the stuff you mentioned has been slightly improved upon for 2002.
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