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 |  Jun 08 2011, 7:09 AM


Mercedes has just released images and details of the third generation of its volume SUV, the ML-Class. Riding on an all new chassis, engine options will initially be limited to three more entry-level powerplants. The entry level ML250 Bluetec will be motivated by a 2.1-liter diesel 4-cylinder with 204-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, although it’s not expected to be offered in North America.

Instead, the ML lineup will begin here with the ML350 BlueEfficiency, which shares the same direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 as the new C-Class with a bump in power to 306-hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.

The diesel ML has always been a strong seller and so its no surprise that it’s back for 2012 with a 3.0-liter V6 making 258-hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. All engine options will come mated to an updated version of Mercedes’ 7-speed automatic transmission and the brand’s 4MATCI AWD system will be standard.

U.S. fuel economy numbers have yet to be released, but look for an improvement across the model range.

In total, the new SUV is roughly one inch longer and half an inch wider than the model it replaces. It’s also almost an inch lower, delivering an improved center of gravity and an even more car-like feel.

Inside, the cabin gets reworked and much improved, with the old 2005 design much in need of a makeover. Along with an easier to use COMAND system, it will also get Internet access and an optional On&Offroad six-mode dial to deliver different transmission settings for different driving conditions.

On sale this Fall, look for a hybrid model to follow, as well as a high-performance ML63 AMG version, making well over 500-hp thanks to a new twin-turbocharged V8 engine.

GALLERY: 2012 Mercedes ML-Class