Mercedes-Benz has been overtaken in the sales chart by its greatest rival BMW for the first time in almost a decade. But the battle of the German giants should swing back in Stuttgart’s favour in 2005 with a host of new products to boost the brand’s popularity, take the company into new segments and give Munich a bloody nose.
Heading the new-model blitz is the second-generation M-class, shown here in our artist’s impression (above). Due to make its debut at the Detroit Motor Show in January, the new off-roader has been redesigned from the ground up to more closely challenge the likes of the BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery and Volkswagen Touareg when UK sales get underway next summer. Out goes the old ladder-frame construction, replaced by a more contemporary unitary structure aimed at significantly boosting refinement, comfort and safety.
The new car’s dimensions remain close to the outgoing model’s with a length around 4700mm. Its wheelbase is stretched slightly to increase accommodation and the exterior styling adheres closely to the first-generation model introduced in 1997. But it’s a vastly different story inside, where there’s been a revolution in terms of design, quality and versatility.
‘We’ve learnt from the mistakes of the first M-class,’ said a Mercedes official. ‘The new one will be a vastly more attractive product.’
Engines will include both V6 and V8 petrol and diesel units and a powerful naturally aspirated 6.3-litre V8 in a range-topping M63 AMG model. All but the base engines will be offered in combination with Mercedes’ new 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox and Airmatic DC air suspension.
The new 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine, revealed at the Paris Motor Show in the Vision R concept car will arrive before the next M-class reaches the UK. The first model to benefit from the new oil-burner will be the C-class. Two versions of the engine will be offered: one with 190bhp in the C280 CDi and another producing 228bhp in the C300 CDi.