The 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class has its origins in the luxury midsize SUV that Mercedes introduced in 1998. As the number of high-end sport utility vehicles on the market has grown over the years, the M-Class has required an unending slew of upgrades to stay in the game. In 2006, however, the M-Class takes a major leap forward with a complete redesign.
The refreshed 2006 M-Class looks and performs better than ever, offering greater space, more powerful engines, a better ride quality, and a full range of high-tech features and safety equipment. This total overhaul has been the perfect opportunity for Mercedes to work out all the glitches of the first generation M-Class. While it still does not lead the pack of luxury SUVs, the 2006 M-Class proves itself as a worthy contender.
The 2006 M-Class comes in two new trim levels: the ML350 and the higher-powered ML500. Along with stronger engines, both models are brimming with a fresh supply of luxury features. The second generation M-Class also carries a more streamlined, car-like feel and appearance.
Body styles: sport utility vehicle
Engines: 3.6-liter V-6 (ML350), 5.0-liter V-8 (ML500)
Transmissions: seven-speed automatic
Models: ML350, ML500
The entire M-Class lineup has been completely reworked and redesigned for 2006. Areas of improvement include a more streamlined, modern exterior; more powerful engines; a longer wheelbase; firmer handling; and higher-quality cabin materials. A number of interior features have been restyled or rearranged for a more user-friendly layout. Perhaps most notably, the 2006 M-Class boasts an impressive seven-speed automatic transmission—one of the first cars in the world to do so.
The 2006 M-Class has a sleeker, more modern, and car-like silhouette compared to previous models. It sits on a stiffer and lighter unibody chassis, providing more of the smooth ride quality drivers expect from Mercedes vehicles. The ML350 sits on 17-inch alloy wheels, while the ML500's measure in at 18 inches. Nineteen-inch wheels are also available as an option. Other standard exterior features include a rear liftgate door, cargo tie-downs, and heated power exterior mirrors. Additional options for both the ML350 and ML500 include a tow hitch receiver, chrome wheels, mudguards, rain-sensing wipers, a rear spoiler, and HID headlights.
The increased length of the 2006 M-Class allows for plenty of legroom in both the front and rear seats, although this comes at the sacrifice of the former third-row seat option. The 72.4 cubic feet of maximum cargo space shows a slight decrease from earlier models. These minor losses are hardly worth fretting over, however, thanks to the wealth of luxurious upgrades in the cabin’s design. The second generation M-Class vehicles feature rich leather, walnut trim, and chrome detailing. Its standard creature comforts and high-tech equipment include automatic climate control, adjustable front seats with power memory, second-row folding seats, steering wheel-mounted controls, and a trip computer. The ML500 also offers a leather steering wheel, genuine wood trim, heated front seats, and a load-bearing exterior rack (all offered as additional options in the ML350). With its increased cabin space and wide range of luxury options, the 2006 M-Class provides an attractive option for families.
Performance & Handling
The 2006 M-Class benefits from significantly better handling compared to older models. Much of this improvement results from the upgraded engine options. The ML350’s V-6 rates at 268 horsepower, and while the ML500 sticks with the same V-8 as last year, it does see a power boost from 288 hp to 302 hp. The brand new, seven-speed automatic transmission powers the now-standard four-wheel-drive system. Low-range gearing is also offered in the optional off-road package for hardier performance away from the pavement.
Overall, this luxurious SUV provides a comfortable and cooperative ride. The new M-Class moves more lightly than the first generation, but with just as much stability. There’s a moderate amount of rolling through tight corners.
Standard safety features for the new ML include side-impact airbags, full-length head curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, stability control, and traction control. The optional PreSafe system offers added protection by sensing an imminent collision and responding by tightening the front seatbelts, adjusting the seats to the safest position, and closing the sunroof. The 2006 M-Class earns top scores in both front- and side-impact tests.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mercedes-Benz ML350: 14/19 mpg city/highway
Mercedes-Benz ML500: 13/17 mpg city/highway
- Refreshed, modern styling
- Comfortably seats five occupants
- High safety rating
You Won't Like
- Slower acceleration with the V-6
- Reduced cargo space
- High price for its class
A fresh spin on an old classic.
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