2004 M-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUVs deliver rugged looks, safety, room, and utility.
For 2003, there's a new, more powerful base model, the ML350, which replaces the ML320, comes with a larger V6 engine. The ML500 comes with a V8.
Also new for 2003 are a DVD- (rather than CD-) based navigation system, and a special Inspiration Edition with unique interior and exterior trim.
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is available in two models, plus a limited-edition high-performance version.
The new ML350 ($36,950) uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 232 horsepower.
ML500 ($45,350) gets a 288-horsepower V8.
ML55 AMG ($65,900) features a hot-rod version of that V8, raising the horsepower to 342.
A new package called the Inspiration Edition ($2540 on ML350, $1200 on ML500) includes sport seats with silver cross-stitched Anthracite leather, dark poplar wood trim, unique floormats, six-spoke 17-inch wheels, and a silver-painted grille.
All M-Class models come standard with dual front airbags that know when to deploy with partial or full force, side airbags, window curtain airbags that drop from the headliner, as well as seatbelt pretensioners and automatic seatbelt force limiters. A child-seat recognition system prevents deployment of the front passenger airbags when an appropriate child safety seat is installed.
The company's Tele Aid emergency calling system is also standard equipment, along with a downhill traction-control system that features a crawl mode for slow descents on steep icy streets, or even off-road. Also standard on all M-Class models for 2003 is an Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which corrects slides and is invaluable; it works with Brake Assist, which activates the pedal with full force when sensors say it's needed.