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Advice needed! ML320 v. MDX

4629 Views 33 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  MDXLuvr
I'm looking to replace a '99 Jeep GC. I've boiled my choices down to the ML320 ('01 or '02 model) or the MDX. I've read a bunch of the threads on the topic, but none of the posts seem to address my concerns directly -- I'm hoping someone here can help. Some questions:

- handling on ice and snow is very important to me. Thoughts on comparisons of the 4WD systems?

- I tested the '01 MDX and couldn't find a comfortable place for my left foot. have they fixed that yet? I imagined my foot getting very tired on a 4+ hour ride to Tahoe...

- Also, the wind noise in the MDX was disturbing. Fixed in '02?

- how is the quality? I think highly of Acura -- is the MDX up to their standards?

- be honest: how does this handle in the snow?

- handling on the ML seemed a little better. I'm aware of the quality issues in the ML, but what do people think from a pure driver's standpoint?

Anything else people think I should know?

Many thanks in advance for any advice....
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Hmm. You guys make me wonder. I've been on two five hours drives in my MDX and my left foot sits comfortably to the left of the brake... I'm 6 foot with a size 10 EEEE foot. (yes, flat footed)

I have the 2002 and I have not noticed any wind noise problems, thuds or knocks or weeping mirrors. It does ride bumpier than my 2wd 2001 volvo v70, but I expect it to. It is a larger, higher, awd vehicle. It's still smooth enough that at times on the turnpike I hit 100 mph and don't realize it. MUCH MUCH better than my 1997 2wd Nissan Pathfinder. I guess it is what you are used to.

Only gripe is around town (13 mile each way to work - highway/city mix) I only get 14-16 mpg... On a straight highway 300 mile cruise control set drive I got 20 mpg. On par with my old underpowered 2wd pathfinder.

Good luck. I choose MDX because the price fit the features I wanted and the way it drove for me. (rx300 was too small) and I liked the dealership. For serious off-roading a 1979 Chevy K20 4WD on 42" tires with 9" of lift does the trick.
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RX Peppier?

Zero to sixty in 8 seconds, give or take a tenth, is quite "peppy"
for a 4400 pound vehicle like the MDX. If you want to skin an RX
at the stop lights, trust me, you can easily do so. The VTM
practically eliminates tire spin. Perhaps becuse the RX is smaller
it may feel quicker but it most certainly is slower.

Since acquiring the MDX 5 months ago I have been puzzled by
the "left foot" syndrome. Am 5' 10" and have never been
uncomfortable with the floor board either in city driving or on
frequent all-day trips. Perhaps I should worry more about it
and then maybe it could become a hang-up. There may be a
lot of reasons not to buy the MDX but performance and dead
pedal certainly wouldn't be negative issues with me. MDX rules.
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i have to agree with bill diggs, the left foot syndrome, and the lack of peppiness are not the reasons i would use to not buy a MDX. the windnoise is definetly excessive IMHO. my dad has a 2000 accord that is much quieter(and smaller) than the 'X.

yoitsme, i was wondering when u were planning on buying your suv. since, the rx300 is being redesigned for next year, u might want to wait(if possible). I like the rx300, but unlike u i thought it was way too small. and the ergonomics are pathetic. I think the only vehicle with worse ergonomics will be the new BMW 745i with the i-drive system.

anyways, just my 2 cents

Season's Greeting to everybody, and Peace on Earth!

welcome to our little site. congrats(i hope) on your new baby. i agree, anybody who gets to drive a MDX or a RX or a ML on a regular basis is doing allright. u can't really complain.

GG rules:D
To clarify, I didn't mean to suggest that the RX was peppier than than the MDX; but it's definitely peppier than the ML320. The left foot and noise issues are peculiar to the MDX, though.

I'm leery of buying any new models, even a Lexus, so waiting for the new models means waiting for more than a year. And the lease is up on my wife's Jeep in two months, so I really don't have a choice. I think this will be big enough for our needs. Time will tell, I suppose....
Both ML and MDX have been to the dealer on several instances. I guess quality is a issue of comparison and is relative to what you are comparing it to. IMO, the MDX is up to standard with Acura quality but I'm one of those people who wonder if quality would have been a hair higher if the MDX was assembled in Japan.

There was a thread on this. I think it is not a matter of the MDX being built in Japan or Canada...I think it is which plant the car is being built. Keep in mind the Acura MDX shares the same structural platform as the Honda Oddyssey. Furthermore, the Acura MDX also shares the same production line as the Honda Oddyssey...Hence...making the Acura MDX and the Honda Odyssey a VERY high demand vehicle because of the low production versus the demand.

