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Back when it was brand-new, in 1998, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class (legally, the ML-Class) gave the German automaker its foothold in the SUV market, and in America, with its new assembly plant in the U.S.
More than a decade later, the ML-Class is in its final years of the current body style, but it's still among the most desirable utes in its class. It's attractive, with some catchy styling riffs outside resolving into a muted, sophisticated, expensive-feeling cockpit with plenty of real-world room for five adults and a significant amount of cargo or luggage.
Priced from about $47,000 up to more than $93,000, the ML-Class also is the only sport-utility vehicle sold in America that's offered in gas, diesel, or hybrid editions. We've raved over the scalding performance of the ML63 AMG--but in a more realistic plane, we'd opt for the ML550 or better yet, the BlueTEC diesel and their phenomenal pulling power above all other versions.
Originally conceived as an Explorer/Grand Cherokee fighter, today's M-Class has a more luxurious set of competitors waiting for it to trip up. The BMW X5, the Infiniti FX, the Volkswagen Touareg, and the Porsche Cayenne are angling for some of the same shoppers. Each is worthy of a test drive, but if you can't quite decide what powertrain you want, the M-Class may have the most broadly appealing lineup of them all.
- Handsome and catchy styling
- Stunning V-8 power
- Diesel and hybrid options
- Better built than ever before
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- Low fuel economy (ML550, ML63)
- More expensive than ever
- Hybrid is lease-only