The 2001 Mercedes-Benz M-Class delivers the good looks, passenger and cargo space, and security features that SUV buyers want. The M-Class strikes a nice balance between off-road capability and car-like performance for everyday use.
The solid performance of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class on dry or wet land combined with outstanding safety features, make it an attractive choice for luxury SUV buyers. With a spacious 85 cubic feet of maximum cargo space and a plethora of standard equipment, it represents a solid contender in the SUV market. But true off-road enthusiasts often keep shopping. The M-Class best suits the daily commute, not the weekend adventure in the mountains.
Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 3.2-liter V-6, 4.3-liter V-8, 5.4-liter V-8
Transmissions: five-speed automatic, auto-manual
Models: Mercedes-Benz ML320, Mercedes-Benz ML430, Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG
New for 2001 Mercedes-Benz offers an enhanced, full-time, four-wheel-drive system.
The TeleAid emergency calling system comes standard on every M-Class model, and dual-stage front airbags deploy with partial or full force, depending on the severity of the crash. All models feature increased off-road capabilities with downhill traction control and a crawling mode for slow and steep off-roading. A new, M-Class sport package also becomes available.
The 2001 Mercedes-Benz M-Class resembles a minivan, but a more durable one. It is stalwart and compact in its appearance, with a boxy back end and a sloping hood. All M-Class models have four side doors and a one-piece liftgate.
The M-Class's door, at 18 inches, offers a low step-in height by SUV measurements, but the driver still sits high enough to see over most cars on the road. The M-Class offers great visibility in all directions and the ML430's rear seat marks one of the best in the sport-utility niche. The row divides into three individual buckets that can fold separately to maximize space.
A new sport package includes unique body cladding, integrated fog lamps, a chrome exhaust tip, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The sport package helps make the ML320 and ML430 look less like minivans, but the powerful ML55 makes the smarter choice for buyers who want oomph and sportiness in the same package. The ML55 comes standard with a hulking V-8 engine, 18-inch wheels, and a power dome hood.
The M-Class seats five passengers and the split rear seat folds down to maximize cargo space at 85 cubic feet. Leather remains optional on the base ML320 but comes standard for the ML430 and ML55. A five-inch LCD display with touch controls sits in the center console, allowing the driver to operate climate, audio, and telephone functions. The ML430 and ML55 offer a standard GPS-based navigation system.
Drivers of the 2001 Mercedes-Benz M-Class happily recognize many touches they have come to expect from Mercedes-Benz. Wide seats with premium leather upholstery provide exceptional support for all passengers. Two trip odometers and an ambient thermometer inside the speedometer add flair to the sophisticated dash. The ML430 even comes with buttons that memorize seat positions. The interior of the base ML320 features leather and burl walnut trim. The ML430 comes with standard GPS navigation, 17-inch wheels, and leather seats. A third-row seat provides an option for either model.
Performance & Handling
All M-Class vehicles come with a five-speed automatic transmission and intuitive four-wheel drive. The 2001 Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers 50/50 torque distribution through the front and rear fully independent suspensions. A standard downhill traction control system maintains a low vehicle speed when descending steep grades with loose footing, and an active brake booster builds pressure assistance faster, allowing a quicker response time to stop spinning wheels. The base ML320 draws power from a 215-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 while the more posh ML430 offers a 4.3-liter V-8 with 268 hp. The top-of-the-line, AMG-designed ML55 boasts 342 hp from its 5.5-liter V-8. All engines pair with a five-speed automatic with TouchShift control for manual shifting.
In spite of improvements on the 2001 models geared toward off-road use, the M-Class still makes a better choice for safety in bad weather than for hitting the trails.
All models of the M-Class come standard with safety features such as TeleAid, traction control, stability control, ABS, dual-stage ""smart"" airbags, and 24-hour roadside assistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety even rates the 2001 Mercedes-Benz M-Class as the ""Best Pick"" in the SUV class for occupant protection.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mercedes-Benz M-Class: 17/21 mpg city/highway
- Roomy and comfortable
- Excellent safety ratings
- Top-notch bad-weather vehicle
You Won't Like
- Looks more like a minivan than a sporty SUV
- Off-road engineering needs improvement
Safety, luxury, and four-wheel drive for soccer moms everywhere.
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