I had a go at MERP and was put off ICE products by the sheer mind-bending complexity of the system - but then we were only 14 at the time and D&D just fit better. Sounds like it might be worth revisiting some of their stuff from what you say.
I like the new wizards. We played a short test combat when we first picked up the books and one of my old players was whinging about how wizards looked vastly under-powered. At the end of the combat he said that was the first time he'd played a wizard that actually felt like a wizard in any game. That's the recommendation I have heard for trying the game anywhere.
As for the DMing side, it's definitely faster to build up adventures and monsters are a lot easier to run. I'm not enamoured by the skill-challenges though. They're a bit too simplistic at the moment - maybe they'll become a little more complex when I get my head designing them better.