Surprise, surprise: the new Mercedes ML is longer and wider than the outgoing model--by 5.9 and 3.8 inches respectively--but doesn't have a third-row seat. It is also a unibody, whereas the outgoing model was body-on-frame. Under the striking sheetmetal, the ML gains new front and rear suspensions, with control arms at the front and a multilink arrangement at the rear. All MLs have a permanent all-wheel-drive system with start assist and a downhill driving aid, but there is now an optional off-road package that incorporates air springs, a two-speed transfer case, and diffs that can lock up to 100 percent between the front and rear axles and between the back wheels. For the U.S., there will be two engines: a 268-hp 3.5-liter V-6 and a 302-hp 5.0-liter V-8, both of which are mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 models are fitted with seventeen-inch wheels as standard, while the V-8s get eighteen-inch alloys. There is a full panoply of available safety equipment, including the PRE-SAFE anticipatory occupant protection system and crash responsive head restraints. The interior is noticeably higher quality than the outgoing vehicle's, and noticeably bigger, too: the trunk, especially, is cavernous. The gear selector has now been moved to the steering column, freeing up space in the center console. The new vehicle is due to go on sale late this spring.
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