New Mercedes-Benz M-Class - In Depth  

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Refined power: The new Mercedes-Benz M-Class

Round two for the trendsetter among modern off-roaders: Mercedes-Benz presents the new M-Class. With state-of-the-art technology such as three powerful new engines, the seven-speed automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC fitted as standard, the now even more effective four-wheel drive system 4-ETS, AIRMATIC air suspension and the anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®, the M-Class is set to reaffirm the Off-Roader's leading position in a fast-growing market segment which Mercedes-Benz created with the preceding model in 1997. After its premiere at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show, the new M-Class will be introduced onto the US market in the spring of 2005 and in Europe in the summer.

You need look no further than the design of the new M-Class, with its beguiling blend of strongly 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 (now 4780 mm), 71 mm wider (now 1911 mm) and 5 mm lower (now 1815 mm with roof rails) than its predecessor. The wheelbase has grown by 95 mm to 2915 mm.

Three of the four engines available for the 2005 model are new and outstrip the output and torque of the power units for the outgoing model to the tune of up to 38 percent. Cutting-edge drive-system technology and impressive aerodynamics (the Cd value is down to 0.34 from the previous 0.40) combine to cut fuel consumption by as much as ten percent.

A new V6 diesel engine, available with two different outputs, is celebrating its premiere. It features third-generation common-rail direct injection and the latest in piezo injectors. The unit in the ML 320 CDI delivers 165 kW/224 hp and places a maximum torque of 510 Newton metres 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 140 kW/190 hp and a peak torque of 440 Newton metres. The diesel models burn just 9.4 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres (combined consumption), 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, with 200 kW/272 hp and a maximum torque of 350 Newton metres. The engine range is headed by the eight-cylinder unit in the ML 500, which now has an output of 225 kW/306 hp.

The unique seven-speed automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC is fitted as standard in all variants of the new M-Class. Intelligent shift management allows the transmission to make optimum use of the engine's enviable reserves of power, while making a major contribution to fuel economy. 7G-TRONIC can now be operated electronically using a gearshift lever positioned close to the steering wheel, a new system which Mercedes-Benz calls DIRECT SELECT. Additional steering- wheel gearshift buttons enable the driver to glide manually through the seven gears.

Ready for rough terrain: the off-road package with AIRMATIC

Mercedes-Benz has taken the permanent four-wheel drive and 4ETS traction systems to the next level by incorporating additional functions such as Downhill Speed Regulation, Start-Off Assist and the ff-road ABS system. The M-Class can be ordered with two different variants of the four-wheel drive system, allowing it to meet the varying requirements of off-road drivers: in addition to the basic version, the new Off-Road Pro engineering package is optionally available; it enables the M-Class to master even the toughest routes across rough terrain. Its primary features include a two-speed transfer case with an off-road ratio, manually or automatically selectable differential locks (100 percent) between the front and rear axle and on the rear axle, and a modified version of the AIRMATIC air suspension system tailored to off-road driving, which can raise the ground clearance by 110 mm to as much as 291 millimetres and the vehicle's fording depth to a maximum of 600 millimetres.

The air suspension also significantly improves ride comfort, which is why Mercedes-Benz offers a road-going version of this technology as an option. AIRMATIC teams up as standard with the Adaptive Damping System (ADS), which adjusts shock absorber response to suit the current driving situation. All this accelerates the M-Class into a new dimension in driving dynamics and ride comfort.

Mercedes engineers have also redeveloped the front and rear suspension of the M-Class: the double-wishbone front suspension makes a significant contribution to reduced road roar and tyre vibration, ensuring impressive driving dynamics with its raised aluminium wishbones. The new rear axle has a four-link suspension system.

Standard-fitted light-alloy wheels and wide 235/65 R 17 (V6 models) or 255/55 R 18 (V8 model) tyres emphasise the sporting pedigree of the new M-Class.

A new era in safety: PRE-SAFE® makes its debut in this vehicle class

The Mercedes-Benz M-Class also sets the pace for other off-roaders in terms of safety. Its occupant protection system is underpinned by a self-supporting body structure with large deformation zones in the front and rear ends, and a wealth of state-of-the-art technology from the luxury class as standard. This includes adaptive, two-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger, front sidebags and windowbags, as well as belt tensioners and belt force limiters for all seats. In the event of a rear-end collision, the newly developed NECK-PRO crash-responsive head restraints (optional) provide additional protection for the driver and front passenger.

