Far from a niche vehicle, the M-Class was priced to compete directly with the other luxury SUVs. It combined all the status and comfort of a Mercedes sedan with the rugged, all-weather capabilities of a world-class sport-utility. It had plenty of cargo room -- the entire rear seat could even be moved forward if more space is required. Full-time four-wheel drive was delivered by a high-tech four-wheel electronic traction system. There was also a low range transfer case in case you ended up with snowbound in your driveway.
New equipment for this model year included a 3.2-liter 18-valve V6 engine with 215 hp, driver adaptable 5-speed automatic transmission, a dual ignition system with two spark plugs per cylinder, a door mounted side airbags for front passengers, and an optional 2-passenger fold-away third seat.
A new ML430 went on sale from this model year onwards. It had a 4.3-liter V8 engine with 268 horsepower.