The Mercedes-Benz ML-Class lost its Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) last year, but that's due more to a lack of roof-crush testing than any significant changes to the body or its running gear.
The 2011 model still meets the IIHS' standard for "good" front- and side-impact protection, but changes in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) ratings this year mean the M-Class doesn't have any federal crash-test data available, other than a numerically derived four-star rating for rollover resistance.
Despite all the confusion with these scores this year, we're giving the M-Class a high safety rating based on its past performance and its extensive list of safety equipment. All M-Class SUVs get standard dual front, side and curtain airbags; they also have anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. PRE-SAFE, which anticipates accidents by tightening seatbelts and preparing the brakes, is also standard, as are tire-pressure monitors.
Bigger mirrors help with visibility this year; a rearview camera and parking sensors are options, as are blind-spot monitors.