The philosophy in production from Honda and the philosophy in production of an Acura are different. Acura in my opinion believes that precision engineering is everything that is why the Acura label is much more sophisticated and much more premium. Honda plants use lower grade robotics than Acura robotics. Q.A.(Quality Assurance ) guidelines are MUCH more strict than that of the Honda lines. I think that if Honda separates the production line and create another plant to make the MDX then I think the details and quality will be much more strict than that of Hondas. I have been driving and owning Honda vehicles for over 20 years and when the Acura mark came out I totally notice the difference.

Another note here also- In Japan... There is no such thing as an Acura. This label is created for export only. For example, an Acura NSX here is a Honda NSX in Japan. Etc etc etc. BUT....Any of the higher level of Hondas(Acura) such as the Integras, NSX, TL, CL are built in a separate plant apart of the entry level Civics, Accord...
I learned that the Honda S2000 has its separate plant also.
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Glad you like the RX, it's a good vehicle too.

As far as the MDX's dead pedal (or lack thereof) goes, it's one of those things that you either won't mind or can live with, or will drive you crazy. Lots of vehicles have one or two little things that can drive you crazy and it's not worth it if that's the case.

As far as the ML320's lack of power, I understand you have to really mash the pedal to get power out of it. The throttle is not mechnically controlled and instead uses a drive-by-wire system and seems attuned to offroading, and gradual power delivery. However, the ML320 is definitely lacking in acceleration pep when compared to the MDX or the RX300, so mashing will only get you so far, so fast (actually the MDX is highly comparable in acceleration to an ML430).

Alternatives to the Volvo include the various Audi wagons, though they can get quite pricey (allroad, A6 Avant). But you probably wouldn't find them boring. The interiors of the mid-to-high-range Audi's are just beautiful.

On a lower price point and not quite the same luxury panache, the VW Passat 4motion wagon could be considered, as well as the Subaru Outback H6 VDC.

Would you consider a Toyota Highlander? Not luxurious especially when compared to the RX but a good vehicle. It will give you more cargo room than the RX300, and while it can sticker quite high when heavily equipped, can be found at good discounts. Else the RX300 is a great way to go.
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I owned a MY2000 RX300 AWD and was basically quite displeased that it was predominantly a FWD vehicle with some very minor AWD capability.

I considered the 2001 MDX quite seriously but was put off at first by the lack of HID as an option. I ended up buying a 2001 RX300 AWD because it came with HID, VSC and TRAC. I felt the TRAC would likely make up for the fact that this vehicle is predominantly FWD.

It doesn't.

My next AWD purchase really should be a BMW X5, it is undoubtedly the very best of this lot. But I have a long-standing mindset against the BMW nameplate, I just cannot go there.

And the ML320 is second only to the X5.

I'm not quoite ready to dump the RX just yet, but when I do it will be for the ML.

Unless the 2003 MDX has HID, VSC and TRAC, and doesn't use the seriously flawed NipponDenso or Denso USA climate control design (it likely does), then I'll take a second look.

Get the ML, you won't have buyers remorse, at least not over not getting the MDX, the X5? Another story.
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What is it about the RX AWD system that you don't like? I don't intend to do any off-roading -- I just need something that will handle the snow in Tahoe (where I am at the moment....wish there were more snow and less rain at the moment...). Every review I have read indicates that the RX AWD works well in snow, kicking in when needed.

The Highlander is interesting, but I found that once it's loaded with even a moderate amount of options you might as well get the RX.
RX puzzle

When I bought the 2000 my Lexus salesman of ten years told me that it was predominantly FWD, 70/30 torque distribution, but with a VC accross the center "open" differential it would allocate more torque to the rear if needed. Previosuly I had owned two Jeeps, live on the eastside of Seattle, on a tw0 mile dirt and gravel mountain road for awhile, snow skiing, relatives on the other side of the cascades, etc, etc.

I had to put four tire chains on the Jeeps (Cherokee Limiteds, an 85 purchased in 87, and a 92 purchased 92, now retired to a cattle and wheat ranch in North central Montana, doing fine work) few times but they always pulled through.

I also still have a 94 Ford Aerostar AWD, 30/70 F/R unless wheelspin is detected, then 50/50.

