RE: Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG | The Brave Pill

RE: Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG | The Brave Pill

Saturday 30th November

Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG | The Brave Pill

A winter-ready AMG for a price that means you could pretty much throw it away in spring



It might be about as cool these days as dad dancing to Slade in a Christmas jumper, but Merc's first performance SUV was a genuine pioneer. Back in 1999 the Cayenne wasn't even a glint in a Porsche product planner's eye and BMW had only just shown the cooking versions of the X5. When this 342hp AMG-badged behemoth appeared Mercedes was creating both the fastest production off-roader in the world, and a whole new segment. Twenty years later, and with a multitude of high-riding 35, 45, 53 and 63 products AMG is most of the way to being an SUV maker with a side-line in normal cars, and this is the great granddaddy.

Not that the ML55 got a particularly respectful reception when launched. More basic versions of the American build W163 M-Class had proved hugely popular with aspirational British buyers - there were actual waiting lists to buy them. But within the first few months of sales the ML had already acquired a reputation for low-quality trim and some frequent faults. It wasn't much cop to drive, being only marginally more athletic than the P38 Range Rover which buyers were most likely to be cross-shopping it against.

The ML55 was blingier, faster and more expensive, but was barely any better to drive. It was its misfortune that early press demonstrators arrived in the UK in September 2000, at the same time as farmers and truckers angered by rising fuel taxes were mounting the first of a series of refinery blockades, which quickly led to panic buying and long queues at the few filling stations which still had supplies.


The magazine I was working for then was based in central London, where every station was displaying "Sorry, no fuel" signs. The delivery driver bringing the ML hadn't been able to top it up and the trundle down from Milton Keynes had used a third of a tank. I drove it to the Chilterns for a photoshoot which, obviously, included a fair amount of experiencing the sounds and G-forces of full throttle.

By the time I got it back to the office in Farringdon the trip computer was reporting single digit MPG, it had drunk most of its 92-litre tank and the fuel light was on. It spent the rest of the week parked in a corner and the guy who came to take it back arrived with several jerry cans.

These were the days when AMG badges denoted monstrous engines rather than handling, and the 5.5-litre M113 V8 was as charismatic as it was in its other applications. But the rest of the experience was closer to wrestling than driving, the 55 not being especially keen on turning, stopping or damping the effect bumps had on the firm suspension settings necessary to keep its towering centre of gravity in some kind of check. In an era when performance was still expected to come with dynamic prowess, my summary was pretty much that it would never catch on. More fool me.


Like many an expensive, show-offy product, the AMG ML aged quickly. After a couple of good years sales declined dramatically once the sharper-steering Porsche Cayenne arrived. Depreciation was brutal, and it wasn't long before the ML55 became one of the cheapest ways to get yourself behind a proper AMG V8. Especially when, as our Pill demonstrates, it's been around the block a few times.

Actually, presuming the block is 440 yards long and laid out in a square, 186,979 times. That's the sort of odometer reading that's likely to defy the optimism of even those who reckon six figures is barely run in for an AMG V8 of this era - although it must be said that the mileage is by no means exceptional for an M113 which has been properly looked after. Indeed, compared to the long list of common problems that afflict the 270 CDI and 320/350 petrol models it might even be the most sensible powerplant option.

Sadly, though, the AMG wasn't exempt from the many other issues that often blight W163 ownership, and frequently bit owners' wallets. Many of these are electrical, most of the rest are caused by the remarkable appeal that (some) Mercs of this era had to predatory tinworm. The ML is less likely to be afflicted by rust than contemporary C and E-Classes, some of which could practically be heard corroding on a quiet night, but once it gets its teeth into any 'nineties or 'Noughties Merc it doesn't let go. On the limited basis of the advert pictures our Pill doesn't look rotten, but there are still plenty of places grot can hide.


