A sharper-handling, crisper-looking Mercedes M-class 4x4 will go on sale next September. Revealed this week ahead of its world debut at the Detroit Motor Show, the all-new M-class is a major step forward over the outgoing model. It features a unitary construction body, advanced four-wheel drive, more powerful engines and a new interior. As a result it will become a stronger rival to the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg.
The styling is sportier, too, with plenty of ‘wedge’ in the side profile – a shape usually associated with sportscars. Although it has grown in size, with its length stretched by 150mm and wheelbase by 95mm, the new M-class has sleeker proportions thanks to a lower roof (down by 9mm) and wider body (up 71mm). Nevertheless, the styling still has familiar cues such as the three-bar grille, forward-leaning C-pillar and wrap-around rear window.
Under the skin is a unitary body in place of the body-on-frame of its predecessor, which should mean improved crash protection and better on-road ability. Suspension is by wishbones at the front and multi-link at the rear, with air springs from Merc’s Airmatic system. Permanent four-wheel drive, an improved version of Merc’s 4-ETS system, will come as standard and be offered in two specifications. The standard set-up won’t have a transfer box with low and high ratios, or off-road electronic aids – buyers requiring these will have to pay more for an ‘off-road package’. This features a long list of mud-plugging kit, including 100 per cent locking differentials, adjustable air suspension that rises to 600mm for wading, plus anti-lock-based traction control, descent control and a hill-holder.
Engines will be a mix of current and new units. The range will start with a 268bhp, four-valve 3.5-litre V6, followed by a 302bhp, three-valve 5.0-litre V8, and topped by a 410bhp, four-valve 5.5-litre V8. In 2006/7, this will be replaced by a new 410bhp, four-valve 4.6 V8.