The 2004 Mercedes-Benz M-Class sport utility vehicles (SUVs) offer a luxurious cabin, safety, road manners, and off-road capabilities in a refined and powerful vehicle. The M-Class SUVs aren’t as athletic as some of the in-class competition and some newer rivals can perform better off-road, but all things considered, the venerable M-Class can still provide a luxurious and safe ride on or off-road in style.
Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 3.7-liter V-6, 5.0-liter V-8
Models: Mercedes-Benz ML350, Mercedes-Benz ML500
For 2004, the ML350 replaces the ML320. The primary change is moving to a 3.5-liter V-6 with 232 horsepower from the 215 horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6. The AMG-tuned ML55 is discontinued. A DVD-based navigation system is now optional gear for the ML350.
The 2004 Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUVs are available in two trims: ML350 and ML500. The ML350 has standard gear, such as 17-inch alloy wheels, rear wiper, roof rack, turn-signal in mirrors, and a rear liftgate door. The ML500 uses a larger and more powerful engine, but makes no other significant alterations to the exterior. Stand-alone options include Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights and a power sunroof. The M-Class is taller than most of its rivals, although typically a bit shorter in length. The overall appearance is somewhat stylized, especially for a truck-based SUV that means business. Good looks are typically reserved for the pavement warriors. The aerodynamic front-end and sleek lines lend a sporty look to the M-Class. It is somewhat eye-catching for an SUV.
The ML350 starts off with standard features that include power locks, steering, power windows, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cloth seats, interior air filtration, climate control, some wood and leather trim, and a basic AM/FM six-speaker stereo. The ML500 adds leather seats, an option for the ML350, along with eight-way power and heated front seats, cruise control, more leather and wood trim, a CD player, and a navigation system. Available option packages can add metallic paint and Nappa leather along with poplar wood trim on nearly every interior surface including seats, steering wheel, shift knob, and door panels. A Parktronic rear-obstacle detection system is an available option for either trim level.
The spacious and comfortable interior doesn’t lack for toys and gadgets. Although having the CD player as an option is odd, most everything is there or available. The design is ergonomic and somewhat posh for an SUV meant to handle off-road duties. The seats and overall opulence help take the edge off the truck-like bumpy ride. The design is easy enough to use, and the control functionality is good, especially compared to certain rivals.
Performance & Handling
The ML350 uses a 232-horsepower, 3.7-liter, V-6 engine that makes 254 lb-ft of torque, while the ML500 is equipped with a 288-hp, five-liter V-8 producing 325 lb-ft of torque. Both models have a five-speed-automatic transmission with a manual shift gate. The four-wheel-drive system is permanently engaged and has a Low-range gear setting. This four-wheel-drive system distributes power among the four wheels as needed to maintain traction. Unlike luxury pavement warrior rivals, Mercedes maintains that the M-Class has true off-road capabilities. The amount of power is respectable for an SUV although not class leading nor is the performance. But off-road abilities do separate the M-Class from some of the competition.
The handling is solid. It maneuvers with confidence, especially for a tall SUV, but the steering feels odd. The braking is quite good and assured. The ride is very truck-like. This bolsters Mercedes-Benz claims that this is an off-road capable vehicle, but the ride can be rough over bumps. The ride can get noisy with wind at highway speeds, and there is a bit too much tire noise. The M-Class isn’t as athletic or well-mannered as some rivals, but those rivals don’t do off-road making the M-Class right for certain buyers and wrong for others.
Standard safety equipment for the M-Class includes all-disc anti-lock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front and rear seats, side curtain-type airbags, enhanced traction control that works while accelerating and when going downhill or uphill, electronic brake force distribution, and Mercedes-Benz Tele Aid emergency communication system. Tele Aid starts automatically to call Mercedes’ roadside assistance center if an airbag deploys and can also be used to track a stolen vehicle. The NHTSA has not performed safety tests on the M-Class vehicles. In IIHS testing, the M-Class vehicles earned the highest rating of ""good"" in both frontal offset and rear crash and head restraint tests.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mercedes-Benz ML350: 14/17 mpg city/highway
Mercedes-Benz ML500: 13/16 mpg city/highway
- Bad weather handling
You Won't Like
- Options get pricey
- Handling outdone by rivals
Safe, luxurious, all-weather pavement warrior with style.
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