There's also no mention of rust in the MOT history, but unusually this only goes back a single year. That suggests the car may have recently been swapped from a long-term private reg and the system hasn't caught up yet, or possibly that it has beamed in direct from the planet Bork. It also denies us more than a single look at the tester's opinion, with nothing more than an advisory for a track rod end and worn brake disc when the test was done a fortnight ago. Our car is late enough to have benefited from most of the quality upgrades that were given to the W163 in period, and the seller does promise some service history, too.

But our Pill is also cheap enough to outflank concerns about its age, mileage or condition. For just under three grand it's well within winter beater territory, the sort of rugged and interesting car that gets picked to keep miles and salt off something else. It's two grand less than the CLK 55 which Pill kicked off with last February, indeed this ML is actually the second cheapest car to be featured in the column. The only one less expensive was a P38 Range Rover. The running costs of a leggy AMG are certain to be high, but they are unlikely to be much steeper than those of the Land Rover.


See the original advert here

Search for a Mercedes-Benz M-Class here

Author
Discussion

Chestrockwell

Original Poster:

2,086 posts

105 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
I’ve got a thing for old V8 Merc’s, always have and I bet that vendor would take 2k cash for that, I don’t think it would be that unreliable and it would make a comfy cruiser. You could say it’s tempting.

The only problem with this would be the fuel, you’d have to be a mad man to run one of those! My most recent car was very thirsty, I never got more than 24 mpg which did bother me but I was having fun in a modern car with all of the modern up to date toys I’d ever need. This isn’t quick, nor is it fun so I don’t see the point in literally, burning money in fuel to run this!


A1VDY

1,024 posts

75 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Very dated, hidiouslu expensive to run, a money pit waiting to open up in front of you.Not nice to drive either.
Stuff like this is scrap...

Billy_Whizzzz

1,200 posts

91 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Struggling to think of anything remotely good about this, even though I love German cars and V8s.

FlukePlay

60 posts

93 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
I cannot see how even the most flexible of man maths can make a case for this. It's an ugly car in many ways with no real purpose other than to drink fuel. 186K miles at a conservative light footed 15mpg equates to around £70K at the pumps in today's money. Add servicing, consumables, tax, insurance and you're not just taking the Brave Pill but downing the pack of Stupidity Pills too.

Turbobanana

1,559 posts

149 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Stop being so negative you lot. Imagine this:

You beed a car for winter, for all the reasons listed in the article. You are able, as someone mentioned, to buy this for somewhere south of the £asking. It has a full ticket so all you need to pay for now is tax.

Run it over winter. Pay for the fuel. Enjoy it. Sell in spring for roughly what you paid.

Practically free motoring. It's a nice place to sit, will get you through the light dusting that will inevitably cause the country to grind to a halt and the great unwashed will think you're wealthy.

I live in town so don't really need a winter beater, but if I did this would be high on the list.

Miserablegit

928 posts

57 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
I seem to recall this generation of AMG ML was a bit of a lemon as Mercedes had to strip all of the 4x4 system out as it wouldn’t work with the AMG engine. All the benefits of a 4 wheel drive are then lost...

shavermcspud

86 posts

41 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
I had one of these in the exact same colour but blue interior, bought it for £1000 from a backstreet garage in Peterborough in 2015 with the sole intention of towing a caravan quickly! it had a tow bar, 12 month ticket and everything worked on in it bar an ABS sensor ring that had failed. had 89k miles and a bit of rust on the lower sill. I sold it a year later once towing duties were over for £1800.

It wasn't fast or nimble but it made an awesome sound and was great as a tow vehicle and strangely my wife loved it.

cerb4.5lee

13,016 posts

128 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
The engine is usually the most important thing with a car for me so these have always had a lot of appeal. However I used to have a X5 4.8iS and while I loved the engine I'm not that sure that they suit this type of car that well.

The thirst will be epic and I tend to think that a big(ish) diesel engine suits these cars much better. In saying that though I'd be happy to have another X5 4.8iS(or this) and use it as an occasional car instead of a daily.

talksthetorque

6,721 posts

83 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Yes.
A vehicle with only one or two redeeming qualities ( engine, practicality) and a list of "cons" much longer, isn't this what the brave pill is all about.
Cheaper winter motoring than a set of winter wheels and tyres for your "Shiny New AMG" I wouldn't wonder

samoht

1,054 posts

94 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all

Could you put the engine into an MX-5 ?

