The Mercedes ML350 is the old-gen Mercedes mid-size luxury family SUV that has been replaced with the current GLE a few years ago. The new GLE is more or less the same car as the ML, the only difference here is the name as these two are designed to fulfill the same market space.
The ML was the very first true luxury mid-size SUV and this very segment is now one of the most popular and hottest segments in the entire car industry. The first-gen ML was introduced back in the late 90s, the second-gen was introduced back in 2006 and the third and last-gen ML was introduced in 2011.
The ML350 has always been the most popular ML model of the bunch because it offers enough power while not being too expensive. The ML350 is not without its share of faults as it suffers from a rough automatic transmission, airbag issues, a faulty camshaft adjuster solenoid, power steering issues, and potential suspension issues.
Overall, the last-gen ML350 is a relatively reliable car, but it does cost quite a bit of money to maintain. If you don’t maintain it properly, you are likely going to experience issues down the line as these cars are both complex and fairly old now.
Rough automatic transmission
The 7-speed automatic transmission found on later ML350 models is known to experience issues shifting in the first three gears. These defects ought to be repaired if you don’t want to replace the entire transmission down the line. To fix it, you will have to disassemble the entire transmission housing and replace faulty parts.
Issues such as these plague both low mileage and high mileage models as well. Older ML350 models are also known to lazy and rough transmissions which are even more problematic than the one found on the third-gen model.
Air Bag issues
The 2011 ML350 is known to have all sorts of airbag issues and these issues are the most common ML350 issues out there, especially for the early third-gen models. The ML350 was even a part of a large-scale recall because of the airbag issue and many of these have never been fully resolved.
There were a few instances where the system was not able to properly decide when it was time to deploy the airbag or not. These issues are commonly known as the “Takata Recall” and the majority of owners reported that Mercedes was way too slow to respond in fixing these. So much so that many ML350 models still run with potentially defective airbags.
Faulty Camshaft Adjuster Solenoid
If your ML350 suddenly flashes a check engine light while driving, the chances are that your camshaft adjuster solenoid is to blame. Issues such as these are reported for both low mileage and high mileage examples which means that these can often be had even on cars with less than 10k miles on the clock.
The parts need top replaced if you want your ML350 to keep operating smoothly. Issues such as these are common for all ML350 generations, but the 2011-2013 models seem to be the most affected by this issue.
Power steering issues
The ML350 power steering is known to experience sudden leaks which can influence the effectiveness of the power steering system. These issues tend to start slowly with smaller leaks and later the issues start causing all sorts of weird noises. If you want to fix this, an early intervention might be able to solve the issue cheaply.
However, if you are not fast enough, these issues might persist and you will have to replace the entire steering rack in order to negate this.
The Mercedes ML350 is available with the Mercedes AIRMATIC air suspension system which is the very top-end Mercedes air suspension system. However, the system is known to cause all sorts of issues that primarily arise from poor maintenance. The system is not as faulty as most people believe it to be, especially on older models.
However, it does cost quite a bit of money to fix it. Issues such as these can most easily be spotted if your ML becomes unable to increase the ride height and if you hear the air compressor running for no apparent reason. The ML is also a fairly heavy car which means that the air suspension needs to suspend quite a bit of weight.
Which ML350 generation is the best one to buy?
The last model years of the ML350 are the best ones to buy because they are not nearly as problematic as the earlier models. The 2011 ML350 is one of the worst, but Mercedes managed to iron out most issues for the later models.
The 3rd gen ML350 is still a fairly competitive SUV because it offers lots of space, a comfortable and well-equipped cabin, and a plush ride. The GLE facelift did not do a lot for the ML350 besides replacing the headlights, taillights, and a few bits in the interior.
Is the Mercedes ML350 good for off-roading?
Most SUV manufacturers tend to market their SUVs as off-road friendly SUVs, but the reality is that hardly anyone is going to use an ML350 for off-roading purposes. The ML350 does come with lots of off-road friendly features and fairly decent ground clearance.
Low range gearbox and hill descent assist are both available but most ML350 models spend their time on the tarmac. However, if you do come across a beaten path, it’s good to know that the ML350 can handle it.
Is the ML350 expensive to maintain?
An average service cost of the ML350 costs between $500 and $1000 and the overall yearly maintenance costs are somewhere around the $1,000 mark which is common for a mid-size luxury family SUV. However, depending on how often you drive it and the mileage the ML350 can cost a lot more.
If you are after a cheap to run SUV you should not focus on 10-year old luxury SUVs as these are not covered by any kind of warranty and are usually expensive to run. However, if you come across a pre-owned certified ML350 with low miles and some sort of warranty coverage, it could actually be a great buy.