Range Rover has a new rival – the next-generation Mercedes M-Class. As well as these first official pictures, Mercedes has confirmed that the luxury 4x4 features a range of efficient engines, a roomier interior and a host of new electronic gadgets.
Some styling cues are clearly taken from the firm’s saloon line-up, including the sculpted door panels, recognisable from the latest CLS, plus a swept back headlight design and wide chrome grille borrowed from the CL.
Although the wheelbase is the same as it's predecessor, the new M-Class is longer, wider and lower than before, freeing up more space in the five-seater cabin.
It's also set to be the brand's most efficient off-roader yet, with economy improved by an impressive 25 per cent across the range. Two engines will be available from launch: a heavily revised diesel V6, and the obligatory V8-powered AMG, which will use the firm's new 5.5-litre twin-turbo and boast 536bhp.
The most efficient engine will be a new 204bhp 2.2-litre four-pot diesel that was recently introduced on the S-Class, dubbed the ML 250 CDI Bluetec. All will offer increased power and torque, but with significantly lower emissions thanks to automatic start/stop, better aerodynamics and more efficient electrical systems.
All these powerplants are capable of propelling the M-Class from 0-62mph in well under 10 seconds, but the 250 CDI will also return 47mpg on the combined cycle and emits just 158g/km of CO2. The company haven't yet confirmed if the downsized model will reach the UK, but its low running costs would likely make it a best-seller, and an even cleaner hybrid version is also set to join the range following the initial launch.
In terms of construction, special attention has been paid to using lightweight materials for the wings and front suspension, while the bodywork has been optimised to give class-leading aerodynamics. These green tweaks haven’t sacrificed any of the M-Class’s off-road abilities, and the newcomer has six different transmission settings for the revised 7G Tronic auto, with two dedicated off-road modes.
Selective dampers, active anti-roll bars and locking diffs will also help when the going gets tough, and are avaialable as part of an ON&OFFROAD optional pack. A new system dubbed 'active curve system' is designed to keep the M-Class' body tightly controlled when cornerning.
Inside, the cabin offers plenty of luxury, with a wide range of wood and leather finishes on offer, as well as advanced safety systems from the S-Class. Prices for the M-Class will be confirmed ahead of its on-sale date of April 2012.