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2000 E320 4Matic Wagon (AKA family Ski Sled)
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I bought a W210 Wagon 4 years ago or so. I did not know what I was getting into, but I needed a cheap reliable vehicle that could carry my family in all sort of weather. I have put over 70k miles on it in Colorado including lots of steep highways, snow and fully loaded.

Its been great! Honestly, I should keep driving it but I want to tow and have the ability to do some light off road. Also, the mountains of CO are tough so I want a V8 So based on my experience with the W210, the W163 is an obvious choice.

My only concerns are
  • Size, I am 6'4', I have a wife, two growing boys, dog and plenty of gear. The W210 wagon is enormous and the self leveling suspension allows me to load ridiculous amount of gear. Plus it has a rear facing third row, but I dont really use it.
  • Build quality. One of the things I love about the w210 is that it is incredibly durable and easy to work on. Also, the interior is very good. I have heard the ML is not quite as nice.

Finally, I would probably give it a mild lift and bigger tires

Anyway, Im interested to hear the thoughts of those who have experienced both
 

W163 and General M Gremlin
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I believe you will be happy with the interior space and ability to carry loads. The payload capacity is nearly 1400lbs.

I've owned a W163 and worked on both W163s and W210s. There were lots of complaints early on that the plastics in the W163 were not up to MBZ standards, but with age, all plastics become brittle and crumble. Epoxy becomes your friend. In terms of ease of working on the car, I'd say they are about equal. The W163 might have an edge just because it's larger, so it can be easier to access come components.

But yes, let's let David (@2000 E 320 White Wagon) chime in since he has both!
 

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1998 MB E300TD, 1997 MB E36 AMG, 2001 MB E55 AMG
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I've had both too. Let's just say the ML is gone and the wagon is still here.

If you're asking for creature comfort, both will serve you. The ML will be able to swallow you and your family with room to spare. But it doesn't have as much room inside, the wagon is longer than the SUV, so it has more interior capacity if loading it up to the tilt is your thing.

I haven't found a towing hitch for the wagon, but they do exist somewhere in europe. Payload is 1000 kg I think? Less than that.

Downside is the poorer quality in the ML.... You'll become very good at replacing the door lock actuators (all five!). Window switch breaks. Fuel pump, fuel gauge is a known weak spot. Immobilizer is a known weak spot. When it works, it works great... Until it doesn't and then we get 30+ pages threads. ML keys are unique, not too many locksmith can make keys, whereas wagon uses the bog standard key that everyone knows. ML keys might also become NLA, same as 129 and 140. I know 210 flip blade keys are now NLA, good thing I put in my orders when it was available.

Mechanically speaking, they're great. You've worked on the wagon, you'll know the same quality is there. 4matic makes certain jobs more of a pain, but not impossible.

ML, when dressed up, is a beast off-road. But gas mileage is a "lol" -- don't expect to see 20 mpg or higher.
 

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2004 ML500
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All good info so far. My parents had a 99 E320 4matic sedan for eight years so I'm familiar with both platforms. The 163 will not give you more front legroom, I'm only 6'1" and in both vehicles need the seat all the way back. The backseat in the 163 is more comfortable due to no driveshaft hump. Some 163's have a forward-facing third row which should give you an idea of how much space is behind the second row.

About build quality, the early W163 interiors are a joke. In 2000 they improved and in 02 got even better. I'd argue the later 163's are on par with 210's in terms of fit and finish or at least close. Yes, the door locks and window regulators are known to break. In three years of ownership I've had both failures, once each, and both on the rear left door. Annoying, but repairable as a weekend project and it's not like they break every other month.

The W163 remote keys are not available to purchase anymore. Do NOT buy an ML without two working fobs. And do NOT lose them. Your only option will be to buy a plain "valet" key.

Both share a similar drivetrain and should be equally DIY friendly. One upside of the 163 is all diagnostics are through the OBD2 port, no oddball port in the engine bay nonsense. But... the ML500 has been much more problematic than the E320 ever was. The ML has needed an AC compressor, radiator, motor mounts, crank sensor, window regulator, and a few other bits in just the last three years. In eight years the E320 only ever needed one catalytic converter replaced and I think maybe it started leaking trans fluid, but was due for a fluid change anyway so that wasn't really an extra expense.

