20 years of the luxury SUV from Mercedes-Benz: Off-roader for day-to-day driving and adventure
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
By: Mercedes-Benz

20 years of the luxury SUV from Mercedes-Benz: Off-roader for day-to-day driving and adventure  It was twenty years ago that Mercedes-Benz presented the M-Class in Tuscaloosa (Alabama/USA). Following the traces of the legendary G-Class, the precursor to today's GLE successfully marked the brand's entry into the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) segment. At the same time, both vehicles provided the basis for the present, extensive Mercedes-Benz product portfolio in this market segment, which also includes the GLA, GLC and GLS apart from the G-Class and GLE.

Stuttgart. On rough terrain, no star in the passenger car sector shines more brightly than the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which has been in production since 1979. However in the early 1990s, the Stuttgart-based brand also recognised the potential in another segment of the off-road vehicle market: comfortable, sporty vehicles for sport and recreation, with a greater technical similarity with passenger cars.

The key aspects of this vehicle concept were defined in 1993. Three years later, Mercedes-Benz presented the near-series study 'AAVision' at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The name of this concept car referred to the segment of 'All Activity Vehicles' (AAVs), later to become commonly known as 'Sport Utility Vehicles' (SUVs).

In May 1997, 20 years ago, the W 163 series Mercedes-Benz M-Class celebrated its premiere. This off-road capable SUV combined the best of both worlds: all-wheel drive, high ground clearance and generous interior space are important attributes of classic off-roaders. It was accompanied by excellent ride comfort even at high on-road speeds, a highly variable interior and a harmonious design.

20 years of the luxury SUV from Mercedes-Benz: Off-roader for day-to-day driving and adventure  

It was the sophisticated suspension in particular of the M-Class that made the new level of comfort possible. In contrast to many competitors, the W 163 featured an independent front and rear suspension. The permanent all-wheel drive also differed from conventional systems: the M-Class dispensed with conventional differential locks, instead using an improved version of the Electronic Traction System ETS. If a wheel starts to spin on a slippery surface, ETS brakes that wheel until a certain prescribed speed difference is reached. This increases the drive torque to the wheels that still have good road adhesion. Acting together, the independent suspension and ETS optimise the handling safety and stability of the M-Class, both on and off the road.

New plant for this vehicle type

The M-Class had its debut in the new Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (USA). Since then, this is where the Stuttgart-based brand has produced almost all of its upper medium and luxury class SUVs. The decision to construct a US plant for a new, all-wheel drive vehicle was announced by Werner Niefer, Chairman of Mercedes-Benz AG, in 1993. Tuscaloosa became the first Mercedes-Benz production plant to be constructed for a new passenger car outside Germany. It was also the first Mercedes-Benz production location in the United States of America. Construction of the plant began in 1995. Production of the M-Class – at first only the model ML 320 – commenced in February 1997.

On 21 May 1997 Mercedes-Benz officially opened the plant to coincide with the presentation of the M-Class. Four months previously, at the 1997 NAIAS show, the chassis and the powertrain with intelligent all-wheel drive and the newly developed 3.2-litre V6 engine were on display. With the sporty and comfortable M-Class, Mercedes-Benz took the lead position in the worldwide success of the SUV. The demand for the new model series was correspondingly strong, and it was very positively received by the motoring media. From 1999 to 2002 the W 163 was therefore produced at the Graz plant of Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG in Austria – where the G-Class has also been produced since its inception – as well as at the Tuscaloosa plant.


Trending News
  • R8 V10 Plus Spyder Makes Us Debut At The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, During Monterey Car Week
  • Porsche Fans: Rejoice Over The Mecum Monterey 2017 Lineup
  • Porsche Announces Rennsport Reunion VI To Be Held September 2018
  • Mecum Auctions To Race Into Monterey With Historic And Championship-Winning Race Cars
  • BMW To Unveil World Premiere Of An All-New BMW Roadster Concept And The North American Premiere Of The Concept 8 Series

    Initially the ML 320 was only available in North America. From March 1998 onward, European customers were also able to purchase the M-Class. Alongside the 160 kW (218 hp) V6, the ML 230 with a 110 kW (150 hp) four-cylinder engine became available as a second model. Other variants of the first M-Class ranged from the ML 270 CDI (120 kW/163 hp) to the ML 55 AMG (255 kW/347 hp).

    International impulse

    The M-Class was one of the greatest success stories in the Mercedes-Benz product initiative of the 1990s. Its versatile concept gave a strong international impulse for a new vehicle type that went well beyond the Mercedes-Benz brand itself. With the second generation of the M-Class, the W 164 produced from 2005, Mercedes-Benz further consolidated this positive development. The Tuscaloosa plant was expanded, doubling the number of employees.

