Engine is star in SUV with luxury at heart
ROADTEST MERCEDES-BENZ M-CLASS:MERCEDES-BENZ proudly boasts a legion of fans from all walks of life, from despots to democrats, from dour-faced businessmen to cherub-faced celebs. Its models reflect the diversity and the ambition is to expand its grasp.In terms of SUVs, the king of the crop is the G-Wagen. If Armageddon arrives there is only a handful of vehicles you would want on the drive and this sturdy box of metal is among them. Tracing its roots to the turmoil in the Middle East in the late 1970s, it has military DNA in its genes as well.
The G-Wagen is a truly Germanic SUV, extremely practical with only a nodding acquaintance to the traditional Mercedes S-Class clique. But if you reside in a world where Armageddon is on your doorstep, then it’s probably a smart move to have a G-Wagen to hand. Built like a tank by an Austrian firm under orders from Mercedes, it’s favoured by folks who know a little bit more about the darker side of life – and afterlife – than the rest of us. The Papacy, presidents in perpetuity and Russian henchmen form the bedrock of its customer base.
If the G-Wagen was built to serve those with a divine grip on power, the M-Class is more for the democratic masses. Initially penned as a potential replacement for the G-Wagen, instead it serves a different customer base; the middle classes who seek a bulked-up family car that boasts off-road credentials, even if largely unused. Whereas the G-Wagen is welded and assembled in Austria, the M-Class has it’s natural home across the Atlantic, where it rolls off a production line in Alabama.
The first generation sold well and established itself in the Mercedes market, but the most common complaint from owners of the original M-Class – even now – is that it never quite felt or drove like a car worthy of the three-pointed star.
Mercedes took some of this to heart and by the middle of the last decade, the second generation became a big improvement. Where it lacked some aplomb was on the road.
This third generation aims to iron out these foibles while at the same time bringing the M-Class up to speed on the massive technology leaps made by the brand of late.
This is meant as a luxury SUV, rivalling the likes of BMW’s X5, Volvo’s XC90 and Audi’s Q7. In such a crowded market and with so much focus on the US, it’s hardly surprising that it lacks the presence of the rest on European roads. Its engine line-up didn’t help. However, as the US customer base finally begins to realise that oil is not an unlimited resource, their renewed focus on economy is making the M-Class a more viable proposition.