I'm also from CO and the V8 is great. Horsepower loss is about 3% per 1,000 feet so at Denver altitude, your 215 hp is probably more like 180. In the mountains, even less.
 

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2000 E320 4Matic Wagon (AKA family Ski Sled)
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
In my w210, ive had the AC compressor replaced and the ignition replaced. The ignition was $1500 plus another key.

At Home, Ive done basic stuff like Spark plugs, brakes oil changes, transmission service. But I also replaced the front driveshaft and CVs.

When I write all this down, it sounds like a lot but I only paid $3200 for it so its not bad.

If i get a ML, my plan is to get a 2003 or 2004 low mileage Cali car.
 

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2000 E 320 Wagon + 2002 ML 500 SUV
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mjbrox:

Wow, a lot of great responses above. I agree with virtually everything these members wrote.
I may be one of the few who has BOTH as Daily Drivers and Khomer2 said I gotta 'chime in' so here goes:

The w210 has had less issues overall.

But the ML gives me the 'Truck Guy' feel - and the reality too.
(I just sold my beloved 97 Cummins Ram 2500 4x4 so gotta keep the truck vibe going, right?)

For us this helps cause when you live Rural on a couple acres you need VERSATILE vehicles. As in the ML is awesome at towing (so long as sub 5,000# - which most loads are) + very comfortable seating wise.

When we drive long distance anything over 100 miles the ML is preferred. I don't know if it's seat design but somehow you're less sore upon arrival.
Not that the w210 is uncomfortable, either.

In terms of load, think shape. The wagon excells at 'long & skinny or long moderate height & heavy'. Whereas the ML is of an upright short Box shape, behind the seats.
And, problematically, the ML's rear seats are a poor execution of a good design - meaning they SHOULD FOLD Flat, but I bet only 35% of ML owners can do so.

Either the mechanism is too darn complex (German,huh !) OR prone to snags, broken cables & reluctant latches. If laying rear seats down flat to achieve Max Cargo capacity matters, be sure to test the seat laydown capability BEFORE purchase. If the seller can successfully fold to a flat cargo floor, pin a gold star on them - and buy the ML !

You can tell I can't fold mine flat.
AS my ML won't go flat, I cheat - I grab the Wagon and they always comply and it makes a darn cavern in there.

Both should have roof racks and don't know if you've done this, but getting a nice 20 cu ft Roof Box (the ubiquitous Sears black clam shell one is superb) can vastly expand it on either wagon or ML.

My only other advice is: Headroom. The ML doesn't seem to have an overabundance.
I'm 5'10" and I can't wear a ball cap while I drive cause the rim edge is always hitting the folded sun visor.

Now this may be my particular proportions, long torso & short legs so I'm pretty far forward in seat track.

A longer legged person would put seat further back & MAY not be a issue.
Be aware to check that aspect at least.

Being in Colorado, is it correct that you'd only consider an AWD ?

If so the ML's are unbeatable. In our recent infamous Texas Ice Adventure Storm I finally got a chance to test the ML in Full Icy conditions. It was STELLAR. I was able to bash down Icy forest roads to schlep some Firewood and towed a 4000# load out over solid Ice. No drama, no wheel slip.

It even started out up an Icy incline when other 4 WD trucks were spinning all 4 beside me.
Pretty cool !

I was going to try other SUV's too had we not found this very clean 102k mile 2002 ML500 - for $4000.

We started at the ML as we already had a w210 wagon and it was GREAT - and the ML had always intrigued me.

We had also had 3 prior MBs years earlier and had enjoyed them.

They were only sold due to being too small for our size of 5 children + us = 7 Total.

At that point we became "Mini-van & Conversion Van people" for about a decade.

So, I hope that helps ya some.

David in Texas
 
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I'm not sure what the deal is with headroom in the ML. I'm 6'3" and never had a problem with headroom in the ML.
 

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2000 E320 4Matic Wagon (AKA family Ski Sled)
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
mjbrox:


So, I hope that helps ya some.

David in Texas
wow yes, this helps.

Basically the W210 has been one of the best family cars ive every owneed. I just want more power and the ability to tow so the ML is interesting.
 
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