Augustus Windsock

1,850 posts

103 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Had one as a part-ex against an Audi A6 Avant and it was awful. The trim was something I would expect from a Korean car from the 90’s and it always felt like it wanted to fall over and have its tummy tickled
The guy who bought it owned a local kebab shop and it remained parked outside there for long the, never turning a wheel
Personally I think they would make a good ships anchor and wouldn’t touch one again

AC43

7,381 posts

156 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
I had a diesel one of those as a loan car for a week when I was having the wheels refurbed on my C43.

Driving it was a truly gruesome experience. I drove it home and just dumped it.

Rattly creaky wobbly fake tractor with a he-man chrome spare wheel holder.

It didn't turn a wheel until I had to go back to garage.

Just grim.

Edited by AC43 on Saturday 30th November 13:23

Leins

6,935 posts

96 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Everyone here is correct. They’re ugly, crude, unfashionable, make no sense, thirsty, unreliable, not great to drive and all in all not a good car

However, I love mine! It’s noisy and has a VCR, so there wink


Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
I’d get a few matte black/green spray cans and go for the ‘Lost World’ look.

braddo

6,484 posts

136 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
thebestlittlecivicintheworld said:
I’d get a few matte black/green spray cans and go for the ‘Lost World’ look.
Funny you should say that - I was in Cheltenham recently and I saw (and heard) a V8 ML which was matte green with a very loud exhaust and off-road treatment - jacked up, big mud tyres, bumpers heavily trimmed, scuff plates.

Something out of the ordinary - I quite liked it.

Pericoloso

41,257 posts

111 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Turbobanana said:
Stop being so negative you lot. Imagine this:

You beed a car for winter, for all the reasons listed in the article. You are able, as someone mentioned, to buy this for somewhere south of the £asking. It has a full ticket so all you need to pay for now is tax.

Run it over winter. Pay for the fuel. Enjoy it. Sell in spring for roughly what you paid.

Practically free motoring. It's a nice place to sit, will get you through the light dusting that will inevitably cause the country to grind to a halt and the great unwashed will think you're a pie person.
.
Edited the last word for accuracy.

Macron

3,986 posts

114 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Chestrockwell said:
I’ve got a thing for old V8 Merc’s, always have and I bet that vendor would take 2k cash for that,
I’ll bet it’s more likely he’d be on here saying “got me car up for 3 keep getting tts offer me 2k for cash, fking bruv innit tossers”.

Reciprocating mass

5,538 posts

189 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
I remember the first delivery’s of them with brake discs smaller than my mountain bike, and surface rust on the chassis’s awful things, within weeks of there release
There were que’s of customers complaining of grinding brakes and seized spare wheel carriers
Absolute turd mobiles just like most mb stuff of the era
And beyond

big_rob_sydney

2,389 posts

142 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Turbobanana said:
Stop being so negative you lot. Imagine this:

You beed a car for winter, for all the reasons listed in the article. You are able, as someone mentioned, to buy this for somewhere south of the £asking. It has a full ticket so all you need to pay for now is tax.

Run it over winter. Pay for the fuel. Enjoy it. Sell in spring for roughly what you paid.

Practically free motoring. It's a nice place to sit, will get you through the light dusting that will inevitably cause the country to grind to a halt and the great unwashed will think you're wealthy.

I live in town so don't really need a winter beater, but if I did this would be high on the list.
Practically free motoring? Maybe you own your own petrol station, but I think the fuel alone would be an "interesting" talking point.

Leins

6,935 posts

96 months

Saturday 30th November
quotequote all
Think we averaged 13mpg down to LeMans and back last year, which I didn’t think was too bad considering it took all the camping gear for the group and it wasn’t done at a particularly slow pace