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'09 ML550, '12 BMW 650i Cab (lucky wife)
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My ML550 is just over three years old and has had several quite serious issues recently. Although covered under warranty, the issues were enough to make me consider trading for something newer. Now that I am retired I’m on a fixed income, so any dollar spent on cars is a dollar less to live on. So I decided I was no longer in the market for uber-priced German vehicles. I pull a small (3,000 lb) boat and I’m a power freak, so I need something with a V8. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is built on almost the same platform as the ML, and it is available with a 5.7 liter Hemi V8, so I decided to take a test drive. What a slug! Compared to the ML550 it is horribly slow, although in Overland trim the interior is very nicely finished. That left only the Grand Cherokee SRT8. I was reluctant to drive one of those as I have driven my neighbour’s 2010 model and it is cheap-feeling and uncomfortable, even though it goes like stink. But the dealer had a low-mileage 2012 GC SRT8 and he convinced me to take a drive. What a transformation! The interior is every bit as nicely finished as any ML, even to the stitched leather dash. The seats are superb, feeling very Recaro-like and supportive. Most of all, the ride has been changed so that it is now perfectly comfortable, somewhere between my ML’s Normal and Sport modes. In the Sport setting, the SRT corners flatter than the ML in Sport, and in Track it feels like a go-kart. The 6.4 liter engine puts out 470HP and feels and sounds like the very best of big-bore American V8s – all torque, with a sensuous deep rumble. Ticket city. At (Canadian) $65K list price, the GC SRT8 is an absolute bargain compared with ML550s, ML63s, X5s, etc., not just because it is in the same performance league but because of the feel and quality of the vehicle. How Chrysler can build it with unionized labour and sell it for $25K less than an ML550, built with non-union labour, is a mystery. If I were comparing the two new, today, it would be no contest.

However…

The SRT is actually selling at $10K to $15K over list, and even the used model I drove had an asking price of $65K, so I decided not to make a deal. (If you pay over list for a new vehicle, you get the pleasure of owning what is, for a while, a rare car, but when it comes time to trade it and it has lost its scarcity value its value is based on the list price, not what you paid. So all those dollars over list go straight down the depreciation drain.) With nothing else appealing to me, I have decided to put new tires on the ML and keep it a few more years. I’m also going to try a different dealer as mine has proven himself utterly incompetent, time and time again – which is, in truth, much of what has concerned me about the ML.

But wait! There’s more!

One thing the test of the GC SRT8 showed me was how incredibly sweet is the Mercedes 550 engine. Although it is supposed to put out 90HP less than the Jeep, and although road tests have the ML550 doing 0 – 60 anywhere from half a second to just over a second slower than the SRT, in real-world driving the two vehicles are indistinguishable in performance. The ML would lose out on a drag strip, and it certainly doesn’t sound as sexy, but when it comes to passing long truck/trailer combos on the highway the ML gives away nothing. So, bottom line? I would buy a GC SRT8 in a flash if they sold at their published list price and if they were widely available, but since they don’t and aren’t, I’m sticking with the ML with a new-found respect for an engine that I already respected. I will also get far better gas mileage than I would in the SRT. As one road tester on YouTube says of the GC SRT8: “It gets 30 MPG: 12 in town and 18 on the highway. 12 plus 18 equals 30.” I average better than 18 in the ML.

Now its time to see if the problems I have had are the exception or the rule. Wish me luck.
 

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2009 ML320 Bluetec, 2013 Tesla Model S 85
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One thing the test of the GC SRT8 showed me was how incredibly sweet is the Mercedes 550 engine. Although it is supposed to put out 90HP less than the Jeep, and although road tests have the ML550 doing 0 – 60 anywhere from half a second to just over a second slower than the SRT, in real-world driving the two vehicles are indistinguishable in performance. The ML would lose out on a drag strip, and it certainly doesn’t sound as sexy, but when it comes to passing long truck/trailer combos on the highway the ML gives away nothing. So, bottom line? I would buy a GC SRT8 in a flash if they sold at their published list price and if they were widely available, but since they don’t and aren’t, I’m sticking with the ML with a new-found respect for an engine that I already respected. I will also get far better gas mileage than I would in the SRT. As one road tester on YouTube says of the GC SRT8: “It gets 30 MPG: 12 in town and 18 on the highway. 12 plus 18 equals 30.” I average better than 18 in the ML.
Its always good to drive other vehicles now and then to learn how good that which we already have really is. Or is not. I did that about 2 months ago then a month later asked the dealer what kind of trade we could make and found myself the owner of a 2009 ML320 Bluetec in trade for a 2008 Ford F-250 Powerstroke. In 13 days I now have 2100 additional miles on the ML.
 
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