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© 1998-2005 Harald Pietschmann

Can a Mercedes-Benz ML320 tackle the Rubicon Trail?

Yes, it can - but it should not!


None of todays SUVs has any business to be on the Rubicon Trail. No stock SUV will escape the trail unscathed.

During the summer I am on the trail every day and I have seen them all:

Buggies, full size pick up trucks, ZJ and WJ Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia, Hummer - you name 'em, I have seen them. The all made it, but the price was high. Most of them had damage - ranging from a few Dollars to several thousand Dollars worth.

A handfull made it without scratches - but the tremendous work to maneuver an SUV with glossy paint through "attacking rocks" and "hostile trees" is a sheer nightmare.

Only when a 4WD makes it through the Rubicon Trail unharmed and with moderate driving effort by the driver (like any stock Jeep Wrangler does) - only then manufacturers should be allowed to claim: Our "XVZ 2000" can do the Rubicon.

So when Jeep claims, the JGC can do the Rubicon, they are right: it can - but it should not!

So when I report here that I took my ML320 on the Rubicon - I shouldn't have!

It took us 10 hours to travel the first 1/2 mile of the trail - any experienced driver with a suitable 4x4 can drive this section in 15 minutes.

 The ML's limited ground clearance and the marginal wheel travel make it very difficult to negotiate the Rubicon's nasty boulders. On more than one occasion we decided to tow rather than to gun it. Forcing your way through is neither an elegant technique nor is it healthy for any of your vehicle's components. Note, that we used the super capable Mercedes Gelaendewagen for support.

Don't get me wrong: I have no intention, to badmouth the Mercedes-Benz M-Class or it's abilities.

This short photo report is only to show the limits of this revolutionary new SUV. The ML's strength is definitely on pavement - on any pavement, be it icy, rainslick, dry, muddy or sandy the 4ETS traction management system provides a level of traction management that is rivaled only by the 1999 J GC with QuadraDrive (Quadra Drive II).