Every vehicle decision comes down to your priorities
. You're not going to get 100% neutral nor 100% accurate opinions here or on www.mbnz.org
(though you should definitely post there, as I believe you've had). So take any opinion you hear with a grain of salt. Decide if it's important to you or not, and how it affects your priorities.
Thus, I'm only going to assume from your post two definite priorities, rather than throw myriad statements that may or may not be relevant. You've seen the posts here and there's not much more to be said in many areas. There are certainly many more pluses to both vehicles that I won't even mention in this post. There are also negatives, but c'mon, it's holiday time, people are dying around the world, and getting into another p***ing match isn't what we want to do.
Winter handling seems to be a priority for you. Personally, I think the ML320 has the technical edge here because of its more sophisticated drivetrain (e.g. stability control plus the fact that all four wheels are always going)
. But there are no absolutes and it won't handle every situation (e.g. if you simply don't have enough traction). The MDX has proved itself fine for most folks here in severe winter conditions
(e.g. some posters here from places like Minnesota). I wouldn't try anything really extreme but you should not do this with any
vehicle. I still think the ML320 will handle a number of more extreme situations the MDX will not, however.
I assume quality is another priority for you. The ML320 is in its fifth model year and quality is probably about average now or even above average, so that should be enough
for many people (and definitely no worse than the overall line of Grand Cherokees!).
The MDX's first year is not as good as other Acuras because it's a new model and its Odyssey underpinnings weren't perfect either. Well-known first year issues are The Thud and weeping mirrors, both of which are supposedly fixed by TSB's and in the second model year.
Nevertheless, according to JD Power, the first model year of the MDX is actually higher quality than the fourth model year of the ML320
. You have to take JD Power with a grain of salt though; they're not as good as Consumer Reports, but CR hasn't had enough time yet (so far as I know) to compile enough history on the MDX or on more recent ML320's. But the score is surprising nonetheless.
Finally, I noticed that someone told you that the MDX did well in the IIHS 40mph offset crash test but had more footwell intrusion than the ML320. And suggested that a higher-than-40mph crash could result in a higher foot injury. I agree with the concept that a higher speed crash could result in possibly higher foot injury than in an ML320; though the fact is that the MDX performance is still "good." However, there was a significant omission in the post that made it (potentially dangerously) one-sided
-- the MDX had a better 40mph head/neck injury score ("good") than the ML320 tested ("average").
Thus, if the logic of the opinion is to be followed, that a more severe impact than the 40mph collision might result in more footwell injury to the MDX driver, then it could also be taken that a more severe impact is going to result in significantly more head/neck injury in the ML320. That's what the post to you conveniently omitted. But I would caution against drawing either
conclusion without scientific testing, it's not an automatic either way!
The '99 M-class IIHS tested has had safety upgrades over the last few years, but there is no conclusive proof that the head/neck injury score has really improved. I would think that MB, which prides itself on its extreme focus on safety and its huge budget on improving safety, would ask the IIHS for another expensive test if they thought it was improved.
That all said, I think both are fine in an offset collision, especially when you compare it to all the other vehicles out there. And indeed, I think that for other types of collisions, the ML320 does have a safety edge.
Good luck with your research, and please let us know if you have other, ranked priorities in a purchase. Again, both are terrific vehicles. I myself bought a 2001 MDX over a 2000 ML320 (2001 not significantly improved, and we couldn't wait for a 2002 ML320 since its features were unannounced and we were having a baby), though if I were to be comparing a 2002 MDX vs. a 2002 ML320, I think it'd be a much, much harder decision and I might indeed go for the ML320 (nice improvements in the 2002 but some negatives -- but NEITHER vehicle is perfect).