Mercedes ML W164 or how to carry the torch successfully. Even though the W163 has remained a car for the cash-strapped gypsy kings and towing enthusiasts, the Mercedes ML W164 is still a popular car. Is it worth the money instead?

The answer is basically yes. A Mercedes ML W164 is pretty cheap to buy these days, but that’s generally true of premium cars. Yes, with 6-7000 euros you buy a W164, but then you find out that you pay at least 500 euros a year in taxes, most wheels are 17″ inch and the annual maintenance of the car costs somewhere between 1500-2000 euros a year.

Yes, the second-generation ML is a huge step up from the first ML. The ML W164 was no longer designed as the successor to the G Class, nor does it have 7 seats, that’s the job of the monstrous GL. So the ML comes with a unibody unlike the ladder chassis construction of the W163. It comes with either coilover or air suspension, it comes factory equipped with street tires and big wheels, and it comes with lots of technology and lots of luxury. Even though it can still tow 3500 kg (or half of your mom), the ML W164 is no longer a pure blooded workhorse. The ML W164 is more of a family car for the dad that’s too snobby for a Santa Fe, but it also it retains it’s appeal to some shady people, albeit much fewer. Even in 2022, the ML still sees a lot of work as the official car of the shady people who have to get to a job fast.


Mercedes ML W164 or S Class W221?

This question still pops up occasionally on forums, social media, and Mercedes groups. The point is that both are premium cars from Mercedes, both usually come with a 3-litre diesel and both are comparably priced. If you have a wide backhead and short forehead, you’ll probably choose the ML because it can accomodate more swords and victims. If you’re also in the waste management business but you’re not into kidnapping and violence but rather tax collection, then the S Class is more of your spin. On the other hand, the S Class is a much more comfortable car but has a lot more electronics and therefore more reliability issues. The ML on the other hand lets you sit up high in the seat and see the rest(s) of the traffic more easily, but has fewer toys than the S Class. There’s also the fact that the ML comes with standard all-wheel drive, whereas the S Class comes with standard rear-wheel drive but that should only concern you in winter on snow.


Mercedes ML W164 Engines


  • 3.5 V6 of 272 horsepower – Unfortunately only the M272 was fitted to the W164, an engine notorious for issues with the balance shaft. Premature wear and tear will give you the willies and take your blood pressure up to the heaven when you’ll see the repair invoice. If you have a bizarre fetish with 3.5 petrol MLs, then at least look to see if it’s already had it’s balance shaft replaced.
  • 4.7 V8 of 335 horsepower  – Here we have the M273 which comes from the same generation as the M272. It has the same balance shaft issues, but the issues are rarer. However, on an ML with a 4.7 V8, the engine is definitely your last expense.
  • 5.0 V8 of 306 horsepower – Or a 5.0 V8.
  • 5.5 V8 of 382 horsepower – This is where the line for Mercedes V8 engines ends and comically this is the most reliable of them all. Either way, this engine has so much power that you will be cruising around at 60 mph at idle rpm. Engine maintainance costs really are the last worry in this scenario.
  • 6.2 V8 of 525 horsepower – That’s because this was the first V8 produced 100% by AMG. Obviously, there had to be an ML63 AMG, it’s not like the X5M and Cayenne Turbo were going to stand alone and dominate the oligarch apartments on wheels sector. No, it’s not a reliable engine, having a major camshaft, intake manifold, and timing issues. But, if you can afford an ML63 AMG, you shouldn’t be caring about money that much.


3.0 CDI of 190, 211, 224, 272 horsepower – By far the most common engine found in the Mercedes ML W164 and the most adequate for the german mid-size SUV. It doesn’t necessarily go by the logic “good guy, shame that he breathes”, but it doesn’t go in hand with city driving at all. Like any other 3-liter diesel in essence. Except Mercedes has more trouble than others, because the injector seals will quickly crack at city pressure and make your whole engine toast. A yes, take care of the ML 350 BlueTec version because it has AdBlue installation and even in Mercedes’ courtyard it’s not a technology to be praised. Also, don’t forget the oil cooler issue, of which I have already wrote about.

4.0 CDI of 306 horsepower  – I could say I don’t exactly understand why you’d buy a 4.0-liter V8 diesel, but then I remembered there’s a 4.7 V8 petrol. In any case, this engine and the automatic transmission get along as well as eating watermelon and drinking beer. The automatic simply cannot cope with the torque of the 4 litre.


Mercedes ML W164 General Issues

  • The Mercedes ML W164 was and is an aspirational premium SUV. Lots of people who can afford to buy it but can’t really afford to maintain it just flocked to the ML. So you have to inspect the car very carefully before you take the plunge.
  • The 7G-Tronic automatic transmission was not the most reliable transmission in the world and many people also ignored changing the oil. That’s because a lot of people are in the category mentioned above, as they can afford to buy an ML but can’t really afford to maintain it.
  • Airmatic suspension on is as sensible as Patrisse Cullors when asked where she got the money for all those houses. The main enemy of this suspension is not the quality of the road, but the humidity which gangs up. So put money aside or buy a coilover model.
  • Mercedes ML W164 weighs more than the weight of my regrets in life, and the most common victims are the front tires. The situation is that we also have a heavy car, but the tires are also usually thinner than the thongs of lap dance club girls so if you see worn tires at 5000 km run don’t be surprised. The only solution is to mount 17″ rims and the thickest tires possible.


Mercedes ML W164 Verdict

If you want to feel like an 2010 mobster. If you have too much money for a Santa Fe and want a family car. If you don’t believe in safety systems and believe that size matters in the event of an impact, then the Mercedes ML W164 is the perfect car for you. I sat and thought that I’d like an ML W164 too, but as I was thinking that I felt the back of my neck already thickening, my forehead shrinking, and my chest hair falling out. I felt the urge to dress up with silk shirts, 2 sizes too small. 


What engines do you recommend? Clearly the 3-litre diesel…some say the 190 horsepower ML280 version is too slow, I say it’s for the kind of person who isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. But the most balanced remains the 224 horsepower ML350 CDI.