The 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a luxury SUV that has been launched this year by the German automaker. The vehicle is slotted between the smaller GLK-Class and the bigger GL-Class, both of which share the same platform as the M-Class. The history of this SUV’s creation can be traced back to 1990, when Mercedes-Benz joined hands with Mitsubishi to create an SUV to replace the G-Class. By 1992, plans to make an SUV based on the Montero were abandoned, but Mercedes continued with an in-house development. By 1994, the design was finalized, and by 1996, the new Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama was constructed. The first M-Class rolled off this plant in February 1997.
Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 3.2-liter V-6
Transmissions: five-speed automatic
Models: Mercedes-Benz ML 320
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class makes its debut this year, offering the best of cars and trucks in a single luxury package.
The exterior of the 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is different from that of other existing luxury SUVs, because it is built completely from scratch. It is not derived from an existing model like the redesigned Lincoln Navigator, nor is it based on a hybrid car platform like the Lexus RX300. As a result, the chassis of the M-Class uses some aspects that are usually exclusive to a truck or a car. For example, the SUV uses a separate frame that is boxed at both ends, which gives it a torsional rigidity that is required for serious off roading. Mercedes-Benz has now added a four-wheel independent double wishbone suspension to this frame. This marks the first time a double wishbone suspension has been used on all four wheels of a truck.
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers more than enough space inside for four adults to sit comfortably. In fact, the SUV can even accommodate three people at the back with adequate comfort, even though space would be a little less. The rear seat can slide forward by three inches for more cargo space, but this compromises rear legroom, which ends up becoming insufficient.
Thankfully, the 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class has a step-in height, which is considerably lower than that of most other SUVs in the market. Even the doors are wider than the norm, and a combination of both these aspects make entry and exit a lot easier in the M-Class than in other SUVs.
Up front, the 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class' controls are easy to use and reach as well, even though the presence of some cheap plastic parts undermines the quality of the interior. Visibility is fine going forward, but the rear headrests compromise rear visibility. With a low and flat floor, the cargo space is easy to use, and the load volume is pretty decent, too.
Performance & Handling
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is only available with a 3.2-liter V-6 engine that delivers 215 horsepower and 233 lb-ft of torque. The engine itself is not very snappy when moving from standstill, but the smooth and responsive automatic transmission gets the best out of the engine. The SUV goes from standstill to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, which is average considering the engine under the hood.
While the1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class does not deliver much in terms of pure performance, it excels in terms of ride quality. The BMW X5 and Lexus RX 300 do feel more carlike, but the M-Class offers a pleasant riding experience like no other. Wind and road noise are considerably low for an SUV, but the V-6 starts sounding rough only when pushed hard.
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers precise and linear steering, and stays stable and poised even through the tightest turns. In fact, the body lean present in the M-Class is considerably lower than that in most SUVs.
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class has door-mounted front side airbags and a useful Brake Assist feature. It received four out five stars for driver safety and a complete five-star rating for passenger safety during frontal impact tests conducted by the NHTSA.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mercedes-Benz M-Class: 16/20 mpg city/highway
- Good build quality
- Great steering and handling
- Lots of cargo room
- Refined performance
- Amazingly low price tag
You Won't Like
- Poor fuel economy
- Looks may not appeal to some
One of the best SUVs on the market.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Lexus LX 470
- Ford Explorer
- Jeep Grand Cherokee