As someone who has been following all issues since 1997, I can tell you that in fact, the high sulphur fuel levels + the underground gas station tank liners + the design of the early fuel pumps were all contributors to the failures. Since the redesign and change (which occured starting in January 2000), there have been very few fuel pump failures that I've read or hear of. You'll find that people who do have the problems had an older fuel pump design. Here's the information from the inside. MB did a very lengthy analysis to come to the conclusion: http://www.escribe.com/automotive/european/mbmc/m9000.html
People with fuel pump problems didn't have the vehicle suddenly stalling on them, but in fact they had problems with the vehicle starting up after leaving it overnight, for example. The problem also doesn't occur suddenly and out of the blue. There are always signs, such as the fuel gauge being very erratic and not going up to the full mark even with a full tank. When these signs were continuously ignored for months, the condition worsened as time progressed.
As for overall reliability, the '00 ML has improved to average (according to JD Powers), which is incidentally the similar to the Honda Odyssey and the Acura MDX.
You may be interested in these pictures of various wrecked MLs. After seeing the types of internal crash tests that MB conducts (about 30 different varieties), you too will quickly come to the conclusion that for overall safety (not just the publicised crash tests), the ML is probably one of the top vehicles out there: http://albums.photopoint.com/j/AlbumIndex?u=137587&a=10126395&f=0
Here's also another interesting message. I particularly liked the part about the most expensive part of the vehicle being the one that you hope you'll never have to use. MB's sophisticated central crash sensor box is bought by Volvo for use in their vehicles. It's about $1600 compared to the $400+ of other vehicles. http://www.escribe.com/automotive/european/mbmc/m15466.html
IMHO, the decision is fairly simple in that if you plan to transport more than 5 people very frequently, the minivan is the route to go. If you plan to have 2 extra people only occasionally, an SUV with a 3rd row may be a good choice, particularly if you want 4WD + stability control.
Good luck on whatever you decide on.
Vans, SUVs, and Aftermarket & Accessories message boards
We had a customer that came into the dealership yesterday wanting to trade in their 99 Odyssey EX. They are at the end of their lease, with 30,000 miles on the car. The book value on this is 21,800! 2,000 more than their "payoff". They are trading in on a 2002 at a payment of only 20 more per month than the 1999. Not bad.
My MSRP hangup on the Odyssey has more do with how much profit the Honda dealers make versus how much Honda makes. Honda obviously should increase their invoice price. I have no problem paying Honda more for a vehicle that truely deserves it.