ML in focus

I’ve got to apologise because recently the few blog posts I’ve been making seem to be more me blabbing on about the rubbish that fills my head as opposed to any attempt at wit. I will try to step it up a notch soon and maybe then readers will recommend or share the content that I’m writing…which is hardly Pulitzer winning but hopefully is readable at least.

Unfortunately for anyone giving this post a whirl, this is going to be another one of those posts where I try to spill out some of the rubbish that is circling in my head, which today (as with many) involves my upcoming purchase of a new car, a Mercedes ML in all likelihood. I’ve gone on and on about the relative merits and areas to look out for when it comes to the W164 M Class, but when it boils down to it I have not been able to get to grips with what I actually want when I am finally able to choose one. I guess because a large proportion of this style of ML is out of my budget I have had to be less picky about what features and trim level I would like; large alloys, a power boot and more powerful engine are all nice extras, but paying over the odds for them is not something I can afford to do.

Although the earliest cars will have a group of tax that is £200 cheaper than those made after March 2006, they are also powered by the ‘320 cdi’ engine as opposed to the 280 version, and therefore would cost me around £300 more in terms of insurance – this gap is likely to fall but given that there is little difference between the earliest cars and those a year or more younger, it makes more sense to go for a newer example but with less power under the bonnet. Trim levels can also make quite a difference to the price of these cars, and SE models with smaller alloy wheels are usually abit cheaper than Sport models with their 19″ wheels and sportier seats. That said there are also Edition S cars which feature the larger wheels of the Sport, but with less equipment and no leather inside.

In terms of features the only one which I feel is a must have is the COMAND system with it’s navigation and colour screen. Now I know that a portable sat-nav is probably better to use, but the traffic feature of the built-in system appears greatly as does the fact it is linked to the driver information screen between the dials, plus cars without the screen look pretty tacky and have a large plastic area where the screen would normally be. Heated seats are also pretty much a must-have, but most ML’s do have them specified so thankfully they’re going to be easy to find. The other things I like are abit hit and miss really when it comes to the examples I have been looking at; the rear ventilation system isn’t a deal breaker but it is something I would quite like to have, though alot of the SE models I’ve seen don’t appear to have it. Memory seats are surprisingly rare, I guess because most people didn’t feel the need to specify them on top of the standard electric items; again not a deal breaker but a feature I would really like. Bluetooth seems relatively common, but annoyingly depends on whether the Bluetooth connector is present as well as the wiring itself. Finally the electronic tailgate is something that has a strange appeal, if little practical use. It became a standard feature on facelifted cars but on earlier cars it seems like few bothered to add it to their kit tally.

Looking at the cars in my budget the majority of the ML280’s I can find are 2006 06 cars, with an even split between Sport and SE models. However none of these come with navigation, and at that age I feel I might be better off with a 55 reg car with more power but the lower tax rate. The example I briefly mentioned in my last car-choosing post is thankfully still for sale, and is a 2007 57 SE model for sale in Winchester, Hampshire. A ML280 CDI SE with navigation and Bluetooth, it is right at the top of my list and could well be the car on my driveway if it’s still around in a couple of weeks. My only reservations are about the small wheels and bland silver paintwork…arguably things I could change but ultimately not deal breakers.

Facelifted versions of the ML were launched in late 2008 and compromised a slightly different front grille and headlamps, larger alloy wheels and a few changes inside plus more standard equipment. The wheels on these updated Sport models are enough for me to sell my soul, but unfortunately even with that included I would not be able to stretch my budget to the £15.5k needed for one of these. I had quite willingly accepted that, but when I spotted a 2008 58 ML280 CDI SE facelift model at £2k below that, my interest piqued and my brain started to whirr. These facelift models come with the power operated tailgate and Bluetooth as standard equipment, and whilst it’s not clear as to whether the example I saw came with navigation, it would have at least come with a smaller colour screen as standard. Plus the slightly larger 5 spoke wheels on the updated SE models are alot nicer than the pre-facelift 7 spoke ones. £2500 is a lot to pay over the price of the Winchester example I have seen, but if that goes and this one is still there then it will not seem so much to pay over an early 2006 car with less specification. Here are a few comparisons I have done of the pre and post facelift ML:

From the front the cars differ little; the slightly larger grille juts into the lower air dam on the facelifted version (bottom), as do the headlamps lose their teardrop shape. Faux underbody cladding is also enlarged and overall the car looks a tad more aggressive, if less clean as a design.

From the side view even less has changed, especially in these SE versions. Facelifted Sport models got standard sidesteps and those killer 20″ wheels I mentioned before. As it stands the only differences are the slightly larger (18″ as opposed to 17″) wheels and larger side mirrors. The mirrors in the pre facelift car (top) are surprisingly small, and so the larger items would be much welcomed. Tinted windows are another must I forgot to mention before.

OK the pre-facelift car here (top) is a little different but imagine it in silver and you have the right idea. The differences here actually surprised me a little as I honestly didn’t think they would be anything other than tinted rear light lenses (which in fact is not present on these SE models anyway). As I’ve already mentioned there was an increased differentiation post-facelift in regards to SE/Sport models, and the cheaper cars lost the chrome tipped rectangular exhaust pipes of the Sport in favour of some more demure oval ones. The chrome on the boot lip and undercladding also vanished, but I can’t say I’d miss them much. Personally I am more interested in the standard parking sensors and electronic boot on newer models.

There weren’t a mass of changes inside either as you can see; this isn’t the interior of the facelifted example we have seen so far, but all facelifted models (below) came with the updated steering wheel, which whilst less aesthetically pleasing does come with improved controls and proper paddle shifters rather than buttons. The wood on the steering wheel was optional, but all SE models regardless of age come with wood trim instead of carbon-fibre effect plastic – I would rather the latter but not fussed either way. As you can see not much else has changed, but facelifted cars without navigation still come with a smaller screen to control the radio and Bluetooth with, which is much preferable to the black and white display on pre-facelift cars (not shown in the top picture).

Under the bonnet of each car there was little difference until a year later when Mercedes upgraded the powertrains and rebranded the cars ML300 CDI and ML350 CDI; each had a little more power and better mpg, yet neither fell below the important road tax figure to save customers £200; that did not come until the new model which launched last year, with the lower powered version being dropped and replaced by a 4 cylinder engine which was just as powerful and alot more economical!

To be honest the average customer is not going to notice most of the differences on these cars and so maybe there is little point in spending an extra 20% to get a car which is essentially the same bar a couple of tweaks, especially given my limited budget. But there is something about owning the facelift car, which with a private plate could be mistaken for a mere 18 months old, that really appeals to my inner snob. Most similar facelift cars are priced a good £2k more than this particular example so in all likelihood this example will disappear pretty quickly, but just maybe if I wait another month and could haggle another grand off of the price then I might end up with the newer car…though I won’t hold my breath.

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4 responses to “ML in focus

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