Mercedes-Benz offers two highly fuel-efficient M-Class models for 2011 in the United States – a gasoline hybrid and a BlueTEC diesel. Along with the ML450 HYBRID (335 total hp, 381 lb.-ft. of torque) and the ML350 BlueTEC diesel (210 hp, 400 lb.-ft.), the 2011 M-Class line includes the gasoline V6-powered ML350 (268 hp, 258 lb.-ft.), the V8 ML550 (382 hp, 391 lb.-ft.) and the high-performance ML63 AMG (503 hp, 465 lb.-ft). All 2011 M-Class models come with new-design outside mirrors and an inside mirror with an integrated compass.

Helping to underscore the M-Class as one of the safest SUVs in the industry, Blind Spot Assist is a new option for 2011 that monitors both blind spots behind the vehicle. Whenever a turn signal is activated with a vehicle in the blind spot, the driver gets visual and audible warnings. Another new option is a rear-view camera that reduces the usual “fisheye” distortion.

The ML450 HYBRID Boasts 46 Percent Better Fuel Economy
Featuring V8-like power with four-cylinder fuel economy, the Mercedes-Benz ML450 HYBRID uses a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine, two magneto-electric motors and sophisticated hybrid electronics to produce more than 46 percent better fuel economy than a comparable V8-powered ML550 model. Integrated within the modified automatic transmission, each electric motor serves a specific purpose.

Dedicated to pulling away under electric power, the motor on the transmission output shaft generates 80 hp and 192 lb.-ft of torque. Located closer to the gasoline engine, the other electric motor is set up specifically for acceleration and is rated at 83 hp and 173 lb.-ft of torque. Working with both electric motors when full power is needed, the gasoline engine develops 275 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.

The electric motors are powered by a liquid-cooled, 288-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery that’s hidden under the rear cargo floor. A powerful computer controls the hybrid system, recalculating the best operating mode 160 times a second. Capable of up to 50 million calculations per second, the system works to maintain an ideal balance between fuel economy and performance.

During parking and low-speed operation, the ML450 HYBRID runs on the electric drive only. On hard acceleration, the gasoline engine is started automatically, and it works seamlessly with the two electric motors for surprisingly good performance. The hybrid system includes a convenient start-stop function that turns off the gasoline engine – for example, when coasting to a stop – and re-starts it during acceleration. When the ML450 HYBRID is at a traffic light, the gasoline engine is off, but the AC compressor and steering pump are operated electrically, so air conditioning and power steering are fully operational. A Silent Start function provides noiseless starting of the gasoline engine.

During braking, the electric motor acts as a generator, slowing the SUV and recovering kinetic energy. Under heavy braking, the vehicle’s conventional brakes also come into play. Recovered energy is stored in the battery and re-used whenever the car runs only on the electric motors.

Hybrids Ideal For Atkinson-Cycle Engine
Mercedes-Benz engineers optimized the 3.5-liter V6 engine for good fuel economy by taking advantage of the Atkinson principle. By delaying the closing of each intake valve, the intake stroke effectively becomes longer than the compression stroke, increasing thermal efficiency, which reduces fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

Although Atkinson engines inherently produce less low-speed torque and throttle response, they are ideal for hybrid vehicles because the electric motors compensate for this disadvantage by working with the V6 to provide excellent throttle response on acceleration. The Atkinson-cycle V6 engine has different cylinder heads, pistons and camshafts as well as modified variable valve timing control and a low-load oil pump for good fuel economy.

No Sacrifice in Convenience or Roominess
The ML450 HYBRID is differentiated by a HYBRID logo on the rear lift gate, a revised front hood with two power domes and unique five-twin-spoke 19-inch wheels. On the COMAND display, the driver can choose to see the power flow between the battery, electric motors and the gasoline engine or a diagram showing fuel consumption and energy recovery. The tachometer is replaced by a special gauge that shows the powertrain mode and energy recovery rate. However, the ML450 HYBRID has the same interior room, convenience and safety features as other M-Class vehicles.

BlueTEC Diesel SUV Boasts Up To 600-Mile Cruising Range
Another smart alternative for today’s world, the ML350 BlueTEC diesel SUV achieves 20 percent better fuel economy than the V6 gasoline engine, with powerful low-range torque and extremely low exhaust emissions as well.

