The second generation of the M-Class launched as a 2006 model, and there are two significant developments for the 2007 model year: a 503-hp ML63 AMG high-performance version is available, as is the ML320 CDI-a new clean diesel version that has a 27 mpg highway fuel economy rating.
The M-Class is Mercedes' Alabama-built midsize sport utility vehicle that entered its second generation as a 2006 model with a more aerodynamic exterior design and an even more luxurious interior. Though most owners rarely venture far from pavement, the M-Class has outstanding off-road capabilities. There are few changes for 2007, though new high-performance and high-mileage versions have been added to the lineup, which includes the ML350, ML500, ML63 AMG, and ML320 CDI.
Standard equipment includes an AM/FM/WB/CD audio system with an auxiliary MP3/iPod input, a multi-function steering wheel, two-zone automatic climate controls, 8-way power front seats, a tilt and telescoping steering column, automatic headlamps, 32-ounce front cup holders, and three 12-volt power outlets. Standard mechanical features include hill-start assist, downhill speed regulator (for crawling down slick surfaces), on- and off-road stability control, and an array of safety systems that includes side curtain air bags and front and rear fog lamps.
The ML350 is powered by a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. The ML500 carries a 302-hp, 5.0-liter V-8, and the ML63 AMG gets a 503-hp, 6.3-liter V-8 that is hand-built by Mercedes' in-house tuning shop. The new ML320 CDI runs on new clean-diesel fuel and is rated at 21 mpg in town and 27 on the highway. The 3.0-liter V-6 is rated at 215 hp but also has 398 lb.-ft. of torque to provide strong acceleration and towing power.
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class competes in the Midsize Premium Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) segment, which consists of 14 models. Buyers in this segment look for quality, reliability, and performance, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Avoider StudySM and the Escaped Shopper Study.SM
The top sellers in the segment during calendar year 2006, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report,SM were the Lexus RX Series (108,348 units sold), Acura MDX (54,121), and Volvo XC90 (33,200). The Mercedes-Benz M-Class sold 31,632 units in 2006, a decrease of 9.5 percent compared to the previous year. Other models offered in the Midsize Premium CUV segment include the BMW X5, Infiniti FX Series, Cadillac SRX, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, and Porsche Cayenne. Joining the segment in 2007 is the Lincoln MKX.