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Past Issues Index
Roadfly Magazine
Chip Foose, Scion tC, VW Phaeton, Mothers, Lidatek, Ultimate Ears
Issue Sixteen
February 25, 2005
Chip Foose & The OverHaulin' Crew
Seven Cars to Watch for 2005
Mothers® Waxes Polishes Cleaners
2005 Scion tC
2004 Volkswagen Phaeton W12
Lidatek LaserECHO LE-30 Laser Jammer
Ultimate Ears:
In-ear Monitors
Porsche Cayman
Spy Photos
Coming Next Issue
Geneva Auto Show
Porsche 911 S
Spring Cleaning
Hot Lap
Seven Cars to Watch in 2005:
Quick Reviews & Previews (continued)

Bigger, stronger, faster, better: 2005 Mercedes-Benz ML

2005 Mercedes ML. A sleeker bodystyle reduces aerodynamic drag to 0.34

2005 Mercedes-Benz ML is larger both inside and outside

M Class, Updated interior is gorgeous in the 2005 Mercedes-Benz ML

Official Web site:
2005 Mercedes-Benz M Class

Average folks, meaning that majority of the population that reads things like stock quotes or sports scores instead of publications such as this, may be forgiven for not making the distinction between the new-for-2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, introduced at Detroit's North American International Auto Show, and its previous iteration. The SUV's overall appearance is true to the original, and upon first inspection, looks little changed. However, maybe that's a good thing. DiamlerChrysler has been selling around eighty thousand of these Alabama-built trucks annually, since the first non-military Mercedes rock-hopper hit the road in '97. Who can blame them for sticking with a winning formula?

Subtle changes were made, however, including deeper indents into the bodyside, sleeker new headlights and taillights, a toothy new grille, and an overall more curvaceous shape. The next-generation M also features a more rakish windscreen, and has grown an inch or two in every dimension. Somehow, all this adds up to better aerodynamics, with a coefficient of drag down to 0.34.

The interior features more comprehensive upgrades. The leather and plastics look to be supple and class-leading as usual, melded together in a modernist design that more clearly bespeaks the M-Class' mission. It's somehow more rugged, and grab-handles in the center console suggest a level of adventurous driving that most Ms will probably never see. Keeping with industry trends, the M-Class now features an engine start button instead of a traditional ignition cylinder.

Other news comes on the safety front, where new features mean new security for driver and passengers. One such system is Mercedes' new "PRE-SAFE," which uses radar to monitor surrounding vehicles and obstacles and a microprocessor to determine if a crash is imminent. When they system is triggered, it "prepares the vehicle for impact" by tightening front seatbelts, adjusting seat positions, and closing the sunroof in event of a perceived rollover. Revised crumple zones are engineered into the new structure, airbags lurk nearly everywhere, and whiplash is tamed via optional new "NECK-PRO" active headrests.

For motivation, Stuttgart's finest have cooked up several new motors. The most popular will likely be the 274-horse ML 350, with the 3.5-liter V6 that serves so well in the new SLK. Also available will be the ML 500, the V8 range-topper until the inevitable AMG derivative arrives. Finally, we're told that for the first time two diesels will be fitted, a 2.8-liter and the 3.2 that we've tested in the impressive E 320 CDI. At least one of those ought to make it stateside. Shifting duties fall to the standard seven-speed automatic, (the "7G-Tronic"), with ratios driver-selectable via steering wheel buttons or column-shift lever.

Two four-wheel-drive systems are offered. The standard system works well for foul-weather jaunts to the shopping mall, while an optional off-road package includes a transfer case, locking differentials, and driving aids that mimic Land Rover's Hill Descent Control and Subaru's Hill Holder. Also included is a version of Mercedes' venerable AIRMATIC air suspension, which, tailored for off-road expeditions, can raise or lower the SUV's ground clearance by almost two inches.

2005 is slated to be a banner year for Mercedes. "Never before have we introduced so many new models in one year," said one executive. DCX cemented that point by showing the Vision R and Vision B sport-tourer (industry-speak for minivan) concepts at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show, both of which presage upcoming production models. Prices remain unannounced, but we expect a modest increase across the board. The new M-Class will find its way to dealer lots by spring of this year.

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