Mercedes-Benz W163 is First Produced
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a luxury mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV), first offered in 1997 as a 1998 model, and built by the German automaker Mercedes-Benz.
Gradually, the M-Class became a sales success in the United States and Mexico. In terms of size, it is slotted in between the smaller GLK-Class (based on the C-Class) and the larger GL-Class, with which it shares platforms. For a short time, between the years 1999 to 2002, the M class was also built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, for the European market, until it moved to part of the U.S. market.
The M-Class was the first luxury SUV to feature stability control, a system designed to detect loss of control and instantaneously intervene with selective braking to bring the vehicle back on its intended course. This system is now hailed by safety experts, and studies have shown stability control and systems like it are capable of reducing single vehicle crashes by up to 30 percent. Furthermore, the M-Class boasted front- and side-impact airbags with advanced occupant detection for the front passenger seat, which, combined with Mercedes' legendary safety structure, earned the M-Class the highest marks in insurance industry crash tests.
A road test on the BBC programme Top Gear revealed that the presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, could put his fingers into the gap below the rear lights and above the rear bumper. This improved over the years, especially after a mild facelift for 2002. However, owners are often unhappy with the car's quality — for example, the car was placed last out of 142 cars in the Top Gear Motoring Survey 2004. DaimlerChrysler spent US$600 million on improvements at the Alabama factory before launching the second-generation ML in 2005.
Before the vehicle was launched, Mercedes-Benz allowed the producers to use two pre-production M-Class SUVs in the film The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and used the vehicle's appearance in the film as a way to advertise it when it was launched. As a result, a Mercedes-Benz ad appears before the film on original VHS copies of the film.
Major model variants have included the ML320, ML350, ML430, ML500,and the ML55, along with the 4-cylinder ML230 and the turbodiesel ML270 CDI and ML400 CDI in Europe. The ML55, or ML55 AMG, featured a V8 engine made by AMG, modified body-work, and other performance features. The ML350 replaced the ML320 as the base model in the United States in 2004, although the ML320 CDI is sold in states where emissions regulations allow.
The M-Class was Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year for 1998. The ML320 was voted the 1998 North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, in January 1998.
The current Popemobile is based on a W163 ML430 and has been in service since July 2002. VW had offered to build a new vehicle based on the Touareg, but Pope Benedict XVI opted to continue using his predecessor's Mercedes-Benz-manufactured vehicle.
The Mercedes-Benz W163 M-Class SUV was introduced in 1997 for the 1998 model year. It is a midsized body-on-frame suv with seating for 5 or 7 with an optional third-row seat. The W163 was replaced by the unibody W164 M-Class for 2006.
The Original ML Class SUV was released in the US as a 1998 model as the ML320. Later, in 1999 a V8 option became available with the familiar Mercedes-Benz 4.3 Liter V8 under the hood, the ML430 which added more punch and pulling to the Mid-Size SUV.
Standard features of the 1998 Mercedes W163 included air conditioning w/dual-zone climate controls, power sunroof, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel, power door locks, power windows, cupholders, cloth upholstery, and manually reclining front seats w/lumbar adjustment. Options included leather upholstery, power front seats, cruise control, and heated front seats. Standard features of the 2004 Mercedes W163 included air conditioning w/dual-zone climate controls, power sunroof, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control, power door locks, power windows, rear air conditioning, vinyl upholstery (like leather but less expensive and less durable), and power front seats w/lumbar adjustment. Options included leather upholstery, navigation system, DVD Entertainment system, heated front seats, power steering wheel, and a few others.
Navigation was added as an option in the model year 2001
Later an AMG version, the ML55 was released, using the corporate 5.4 Liter, 349 horsepower (260 kW) V8.
Since the introduction of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, many other premium automakers have entered the midsize luxury SUV market. Despite Mercedes' efforts, however, the original truck-based M-Class began to show its age against better-dressed and more refined car-based crossover SUV rivals. After eight years on the same aging platform, Mercedes finally reached for a much-needed clean sheet of paper for the second-generation M-Class, which debuted for the 2006 model year. The latest M-Class is roomy, powerful and packed with upscale features.
Though it has less ground clearance than the original, the current M-Class' unibody chassis is also stiffer, lighter and better able to deliver the ride quality expected of a vehicle intended primarily for use on pavement. It also boasts a remarkably high-quality interior. There are many worthy competitors in the premium SUV segment, but if you can stomach the latest M-Class' high price, we think it remains worthy of strong consideration. Older M-Class models don't come as highly recommended.
Current Mercedes-Benz M-Class
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a five-passenger luxury SUV. Trim levels include the ML320 Bluetec with a 50-state-legal turbodiesel V6, ML350 with a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and the ML550 with a 382-hp 5.5-liter V8. If you're looking to spice things up, you can also choose a fuel-slurping 503-hp ML63 AMG high-performance version. The diesel ML320 delivers 210 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque, doesn't cost too much more than the ML350 and promises highway fuel economy in the mid-20s.
The M-Class SUVs come standard with full-time four-wheel drive (except for the base rear-wheel-drive ML350), automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, the COMAND interface and a six-CD/DVD changer. A hard-drive-based navigation system with upgraded COMAND is optional. Available features across the lineup include an air suspension with adaptive damping, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, rear climate controls and a rear-seat entertainment system. The ML63 AMG adds unique styling elements and performance-oriented mechanical bits along with its larger engine.
In reviews, our editors have found that the current Mercedes-Benz M-Class imparts a feeling of solidity. With the optional air-spring suspension, the ride quality is impressively supple. Behind the wheel one will find plenty of room and excellent support from the premium multicontour seats. If cost is no object, the M-Class should be high on your list.
Used Mercedes-Benz M-Class Models
The present second-generation M-Class was introduced for 2006 in ML350 and ML500 trims. The ML500 was powered by a 5.0-liter V8 with 302 horsepower. The ML320 CDI and ML63 AMG arrived the next year, with the former offering a diesel engine similar in output to the current Bluetec but without California emissions approval. The ML550 became the standard V8 model for 2008, replacing the ML500. Model year 2009 saw the advent of the ML320 Bluetec and the base rear-wheel-drive ML350, as well as a face-lift front and rear and an available updated COMAND system with Bluetooth phone connectivity.
The first-generation Mercedes M-Class debuted in 1998 with the ML320, which was motivated by a 3.2-liter V6 with 215 hp. More standard equipment was added in 1999, as well as a more powerful and luxurious V8-equipped ML430 model. Detail improvements in 2000 included an interior freshening and optional third-row seating on all M-Class models, and in 2001 the TeleAid emergency calling system became standard across the lineup. These early ML models suffered from extensive quality-control issues that often resulted in expensive repair bills, so we wouldn't recommend them as used-car purchases.
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class was reworked and improved in 2002 with the modification of more than 1,100 parts and the substitution of the ML500 for the previous ML430, now featuring a 5.0-liter V8 packing 288 hp. Telltale signs included new bumpers, clear-lens headlights and restyled mirrors. In late 2003, the ML350 slotted in above the ML320, featuring a larger 3.7-liter 232-hp V6.
Mercedes was also first to market with a high-performance luxury SUV, offering the ML55 AMG from 2000-'03. Sold in limited numbers, this pricey ML had a 5.4-liter V8 good for 342 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, along with a sport-tuned suspension.