All five versions of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class share a common five-seat cabin with the usual front buckets and a fold-flat second-row bench.
The current SUV's cabin is attractive in a way the original 1998 M-Class could not fathom, and it's more roomy too, with space for up to five adults, even larger ones. It's sized similarly to the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, with more interior volume than an Infiniti FX. It rides on a 114.7-inch wheelbase, which translates into plenty of interior room.
Clamber into the M-Class cockpit, and the front seats provide nice cushioning and good knee and foot room, even with a wider center console with built-in grab handles. Head room is ample, too, even with the sunroof, and even the second row doesn't suffer from any marked lack of room. A third adult in the middle of the back bench seat will be short on shoulder room, but fine for a cross-town trip.
The M-Class is like the Range Rover, in that it's missing a third-row seat option. In the Mercedes hierarchy, the R-Class brings six-seat capacity to the lineup, while the GL-Class adds a third-row bench for seven-seat carrying and ferrying.
Cargo space is large enough, though it's not much better than some smaller vehicles. With the rear seats folded down, interior volume is 72.4 cubic feet; it's 29.4 cubic feet with the seats upright. A Volvo XC60, for comparison, has 30.8 cubic feet of space behind its second-row seat.
On base models, the standard seating material is vinyl, a noticeably down-market blot on its equipment list, but a flaw almost no American M-Class buyer ever will experience since most vehicles are built with leather interiors. That trifle aside, the M-Class has a fairly opulent cabin for an SUV, with much better trim and assembly quality than the first-generation machine managed. Interior sound levels are low, though the muscular engine note in the AMG edition is more pronounced than the powertrain noises in other models; even the diesel's faint clatter in the ML320 BlueTEC is damped nearly out of existence.