Having changed the landscape of off-road vehicle development on its arrival seven years ago, the Mercedes Benz M-Class has stepped up another gear. The Stuttgart-based brand sowed the seeds of a new segment with the introduction of the original M-Class in 1997. Now, state-of-the-art technology - such as three new and powerful engines, the standard-fitted seven-speed automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC, the anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE, AIRMATIC air suspension, the now even more effective four-wheel drive system 4-ETS - is set to reaffirm the Off-Roader’s leading position in a fast-growing market. After its premiere at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show, the new M-Class will be introduced onto the US market in the spring of next year and in Europe next summer.
You need look no further than the design of the new M-Class, with its beguiling blend of heavily contoured surfaces and taut lines, to admire the majestic character of the second-generation Off-Roader. The swept-back windscreen, striking front wings and rising shoulderline of the new car set the unashamedly sporting tone, a theme developed by the proportions of the body. The new M-Class is 150 mm longer, 71 mm wider and 9 mm lower on the road than its predecessor and its wheelbase has grown by 95 mm to 2915 mm.
Three of the four engines available for the 2005 model are hot off the press and outstrip the output and torque of the power units for the outgoing model to the tune of up to 38 per cent. Cutting-edge drive-system technology and impressive aerodynamics (the Cd value is down to 0.34 from 0.39 previously) combine to cut fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent.
The V6 diesel engine with third-generation common-rail direct injection, which takes the place of the outgoing five-cylinder in-line unit in the range, is celebrating its series-production premiere. Put to work under the bonnet of the new ML 320 CDI, the new power unit delivers 224 hp and places a maximum of 510 Nm of torque on tap from 1600 rpm. Also on hand to offer the twin benefits of six-cylinder comfort and dynamism is the new ML 280 CDI, serving up 190 hp and a peak torque of 440 Nm. This diesel model manages 30 mpg (NEDC combined), making the new M-Class one of the most economical off-roaders in itS-Class. Another new arrival is the V6 petrol unit powering the ML 350 – your ticket to 272 hp and maximum torque of 350 Nm. The engine range is headed by the proven eight-cylinder unit at the heart of the ML 500, which now delivers 306 hp.