Although the Mercedes-Benz M-Class will undergo a major remake in 2006, for 2005, both the ML 350 and ML 500 receive a Special Edition model, bringing the number of models to five. A new exterior Iridium Silver replaces Brilliant Silver, and Pewter Silver is introduced as exclusive to the Special Edition.

The M-Class consists of the ML 350, which uses a 3.7-litre V6, and the ML 500, which carries a 5.0-litre V8. Both use a five-speed automatic transmission with Touch Shift manual mode, and have permanent full-time four-wheel-drive, which maintains a 48 per cent front and 52 per cent rear torque bias. A dash-mounted control engages the two-speed, electronically-controlled transfer case.

The ML 350 Classic features 17-inch alloy wheels, halogen headlamps, fog lamps, heated mirrors with driver side auto-dimming, cloth upholstery, three-button garage door opener, automatic climate control with rear-seat controls, one-touch up/down on all windows, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, six-way manually adjustable front seats, 60/40 folding second-row seats, and cassette stereo with six speakers.

The ML 350 Elegance adds power sunroof, eight-way power heated front seats, leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and digital trip computer.

The ML 350 Special Edition adds a power-dome hood, silver-painted grille, chrome-trimmed door handles, brushed aluminum roof rails, smoked taillight lenses, sport front seats, and wood trim.

The ML 500 includes the ML 350’s features, plus power rear-quarter vent windows, privacy glass, bi-Xenon headlamps with washers, rain-sensing wipers, three-position memory for both front seats, and Bose system with six-CD changer and nine speakers. The ML 500 Special Edition adds the styling cues found on the ML 350 Special Edition.

State-of-the-art when it was introduced as a 1998 model, the M-Class has had to face numerous worthy rivals, including the Lexus RX 330 and GX 470, both of which are less expensive than the similarly-engined ML models, and the superb Acura MDX, which undercuts the ML 350 Classic by $1,000. Still, with its body-on-frame construction, the M-Class will tow up to 2268 kg (5000 lb), handle a fair bit of off-road should you need it, and get you where you’re going in coddled luxury. Expect the 2006 models to do that and more, but with a higher price tag as well.

The M-Class is built in Vance, Alabama.

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