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2003 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

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2003 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Review

A luxurious and fast SUV, perhaps too luxurious for off-roading.

Reviewed by Automotive on

Overview

The 2003 Mercedes-Benz M-Class has engines that are powerful ranging from a 3.2-liter 215-horsepower V-6 to a 5.5-liter 342-horsepower V-8. It has dealt with some glitches, which were addressed in the 2002 model year, including issues with the switchgear. The car is fast with the ML55 AMG reaching 60 in less than seven seconds, which set an SUV record. The four-wheel drive can shift power to one or a pair of wheels, giving the car excellent grip. The transmission has a low range and it has electronic traction control. The car handles curves well without noticeable body roll. The anti-lock brakes are solid although the pedal does not engage immediately.

The 2003 Mercedes-Benz M-Class' interior is as luxurious as one would expect from Mercedes. Optional leather seating and wood trim add to the usual appointments and power window and locks. The suspension is luxurious on pavement but is a little too firm for off-road driving so it may not be the best car for adventures other than car-pooling or commuting.

The Range

Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 3.2-liter V-6; 3.7-liter V-6; 5.0-liter V-8; 5.5 liter V-8
Transmissions: five-speed automatic
Models: Mercedes-Benz ML320, Mercedes-Benz ML350, Mercedes-Benz ML500, Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG

What's New

The 2003 Mercedes-Benz M-Class introduces the ML350. Since the other models saw a major overhaul in 2002, the only change is the conversion of the navigation system from a CD-based to DVD-based system.

Exterior

The 2003 Mercedes-Benz M-Class falls between the Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee in size but has a roomier interior. The front and rear bumpers and light clusters were made sportier in 2002. An optional sports package bumps the wheels up to 17-inch alloys, adds fender flares, and a chrome exhaust tip with a sunroof and Bose stereo to boot.

2003 Mercedes-Benz ML55 has wider fender flares and ?power domes? on the hood. The xenon headlights have washers, while the grille is accented with chrome bars and fog lights built into the bumper. At the rear, a unique panel continues the bumper line straight across the liftgate. The five-spoke, 18-inch wheels round out the look.

Interior

The 2003 Mercedes-Benz M-Class cargo area can be expanded to 84.5 cubic feet, and there is an optional third row of seats for all models. The cup holders are redesigned to be big enough to hold an extra-large cup, while some of the added features of the ML55 are AMG leather sport seats, leather trimmed armrests and console storage, a walnut steering wheel, and walnut trim. Its instrument cluster has chrome-ringed gauges with white analog faces. The center console features a modular panel integrating the controls for the audio system, the navigation system, and an optional phone system.

Performance & Handling

The 2003 Mercedes-Benz ML320 has a 3.2-liter V-6 engine that produces 215 horsepower and 233 lb-ft of torque. The brand new ML350 has a 3.7-liter 232 horsepower engine, while the ML500 has a five-liter V-8 producing 288 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Finally, the ML55 AMG has a 5.5-liter V-8 that maxes out at 342 horsepower, which enough to take it from zero to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. This makes the M-Class the fastest SUV on the market to date. All models have five-speed electronic automatic transmission and all-wheel drive with a four-wheel independent wishbone suspension that takes bumps well and provides a smooth ride on pavement. Although the brake pedal does not engage quickly, the brakes are solid once engaged.

Safety

The 2003 Mercedes-Benz M-Class have front and side airbags, traction control, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. All models have ISOFIX car seat latches with an optional Parking assist system.

EPA Fuel Economy

Mercedes-Benz ML320: 14/17 mpg city/highway
Mercedes-Benz ML350: 14/17 mpg city/highway Mercedes-Benz ML500: 13/16 mpg city/highway
Mercedes-Benz ML55: 13/17 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Power on the ML55 AMG
  • Interior luxury
  • Exterior styling
  • Excellent cargo room and optional third row seats

You Won't Like

  • Off-road handling
  • Controls for the navigation system and radio are difficult to operate
  • Brake pedal feels unresponsive initially

Sum Up

A luxurious and fast SUV, perhaps too luxurious for off-roading.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Infiniti FX35
  • Lexus RX 330

See the New 2014 M-Class.

5OD 4 ML 320
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