Dual-stage front airbags, the TeleAid emergency communication system and an enhanced traction-control system are new standard features for Mercedes-Benzs U.S.-built SUV.
The new front airbags deploy with lower force in low-speed collisions and with maximum force at higher speeds. All M-Class models also come with standard side-impact airbags for the front and rear seats.
The standard traction control feature now works when the vehicle is going downhill as well as uphill or when accelerating.
TeleAid operates on its own cellular system to summon emergency help, which kicks in automatically if an airbag deploys, to call Mercedes roadside assistance center or to track a stolen vehicle.
The M-Class is 181 inches overall, less than an inch longer than the rival Lexus RX 300. With a height of 70 inches, the M-Class is more than 4 inches taller than the RX 300. All M-Class models have four side doors and a one-piece liftgate.
All models seat five, and the three-person, split rear seat folds to expand cargo space to 85 cubic feet. Leather is standard on the ML430 and ML55 and optional on the base model ML320.
A traditional Mercedes dashboard layout is augmented by a 5-inch LCD display with touch controls in the center console that operate climate, audio and telephone functions. On the ML430 and ML55, it also operates the standard GPS-based navigation system.
Under the Hood
Each of the three models returns with its own engine: The ML320 uses a 3.2-liter V-6 with 215 horsepower, the ML430 gets a 4.3-liter V-8 with 268 hp, and the high-performance ML55 packs a 5.5-liter V-8 with 342 hp.
All have a five-speed automatic transmission and permanently engaged four-wheel drive that distributes power among the four wheels as needed. Unlike rivals such as the Lexus RX 300 and BMW X5, Mercedes says the M-Class is a true offroad vehicle.