With the option of adding the anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® to the mix, the new Mercedes Off-Roader raises the bar in its class. This multi-award-winning technology provides a reflex response to critical driving situations where an accident threatens to occur, preparing the car and its occupants for an impending collision. PRE-SAFE® acts in advance to pull the driver and front passenger seat belts taut, bring the fore/aft setting and the cushion and backrest angle of the electrically adjustable front passenger seat (optional) into a more favourable position and close the sunroof (optional) if there is a risk of the vehicle rolling over.

It is by forming an unparalleled synergy of active and passive safety that PRE SAFE® can prepare the car and its occupants for a possible impact. The system is linked to the anti-lock braking system (ABS), Brake Assist and the Electronic Stability Program (ESP?), whose sensors identify dangerous driving manoeuvres. Mercedes-Benz also uses these data for anticipatory occupant protection.

The new M-Class also boasts exceptional long-term quality - another Mercedes hallmark. The fully galvanised body is given extra protection from corrosion by means of an organic coating at specific points. Structural areas subjected to high stresses are cavity-sealed, and folds are seam-sealed. Large plastic underbody panels eliminate the necessity for conventional PVC undersealing.

Part of the standard specification for the Off-Roader is a new type of paint finish employing nano-technology, which made its series-production debut in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Offering significantly improved scratch resistance compared to conventional non-metallic or metallic paint finishes, nano-particle clearcoat provides a noticeably enhanced sheen.

Like all Mercedes passenger cars, the M-Class also comes with the 30-year MobiloLife mobility and value-retention warranty.

On a par with the luxury class: greater comfort and more space

The interior of the new M-Class also exhibits typical Mercedes quality, thanks to higher-quality materials, more pleasant touch and feel characteristics and significantly improved spaciousness for all the vehicle's passengers. For example, at 880 mm, the distance between the front and rear seats is 15 mm greater than that in the outgoing model, achieving a level more familiar in a luxury-class saloon. Knee-room for the rear passengers has been increased by 35 mm and elbow width by 32 mm. M-Class customers can select the seats for their new Off-Roader to suit their personal comfort requirements. In addition to the standard-fitted front seats with electrically adjustable height, backrest and cushion angle, sports seats with specially contoured backrests can also be specified.

Up to 2050 litres of load capacity offers ample space for luggage and sports equipment

The cushions and backrests of the rear seats are split 60:40 and can be folded down. Removable cushions can be ordered as an option, creating a level loading surface stretching 2.10 metres in length through the rear of the car. The maximum load capacity is 2050 litres (VDA measuring method), significantly more than comparable competitors.

The proven EASY-PACK system makes the boot area of the M-Class easier to load and unload. Among other features, it can be optionally supplied with an electrically operated tailgate and a package designed to secure items safely in the load area.

State-of-the-art support systems familiar from the luxury-class Mercedes models help to relieve driver stress, enhance comfort and further improve safety. The M Class is optionally available with the newly developed multi-zone THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control system, the PARKTRONIC parking aid and the COMAND APS control and display system with pan-European DVD navigation. Bi-xenon headlamps with the Active Light System and cornering light function (optional) enhance driving safety during the hours of darkness.

A success story beginning in 1997: blazing a trail for modern SUVs

With its unique design concept, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class led the way for a new generation of off-roaders on its premiere in 1997, and a whole series of international prizes and awards have since underlined the qualities of the M-Class in the fields of design, functionality, driving pleasure, safety and off-road performance.

A total of over 620,000 drivers around the world have so far opted for the original "Sports Utility Vehicle" (SUV), making it one of the most successful models in its class. And the arrival of the second-generation M-Class in spring 2005 is set to open a new chapter in this automotive success story.

Ex-factory prices for the new Mercedes Off-Roader range from €46,342 up to €63,220 (net ex-factory prices €39,950 - €54,500). The individual models are priced as follows:

ML 280 CDI: €46,342* (net €39,950)
ML 320 CDI: €48,662* (net €41,950)
ML 350: €47,966* (net €41,350)
ML 500: €63,220* (net €54,500)

*Ex factory incl. German value-added tax

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