We have had similar problems, but our biggest complaint is that we've had to replace our brakes every 10k miles after severe squeaking, which you can hear blocks away. At the dealership, it costs us $700 to replace either the front or back brake/rotor combinations, as Mercedes doesn't machine rotors to fix any problems.
The local Mercedes service advisors all say that there are a lot of complaints about that, but MercedesUSA (Corporate) continues to state that they use the best parts and it must be our driving.
Please... if it's my driving, all of my cars would be acting the same way, but it's only the ML500, not my Lexus. While I think the SUV is solid, the brakes are driving me crazy.
My 2002 ML500 continues to show devastatingly poor quality :
40,000 miles now : Its on its 3rd battery, third set of Brake pads/ rotors (first set was free : MY MB garage kind of accepted that it wasnt driven hard : the FCS data is stored which proves that) the 2nd set cost $953 (ouch).
New wiring harness failed to fix the Nav System error "TeleAid : Please visit the workshop"... which pops up hourly on Long journeys.
I too failed to get satisfaction by escalating the issue of this lemon : MB USA is a distributer : they have no responsibility for these defects so pls go back to the dealership. These guys know how to make escalation so difficult that you better just give up : I can do nothing about this except keep bugging the dealers and bleeding money off MB : its fun, but counterproductive in the long run : I tell everyone I meet : point them to similar web-sites : in my own petty way I feel vindicated and hope I damage MB rep (and not just my resale value ;-)
I have had a 2002 ML 500 since July of 02; and I don't remember a time when my brakes did not squeak. I had to replace the rotors at 17,000 miles; and was just told (at 30,000 miles) that my rotors are scored and I will need new ones soon. That is my main complaint with this car. It squeaks so loudly that the people in my office know when I am arriving and leaving. It makes people in shopping centers stop in their tracks and stare at me. I asked the dealer that I purchased it from whether they would try to get Mercedes to share in the bill for the new rotors; and they just gave me the 800 number and wished me luck. I guess I figured that when I spent that much on a car, I'd be treated like I am at Nordstrom (i.e., that the customer is always right). I'm disappointed, to say the least. I would not recommend this car to anyone I liked.
2002 ML500 with 142,000 miles. I love this car. The only "problems" I have ever had with this car have been normal wear and tear issues such as replacing brakes, replacing cup holder, replacing bulbs, etc. I am very sorry to read the reviews about other peoples' problems with their MLs. It is possible that I am just very lucky, but I am sure that my ML500 is not the only one on the road with such a stellar track record. Unfortunately, people who love their cars are a lot less likely to take the time to post messages and/or complain - so anyone researching on the web is going to get a skewed sampling.
Sorry, but you're the exception, not the rule.
Mercedes paid out over two BILLION dollars in warranty claims in 2003, mostly attributed to the poor quality of its SUV and A Class.
Never buy anything German made in America.
We've had two MLs, a 2000 ML320 and a 2003 ML500. Both cars have been mechanically sound with no major problems with the exception that both of them required their power steering units to be replaced at 60,000 miles. The ML500 also had the Hi/Lo transfer case motor replaced under warranty at about 40,000 miles.
The ML320, which now has 100,000 miles on it, also had some early trouble with the check engine light coming on which turned out to be my habit of leaving the car running while I fill it up. Once I stopped doing that, the check engine light problem went away.
We've had no problems with early brake wear (and I'm a damned hard driver) or abnormal tire wear.
The only annoying problem we've had is that the NAV unit in the ML500 went out at 35,000 with a "can't read DVD" error, and then it's replacement went out 35,000 miles later, which is no longer under warranty.
But frankly, with both cars we've had a total of less than $3000 in all repairs over a total of 170,000 miles, which meets my expectations. Especially with the way I drive it.
A lot of the problems I see people complaining about are actually problems with dealerships and problems with buying used cars. I'd take them with a grain of salt. We've had 4 other mercedes (1999 E class (sold to upgrade to car with nav system), 2000 E class (destroyed in accident), 2004 CLK (lease returned), and 2006 E class with no problems whatsoever. Granted, one of them didn't live long enough to go out of warranty, but their initial quality was exceptional.
And by the way, a mercedes will absorb a volvo doing 65 miles an hour on the freeway when hit at a dead stop without ruining your plans for the evening. Trust me, I know. I drove it to the repair shop after being hit so hard from behind that it pushed me into the car in front of me, and that car into the car in front of it. Two hours later, I was having beers with friends and laughing about it.
I own a 2001 CLK320, 20,000mi. approx. Purchased new. It has been one heck of an expensive education in how even an "educated" consumer who did his vehicle comparisons before making a purchase, was screwed. I won't list all the electrical problems and defects, the rattles and parts that fell off or the famous replacement of light bulbs, the, as most owners of Mercedes vehicles are well aware of those irritating problems. What upsets me the most is the cold arrogance of Mercedes Benz and its dealers when it comes to the continuous problems. They know they have a problem and yet they deny their existence. My latest repair is an accelerator contol gizmo that will set me back $3000. to replace. The Mercedes attitude is "oh well, these things break". It's as if they know that you spent a lot of money to buy the car and that you can't do anything about it, so too bad for you. Mercedes now has the same attitude and approach that the big 3 auto makers had in the 80's. Mercedes is going down the same road that GM traveled and they are alienating repeat buyers. I know that I will never purchase another Mercedes, not that they care, as there will some other fool willing to fall for the hype of reliability and "german engineering excellence". I just don't understand how my little low end Acura went for 5 years with similar mileage and never had a problem or defect, and yet my mercedes is the poster child for crap. Be warned. My advice to potential buyers is to steer clear and look at the Honda or Toyota vehicles if you want fewer problems.