Description: Mid-Size Near-Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle
Base MSRP Range: $37,950 - $46,400
Invoice Price Range: $35,294 - $43,152
Where built: USA
New American-built editions of the M Class of sport-utility vehicles from Mercedes-Benz score a make-over with a second generation of designs for ML350 and ML500 based on a unibody structure that measures about six inches longer and three inches wider than first-generation models. Each version is a sensuous study drawn in curvaceous sheetmetal and shiny chrome. A new scheme for the five-seat cabin draws on fine leathers, polished hardwoods and brushed aluminum accents.
ML350 employs the new 3.5-liter V6 engine with 268 hp. ML500 packs the Mercedes 5.0-liter V8 for 302 hp. Transmission with either plant is the 7G-tronic TouchShift automatic. Both models employ full-time AWD equipment with three open differentials -- front, rear and center. Then Mercedes adds a four-wheel adaptation of the electronic traction control system dubbed 4ETS.
Also aboard is the Mercedes alphabet soup of computerized vehicle controls.
Mercedes-Benz with headquarters in Germany makes luxury and performance vehicles that span the scale in size and type with multiple options for power and traction. The vast collection includes souped-up performance variations in many categories built by the Mercedes super-tuner AMG. But there are three new Mercedes classes for 2006 -- the elegant CLS Class of four-door coupes, the large-scale R Class sport tourer wagons and a new generation of designs for American-built M Class of sport-utility vehicles.