Mercedes Benz M Class

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Mercedes Benz M Class

1997 -
V6 18 valve
5 spd. auto
Top Speed:
112 mph / 179 km/h
Number Built:
1 star
Mercedes M Class
Mercedes watched the boom in the 4x4 market - especially in the USA, where some three million sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were being sold annually by the late-1990s.

The company did build an off-roader, but the low-run G-Wagen (Gelandewagen) was an uncompromising semi-military vehicle in the mould of the Land Rover Defender.

The M-class, another part of Mercedes' dash for diversification, was designed to enter the booming sector and to succeed by addressing the problems inherent in the majority of 44 designs.

Because most were tall vehicles based on old-fashioned separate chassis technology, they handled poorly, could be unrefined and in some circumstances less safe in a crash than conventional monocoque-bodied vehicles.

The M-class steered a middle course through the contradictions of the 44 genre (they were designed for excellence off-road, but used exclusively on-road) by being lower and having a longer wheelbase than the norm.

And although it hadn't dispensed completely with a separate chassis (the M-class used giant sub-frames front and rear), Mercedes made sure the crash performance was up to scratch. Space-efficient design meant room for a third row of fold-down seats something the opposition couldn't manage at the time.

Built in Mercedes' factory in Alabama in the USA, the M-class was a huge hit right from the launch. The Benz badge helped, but it was also a class above rivals in that it combined the looks, utility and ruggedness of a 4x4 with near car like levels of handling.

Even more surprising was the Mercedes' pricing, which managed to undercut (with a few quality compromises) the opposition - massively in the case of the Range Rover, previously the unchallenged king of the offroad scene.

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Mercedes-Benz Heritage
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