Mercedes-Benz prepares to launch a brand new (all U.S.-built)
M-Class sport utility for next year, it faces the phase-out
dilemma of any auto maker on the verge of introducing a
new, improved successor. The question: What to do with 2005s?
The answer, in typical Teutonic style, is to add something
so special that it won't go unnoticed.
solution for its waning 2005 M-Class days comes in Special
Edition wrapping, the newest in a stable of five- or seven-seater
M model variations that have spiced up the scene periodically.
The newly-badged version gets minor interior and exterior
tweaks, including body-colored running boards, "unique"
17-inch wheels, a power dome hood, silver painted chrome
grille and polished aluminum roof rails. Add smoked/darkened
tail lamp lenses, door handle chrome tips and Pewter Metallic
as a new color, and the appearance becomes downright spiffy.
are luxurious burled birch and walnut wood trims. Sports
seats have thick side bolsters (a rally car in disguise
here?), and chrome-ringed instrument cluster. It retains
safety and performance features: Four-wheel electronic traction
control with electronic stability as standard, optional
low-range downhill traction control, available DVD nav system.
V-6 or V-8 power kicks in 232 or 288 horses, respectively.
A five-speed auto trans features Touch Shift for manual
override. And standard Tele-Aid communications provides
emergency help, vehicle diagnostics, internet access and
original M-class was a shift toward a midsize sport truck
for the European auto luxury brand, and M-B tested the waters
in a rather unorthodox way during planning. Visitors at
auto shows filled out Mercedes-Benz SUV wish-lists, then
subsequently saw a teaser silhouette on a wall.
Special Edition won't peel one's face back, as suspected
with the previous racing tradition ML55 AMG. And some critics
might challenge Mercedes-Benz's claim that the current body-on-frame
model is "part luxury car, part mountain goat,"
and hint true off-road capabilities will improve with the
redesigned '06. (But we found even the pre-facelift '90s
original amazingly capable during torturous washboard tests.
And the door opened and closed snugly with the vehicle hanging
precariously at an angle.) That's nothing-to-be-sniffed-at
character for a classic with an outgoing price range from
the high 30s to mid-40s.