The first generation of the ML was introduced in the late 90s and many believe that the first generation of the Mercedes ML was the very first true luxury 4×4. The W163 ML was a huge success for Mercedes and they decided to offer a brand new model in 2006 called the W164.
Back in 2011 Mercedes introduced the last generation of the ML called the W166 which was later replaced by the current GLE. The 1st generation of the GLE was not a brand new model as it was more of a facelifted W166 ML. The ML350 is the mid-level spec and it is the most popular ML model out of them all as it offers a potent engine that is not all that thirsty on fuel.
All generations of the ML350 look and feel stately, luxurious, and substantial. They offer 6-cylinder engines with enough horsepower and torque for all your needs. The space on offer is vast and the ML can easily pack 5 adults without any issues.
Reliability-wise, the non-facelifted versions of the ML350 are a bit worse and the most common issues of the ML350 are associated with airbags, potential suspension issues, leaks, and rough transmission shifts. All in all, the ML350 offers fairly good value, especially for the facelifted W166 generation.
Mercedes ML350 – The powertrain
The first ML350 was the W163 variant which comes with a 3.8L V6 with 235hp and 255lb-ft of torque. The W163 ML350 also comes with a permanent all-wheel-drive system with low range mode and a 5-speed automatic from the factory. The W163 ML is not really a state-of-the-art car anymore even though it still offers a compliant and enjoyable ride.
The second generation W164 ML350 is still fairly common around the world as it bridges the gap between Mercedes old school and the new age of in-car tech. The W164 ML350 comes with a downsized 3.5L V6 with 272hp and 258lb-ft of torque. 4MATIC comes as standard and so does a more refined 7-speed automatic gearbox.
The last gen W166 ML350 comes with an even smaller, yet more poweful 3.0L V6 with 260hp and a hefty 457lb-ft of torque. 4MATIC comes as standard and so does an even better 7-speed automatic transmission. The last gen ML is a lot better than the first two generations which is rather apparent given the age difference.
The last gen ML350 is also a lot more efficient as it is able to return better gas mileage than the first two models. It is also a lot quieter and faster of the line thanks to a significant torque increase.
Mercedes ML350 – Design and chassis
The W163 ML is now almost 25 years old which makes it a classic, and the people interested in buying the W163 are usually not willing to use it as a daily driver. Even so, the W163 does not look 25 years old as it has aged relatively well. The chassis offers an obvious SUV-trucklike driving experience which means that is flowy and rolls quite a bit.
The W164 is a lot more poised and it is arguably a completely different type of car to drive. At this point, Mercedes managed to make a mid-size luxury SUV feel like a luxury car more than a 4×4. Design-wise many people deem it to be the best-looking ML generation of all time because it is a lot beefier and confidence inspiring than both its predecessor and successor.
The W166 is the most advanced and most contemporary ML350 model out of them all which is obvious the moment you step inside the W166. It is a true modern-day SUV and it drives and feels a lot better than the previous two models.
Mercedes ML350 – Reliability and common issues
All three generations of the ML350 are not the most reliable SUVs on the market but they are known to last a long time if you take proper care of them. Potential issues include a rough automatic transmission, especially for the older and pre 2012 models.
Oil leaks are also a common problem and the 2011 ML350 was part of a huge airbag recall called the Tacata recall. Most ML350 customers complained that Mercedes was way too slow to respond in this instance and that’s why there are quite a few 350 models out there with defective airbags.
Mercedes ML350 – Value and practicality
The first two ML350 models are way too old for anyone to use them as daily drivers, but the third gen ML offers decent value as it is a modern car after all. It is still a great family car as it is available with the majority of safety kit found on the newest cars.
Practicality-wise, the ML350 offers a lot of space both for the passengers and cargo. Indeed, the W166 is not all accommodating for rear passenger headspace, but if you are not planning on transporting tall individuals often, it is actually a really good car.
Is the ML350 a good off-road car?
All ML350 models come with off-road friendly features such as a low-range gearbox and hill descent control. Air suspension enables you to increase the ground clearance which makes it easier to go over many obstacles.
All in all, the ML350 is a decent off-roader, but most ML350s will never see anything besides tarmac because they are luxury cars through and through.
Is the ML350 safe?
All ML350 generations are safe, but the safest one is the last W166. It offers most of the current safety software features which means that you are going to be safe in most instances. Older ML350 models are well protected, but they don’t come with the newest safety kit.
You can always count on all-around parking sensors and great visibility but the older models don’t even come with a backup camera.
Which generation of the ML350 is best?
The W164 facelift is still a great car but the best one of them all is obviously the W166 as it is a true modern-day car. The W166 was replaced with the GLE in 2016, but the 2016 GLE and the W166 are basically the same cars underneath.
You should consider the W166 if you want a dependable family SUV that can do both cruising and mild to moderate off-roading at just a press of a few buttons.