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New 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-class features more power, enhanced fuel economy

Tue, 07 Jun 2011

Mercedes-Benz will introduce a new M-class crossover in September with a curvier exterior, more power and slightly better fuel economy.

In the United States, the 2012 M-class will be offered beginning with two models -- the gasoline ML350 V-6 and the ML350 Bluetec diesel. Both models will feature four-wheel drive.

The 3.0-liter diesel V-6 generates 240 hp, 30 more horsepower than the current engine. The diesel engine's fuel economy has been improved 3 percent to 20 mpg in the city while highway mileage remains at 25 mpg, Mercedes said.

The gasoline V-6 gets a horsepower boost to 302 from 268 and fuel economy rises to 17 mpg city/22 highway from 15 city/20 highway.

A 4.6-liter V-8 will be offered later.

The current Mercedes M-class also is offered with a 5.5-liter gasoline V-8 engine and a gasoline-electric hybrid V-6 model with 335 hp.

The third-generation M-class shares components and engineering with the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Work on both vehicles started before Chrysler's separation from Daimler AG.

The 2012 Mercedes M-class will feature a suspension with adaptive damping that activates on moderately uneven roads or slow, off-road driving to soften the ride.

The interior will have a standard 7-inch color display in the center stack.

The M class is produced in Vance, Ala. Pricing will be announced later.

The M class debuted in September 1997 and U.S. sales peaked at 52,764 in 2000 when Mercedes-Benz had few European competitors.

Since then, BMW has replaced its X5 crossover and Audi has added the Q5 and Q7 crossovers. Porsche AG has added a competitor, the Cayenne SUV.

Last year Mercedes-Benz sold 29,698 M-class units in the United States. Sales are up 8 percent this year through May to 11,118 units.

By Diana T. Kurylko- Automotive News