© 2005 Harald Pietschmann
Mercedes-Benz M-Class vs G-Class
The Mercedes-Benz ML 320 has a minimum of 8.4
inches ground clearance under the sub frame for the axles. Due to its construction that is also the maximum ground clearance.
That is a pretty good! Sufficient for most verything 99.9% of all
drivers will ever encounter when roads get rough.
Older, rarely ever maintained dirt roads and trails that have a high center ( see pictures below) and unfortunately, when your ML320 is bouncing over that old road the ground clearance is reduced dramatically every time on downtravel of the suspension. Chances are that you will have ground contact which could eventually damage your ML.
For comparison I put my 280GE on the same spot to demonstrate the difference in ground clearance. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class offers 10 inches under the differentials (the lowest points), left and right of the differentials clearance is 14 inches - therefore the G-Class has it much easier to negotiate rough roads. Most importantly, the ground clearance on vehicles with solid axles does not change under suspension articulation.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class like other 4WD vehicles with live axles has a clear advantage over the ML320 when it comes to ground clearance.
Larger tires and aftermarket springs will create more clearance
for the very few drivers that ever want to explore the rough country.
You should also consider "tweaking" your torsion bars for off-road travel.
Most of us who are much more comfortable with paved roads
will never miss those few inches under the vehicle.