Mercedes ML W166 is the last ML in non-facelift version and Mercedes GLE in facelift version. So, what car exactly am I writing about???
I’ll write about the Mercedes ML W166 and I’ll probably do another article about the Mercedes GLE too. Probably. Not to say that these two cars are not related. If I had to find it a spirit animal, the Mercedes ML W166 is very similar to the Passat B7. If the W166 is just a massive facelift of the W164, much like the Passat B7 is just a updated B6 that doesn’t need a litre of oil every 200 meters. And that creates a very big issue for the W166.
You see, the Mercedes ML W166 came as a nice facelift of a car that was already obsolete among mobsters, their wives and whoever else drives this kind of car. Plus, during the W166 era there was the classic BMW X5 E70 running around, and then followed by the F15s, cars that became the new standard chariots for people who chose other paths in life. Not to mention the Audi Q7, or worse, the GL. So who was the W166 aimed for?
Like the second-generation Touareg, the Mercedes ML W166 is a family car for people who want something safe and reliable. Most issues are solved and the W166 is one of the most reliable modern cars from Mercedes. Sure, that doesn’t mean maintenance costs will be comparable a Polo’s, but it won’t give you the willies like a W221 S Class or an X5 when it comes to maintainance. But is it worth spending tons of money for a reliable, safe, but technologically and aesthetically outdated car?
Mercedes ML W166 Engines
- 3.0 V6 Bi-Turbo of 333 horsepower – It was only available from January 2015 to July 2015 so good luck finding one. And mechanics that will work on it.
- 3.5 V6 of 306 horsepower – The smallest naturally aspirated petrol on the ML is a lovely 306-horsepower 3.5 V6. Just as Trump was famous for the words “You’re fired!”, W166 tells the not-so-reliablie M272 the magic words and welcomes the M276, which has the old issues solved.
- 4.7 V8 Bi-Turbo of 408 horsepower – You’d think a 4.7 V8 Bi-Turbo would be rubbish at reliability, and you’d be wrong. It really is a reliable engine, although generally anyone who wanted a sporty ML went straight for the ML 63 AMG and less so for the ML 500. In fact, I went on mobile.de to see how many ML500s are for sale. You guessed it. Not enough.
- 5.4 V8 Bi-Turbo of 525 horsepower – Out with the glorious 6.3 V8 and welcome 5.4 V8 Bi-Turbo. Decently reliable, but don’t expect it to be cheap to maintain by any means.
- 2.2 CDI Bi-Turbo of 204 horsepower – I know, this engine is what you came for really. You’re not interested in petrol power and the true battle is between the ML 250 and ML 350. Some say it’s too small. Some say you have to be very careful with the injectors because they have very small tolerance margins and they fail more often than the electricity in Birmingham.
- 3.0 V6 Turbo of 258 horsepower – Here we have a single turbo and the same 3.0 V6 diesel that Mercedes has accustomed us to. Sort of the village bicycle, this engine has been put in everything from the Sprinter to the S Class and won’t give you reliability issues. As long as you change the oil cooler seals, oil cooler which sits deep inside the V (pun intended). And the seals cost pennies, but the labor will tear you a new one.
Mercedes ML W166 General Issues
- Diesel engines come standard with AdBlue so that’s a big no-no. In case you don’t know what the deal with AdBlue is, I have to tell you that AdBlue in 2020 is pretty much what the particle filter was back in 2010. In other words, the bane of the diesel’s existence. Also, make sure to fill up only with OEM AdBlue and cross your fingers for the AdBlue pump to last as long as it can.
- Even if it still comes with coilover suspension, many MLs have the fabulous AirMatic air suspension. Due to moisture and/or dirt, the airbags will deteriorate and eventually need to be replaced. Well, it’s not like the coilovers don’t also need to be replaced eventually, but when a airbag breaks, get your buttocks and your OnlyFans account ready.
- The automatic transmissions went from the classic torque converter on the W164 and 5G-Tronic to 7G-Tronic and then even 9G-Tronic. And we’re still arguing like fools over 5G. In any case, these gearboxes are much more responsive than the old school torque converter, but also that much more fragile. Plus a lot of people forget to change the oil in the gearbox because of the cost, so be careful what you buy and watch what you do, what’chu gonna do when they come for you?
- As with the W164, the W166 bears more weight than even Tupac’s lyrics. That means a huge amount of stress is put on both tires and brakes so be prepared to replace them often. Legend has it that if you put on 20″ rims, the tires can bald after as little as 5000 kms of use.
Mercedes ML W166 Verdict
The Mercedes ML W166 had a brief period of glory from 2011 until around 2015 when the GLE became the new chariot of mobsters and their girls. So it remains a solid family car for the kind of person who is in no hurry to go anywhere. Yes, there are still congressmen and shady people flocking to the old ML. But mostly family guys who want a big, reliable, comfortable chariot for the entire family.
What engines do I recommend? For petrol clearly the 3.5 V6- 306 horsepower should be plenty for most people. As for diesel, I tend to recommend the 3.0 V6 and 258 horsepower diesel instead. It’s more reliable, less stressed and more powerful.