The RX AWD surprised me on several counts, horrible torque steer first, and then I kept getting the perception that the rear wheels didn't really "drive", ever. I went back to the Aerostar one snowy day and confirmed the much more solid feel of the Aerostar in a large parking lot covered with snow and ice.

So I did a shade tree mechanic's 4WD dynamometer test. I put the front wheels up on a good stout rolling jack, "chocked" the rear wheels and let'r rip!

Actually only about 2000 RPM.... as near as I could tell there was no effort, torque, at all applied to the rear wheels with the front wheels spinning freely. In the reverse condition, rear wheels elevated and fronts chocked, each time I attempted to raise the engine RPM above idle it was abundantly clear that the front wheels would climb/jump the chocks if I persisted.

What, why, how???

So I had some learning to do. I bought the shop manuals for the RX300. Lots of detail and explicit drawings but no "theory of operation". Everything I did see and read indicated that the VC should distribute the torque evenly.. if it operated as Lexus described, and they were kind enough to inform me that their VC description was "the dictionary one".

So I acquired the shop manual for the Chrysler T&C AWD. Finally, some usefull information about the use of viscous couplings.

A viscous coupling does not work by increasing the viscosity of a liquid as most people will inform you. The viscous fluid is formulated specifically to increase its VOLUME, dramatically, with even slight increases in temperature.

The viscous fluid and two sets of clutch plates reside in a SEALED chamber such that as the fluid is heated by the disparate rotational rates of the two clutch plates it volume increases, just as would almost all liquids, and it is the resulting PRESSURE increase within the chamber that causes the increase in the coupling coefficient between the two sets of clutch plates.

There are two important parameters involved in the determination of the functional operation of a viscous clutch. The first of those is PRE-LOADING. Pre-loading determines how much coupling coefficient the clutch has normally or latently, without being heated by disparate turning rates of the two clutch. This parameter is apparently best controlled by injecting an air bubble of an "engineered" size into the chamber.

A large air bubble would mean the fluid must expand a great deal before any additional coupling occurs, and no air bubble at all would mean instant increase in coupling coefficient with disparate turning rates.

The second "control" parameter is the rate of fluid volume increase with temperature which is set by the actual formulation of the viscous fluid itsself.

I remember reading a description of the T&C AWD system when it first came out and thinking, GOD, what an engineering nightmare that must be.

More later, its late...
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Re: MLvs MDX

wwest said:
Get the ML, you won't have buyers remorse, at least not over not getting the MDX, the X5? Another story.
I wouldn't be so sure, read the words of a Certified Mercedes-Benz Technician. According to MBTech208:

"If you want an economical and trouble-free 200,000 miles, buy a Lexus RX300 or an Acura MD-X. You can't beat the Japanese for reliability."

Link to full thread: ( )

Here's what else the Certified Mercedes-Benz Technician had to say about the MClass:

"Of the several MBUSA buyback's we have had at my dealership since I've been there, ML's accounted for every one of them. If I ever own an ML, I'm going to get personalized license plates that say "BUYBACK""

Link to full thread: ( )

And at that same thread above, you can read the words of poor sosh:

"What you do not understand is that I have owned this ML500 since Aug 24th, Thats almost 12 weeks. Of the 12 weeks I have only driven it an aggregate time of about 4 weeks. Is been in the shop. I have put more miles on dealer loaners than my ML and in fact I have yet to have the car washed as the dealer does it prior to return to me. I really do not want the thing replaced as I feel I may have to start all over again de bugging another. What else is there to do?? I will not put up with this for 3 years."

If you still want an MClass, more power to you. But don't say I didn't warn you :)
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Great links Gator!!

Its funny, when u read the comments on the MB boards, so many of the threads are about problems they are having with there ML.
See the 2/4/02 Wall Street Journal

Mercedes Benz has the dubious "honor" of having the quality of their motorcars evaluated in the WSJ and to be found wanting! Or lets put it another way - the quality is not there!!!

Dateline Frankfurt - the articles first paragraph reads as follows:

"Mercedes-Benz, famed for its engineering prowess, is suddenly facing tough questions about the quality of its cars, with several surveys showing that the stately German brand may now trail some decidely down-market competition."

It is a very damaging article to M-B reputation.

PS - The M-Class was the WSJ's choice of an accompanying photo:eek:
that article is hilarious. According to the "secret" european industry survey, Opel(GM-europe) had better quality than MB. Truly pathetic. I guess chrysler and MB are starting to look more and more alike.:D
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