    In contrast to the first M-Class with its frame structure of enclosed box sections, the W 164 was of unibody construction. The suspension was also enhanced by the engineers. The result was a further improvement in on-road ride comfort, together with greater torsional rigidity for off-road operation. The range of engine variants extended from the ML 280 CDI 4MATIC (140 kW/190 hp) to the ML 63 AMG 4MATIC (375 kW/510 hp) with a four-valve V8 engine and intake manifold petrol injection. At the 2009 New York International Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz presented the ML 450 HYBRID developed for the US market. This combined a V6 petrol engine with two electric motors to deliver a system output of 250 kW (340 hp). In the same year the one millionth M-Class left the production line in Tuscaloosa.

    The third generation of the M-Class, the W 166, celebrated its premiere at the 2011 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt/Main. The main development focus was on even greater fuel efficiency, further improved ride comfort on and off the road, and innovative assistance and safety systems. Since the model facelift in autumn 2015 the W 166 has been called the GLE. This makes its positioning as an SUV belonging to the E-Class model family clear. By the end of 2016, around 2.4 million upper medium class SUVs (GLE and since 2016 the GLE Coupé) and luxury SUVs (GLS) had been produced by the Tuscaloosa plant.

  •  
     
     
     

    Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz
    posted on conceptcarz.com

    Recent News
    R8 V10 Plus Spyder Makes Us Debut At The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, During Monterey Car Week

    – The R8 V10 plus Spyder will make its U.S. debut in California this weekend at the annual Monterey Car Week. In addition, Audi will showcase the track-tested race cars that have inspired their production......

    Jaguar XE SV Project 8 To Make North American Debut At Monterey Car Week

    – Fresh from its world debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June, Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) will introduce its latest high performance creation, the Jaguar XE SV Project......

    Full Car List Revealed As Countdown Begins To Concours Of Elegance 2017

    Concours of Elegance has revealed the full list of spectacular cars which will appear at Hampton Court in less than a months time. Taking place from 1-3 September, this celebration of automotive......

    2017 Honda Clarity Electric Begins Arriving At California And Oregon Dealerships

    – Honda today announced the arrival of the 2017 Honda Clarity Electric sedan at select dealerships in California and Oregon. With a competitive introductory lease price of 269 (plus tax) a month for......

    2018 Model Line Updates & Changes

    - Following one of the most active vehicle-introduction years in its history, Mercedes-Benz continues the momentum in 2018, introducing additional new and revised models. The debut of the 2018 E-Class......

    Audi Driver Lucas Di Grassi Is Formula E Champion

    – Audi driver Lucas di Grassi is the new champion of the worldwide Formula E electric racing series. After taking the lead of the standings with a lights-to-flag victory in the first of the two final......

    Royal Mail Signs Agreement With Peugeot To Purchase 100 Electric Vans For Use As Delivery Vehicles

    Royal Mail has signed an agreement with PEUGEOT today (July 27) to purchase 100 zero-emission Partner L2 Electric vans, to be used by postmen and women on their delivery rounds. The vans will go into......

    The Most Extreme McLaren Road Car Ever: Autocar'S Exclusive On The Incredible 'P15' Hypercar

    The most extreme road car in McLarens history is set to make its debut later this year – and Autocar has the full exclusive story. Codenamed P15 and said to feature an 800PS engine with a strippedout......

    2018 Acura RLX
    2018 Acura RLX  2018 Acura RLX  2018 Acura RLX  2018 Acura RLX  2018 Acura RLX  
    2018 Audi Q8 Concept
    2018 Audi Q8 Concept  2018 Audi Q8 Concept  2018 Audi Q8 Concept  2018 Audi Q8 Concept  2018 Audi Q8 Concept  
    2018 Audi Q8 Sport Concept
    2018 Audi Q8 Sport Concept  2018 Audi Q8 Sport Concept  2018 Audi Q8 Sport Concept  
    2018 Audi RS 3
    2018 Audi RS 3  2018 Audi RS 3  2018 Audi RS 3  2018 Audi RS 3  2018 Audi RS 3  
    2018 Audi TT RS
    2018 Audi TT RS  2018 Audi TT RS  2018 Audi TT RS  2018 Audi TT RS  2018 Audi TT RS  
    2018 Ford F-150
    2018 Ford F-150  2018 Ford F-150  2018 Ford F-150  2018 Ford F-150  2018 Ford F-150  
    2018 Honda Accord
    2018 Honda Accord  2018 Honda Accord  2018 Honda Accord  2018 Honda Accord  2018 Honda Accord  
    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid
    2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid  2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid  2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid  2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid  2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid  
    2018 Hyundai Sonata
    2018 Hyundai Sonata  2018 Hyundai Sonata  2018 Hyundai Sonata  2018 Hyundai Sonata  2018 Hyundai Sonata  
    2018 Infiniti Q50
    2018 Infiniti Q50  2018 Infiniti Q50  2018 Infiniti Q50  2018 Infiniti Q50  2018 Infiniti Q50  

    Vehicle information, history, and
    specifications from concept to production.

    Follow ConceptCarz on Facebook  Follow ConceptCarz on Twitter RSS News Feed

    Conceptcarz.com
    © 1998-2017 Conceptcarz.com Reproduction or reuse prohibited without written consent.