This latest generation of quiet, clean electronically injected CDI (common-rail direct injection) engines is changing consumers’ dated perceptions about diesel engines. The ML350 BlueTEC diesel boasts impressive cruising range up to 600 miles at highway speeds, and the SUV can do all that without sacrificing performance. With 210 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, its V8-like pulling power makes the ML350 BlueTEC diesel ideal for towing up to 7,200 pounds. The fuel-efficient Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC comes with an AdBlue exhaust treatment system that helps the sport utility meet the most stringent 50-state emissions limits.

BlueTEC Makes Diesel 50 US. State Clean
The BlueTEC system includes an oxidation catalyst and a maintenance-free particulate filter as well as innovative techniques for reducing nitrogen oxide emissions – the last type of exhaust gas that’s higher in diesel vehicles than gasoline engines. The ML350 BlueTEC diesel uses a NOx storage converter in combination with an SCR catalytic converter and AdBlue injection to lower NOx emissions.

The AdBlue system injects an aqueous urea solution into the exhaust flow, which releases ammonia (NH3), reducing nitrogen oxides to harmless nitrogen and water in the downstream SCR catalytic converter. Just the right amount of AdBlue for a given engine load and speed is injected to get the greatest reduction of nitrogen oxides. Its tank only needs to be refilled every 10,000 miles during routine maintenance intervals (typical oil-change intervals are 10,000 miles).

M-Class Reveals Smart Styling
Sleek front bumpers incorporate eye-catching headlights with a distinctive step along the lower edge and a large, low grille that holds three silver lamellas. Angular air intakes, widely set fog lights and chrome trim help give the M-Class line a broad, aggressive face. A rear bumper with recessed reflectors and a stainless-steel skid plate that wraps around its dual exhausts also give the M-Class a confident stance.

Real burl walnut interior trim helps provide the cabin with a rich look and feel, while door panels include an upholstered center. Framing the chronometer gauges, a four-spoke steering wheel covered in premium leather features multi-function audio and telephone controls and shift paddles. The gauges incorporate a central display that includes a monitoring system showing individual tire pressures.

In Command with COMAND
The latest COMAND system features a large 6.5-inch color display screen with a standard in-dash, six-disc CD / DVD changer and a Bluetooth interface that allows a phone still in a pocket or purse to be operated through the car’s audio system. It can be equipped with an optional iPod/MP3 interface, Sirius satellite radio, HD radio, and an enhanced voice control system. COMAND can play tracks stored on a data CD, DVD or memory card. The system also includes a large hard drive that can display maps and directions for the optional GPS navigation system, which can be set up for SIRIUS traffic info and Zagat restaurant ratings as well.

M-Class models can also be equipped with an optional 610-watt digital harman / kardon Logic7 audio system and a rear-seat entertainment system that includes two eight-inch screens, wireless headphones and an integrated DVD player with dual-source capability.

PRE-SAFE® Gives M-Class Reflexes to Protect Occupants
PRE-SAFE® is a revolutionary safety system that can actually sense an impending collision before it happens and take measures to protect occupants during those valuable seconds before impact. The PRE-SAFE system tightens the front seat belts before a possible impact. Whenever the PRE-SAFE system is triggered, the side windows also close to provide better support for the window curtain air bags. If the system senses an impending rollover, the sunroof also closes.

4MATIC Four-Wheel Drive Sets a Trend
Most M-Class models come with the proven Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC all-wheel drive (the ML350 is also available with rear-wheel drive). As modern all-wheel-drive systems become more refined, they are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the luxury car market.

With negligible weight and fuel-efficiency tradeoffs, full-time four-wheel drive provides year-round traction and stability benefits on both wet and dry roads. Fuel efficiency has been optimized, due to a number of innovative measures that minimize the energy needed to turn the extra gears and shafts.

The Mercedes-Benz Alabama Plant
Along with the R-Class and GL-Class, the M-Class sport utility vehicle is produced at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which began production in 1997 with the first-generation M-Class. Since 2001, more than $600 million has been invested to expand the facility for production of the three SUV lines.

Source: Daimler AG