The Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Introduced to the UK in September 2005, the latest M-Class offers state-of-the-art technology such as four powerful new engines, standard 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, aneven more effective four-wheel drive system 4-ETS, AIRMATIC air suspension and the anticipatoryoccupant protection system PRE-SAFE® to reaffirm its leadingposition in the luxury off-road market segment.
You need look no further than the design of the M-Class, with its beguiling blend of heavily contoured surfaces and taut lines, to admire the majestic character of the second-generation off-roader. Swept-back windscreen, striking front wings and rising shoulderline set the unashamedly sporting tone, a theme developed by the proportions of the body: the M-Class is 150 mm longer (now 4788 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.
Four of the five engines (see separate section for ML 63 AMG) available for the latest model are new 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 the previous 0.40) combine to cut fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent.
The V6 diesel engine, available with two different outputs features third-generation common-rail direct injection and the latest in piezo injectors. The unit in the ML 320 CDI delivers 224 hp and places a maximum torque of 510 Nm on tap from 1600 rpm. The ML 280 CDI serves up 190 hp and a peak torque of 440 Nm. The V6 diesel models manage an outstanding 30.1 mpg (NEDC combined), making the M-Class one of the most economical off-roaders in its class.
The 4.0 litre V8 diesel engine powering the ML 420 CDI is a particularly spirited performer. Maximum power output is 306 hp, but it is the immense torque, hitting a peak of 700 Nm at 2000-2600 rpm, which delivers outstanding flexibility without punishing the wallet at the pumps. Combined fuel consumption comes in at 25.5 mpg while 0-62 mph is despatched in 6.8 seconds and top speed is 146 mph.
Petrol engine choice is provided by the V6 unit powering the ML 350, with 272 hp and a maximum torque of 350 Nm, while the range is headed by the eight-cylinder in the ML 500, which now has an output of 306 hp.
The globally unique seven-speed automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC is fitted as standard in all variants of the 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 selector lever positioned close to the steering wheel, a technology which Mercedes-Benz has christened DIRECT SELECT. Additional steering-wheel gearshift paddles enable the driver to glide manually through the seven gears.
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