One of the designers' goals was to improve on-road driving dynamics while not sacrificing off-road capability. One new feature -- which isn't coming to the U.S. right away -- is a very cool On & Off-road Package, which has at its core multiple settings. This is much like the systems in the LR4 and Grand Cherokee: Drivers control the dial and can choose between six settings: automatic, off-road 1 (light terrain) and 2 (tougher terrain), winter, sport, and trailer.

There's still debate about whether this system will come to the U.S. at all. One thing we do know will come is the Active Curve System, which uses active anti-roll bars said to improve comfort when driving in a straight line, and prioritize better handling when cornering. It will initially be offered as a special order feature. The M-Class also has most -- if not all -- of the safety features from the S-Class, including Lane Keeping Assist; Blind Spot Assist; Distronic Plus; and front, side, curtain, and knee airbags. In addition to plenty of active and passive safety equipment, the cabin also gets a significant redesign, with new colors, new wood, metal, and brushed aluminum details, and seats that are stylish and comfortable. There's a matte wood choice, as well as piano black details and burl wood, and the interiors we saw used amber accent lighting along the dash.

We should have the chance to get behind the wheel of the new M-Class within the next several weeks. For now, the exterior styling changes are on the conservative side, and underneath that mostly familiar skin hides technology that looks promising.


2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Base price $50,000-$52,000 (est)
Price as tested N/A
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engines 3.5L/302-hp/273-lb-ft 24-valve DOHC V-6, 3.0L/240-hp/455-lb-ft turbocharged 24-valve DOHC V-6
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Curb weight 4795 lb (est)
Wheelbase 114.8 in (est)
Length x width x height 189.1 x 75.8 x 69.2 in (est)
0-60 mph 7.4-7.7 sec (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 17-20/22-25 mpg
On sale in U.S. September 2011