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M-CLASS AT THE RITZ

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, May 30, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

 

DOING THE RITZ IN M-CLASS By REED BERRY

When I was invited to attend an event at a luxury hotel in Pasadena, it was an easy decision. But while the ambiance of the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa was quite appealing, the primary attraction was an opportunity to see and drive the new second-generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class Sport Utility Vehicle.    Upon arriving at the hotel, I notice Mercedes SUVs everywhere.  A sporty silver one...a classy black one - I can't wait to slip into the driver's seat! What an interesting contrast between the shiny new state-of-the-art vehicles and this beautiful and historic hotel. The Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa, formerly The Huntington Hotel, was built in 1907 and occupies twenty-three acres at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

  Following a short and informative briefing inside the hotel, we are heading out to take a closer look at the completely redesigned Mercedes M-Class. The vehicle is so sporty and dynamic, it's difficult to tell just by looking that it is actually a bit larger than its predecessor. It's actually six inches longer, three inches wider, with additional front and rear legroom and an impressive seventy-two cubic feet of cargo capacity. And bigger must mean a heavier gas-guzzling vehicle, right? Not true, as the new M-Class is actually 400 lbs. lighter and offers 10 percent better fuel economy. The exterior appearance of the vehicle is nothing short of striking. Distinctive fender flares and a pronounced shoulder line give the vehicle a look of strength and quality. The front of the vehicle features dual cowl grilles and driving lights integrated into the bumper. As I walk around to the back of the M-Class, the integrated spoiler and the chromed, squared dual exhaust (available with certain models and packages) gives the vehicle a sporty, aerodynamic look.

Hey, what's that guy stealing from the glove compartment? Actually, that is David Larsen of Mercedes-Benz showing off yet another feature of the new M-Class, an optional iPod integration system that allows you to connect your iPod to a plug in the glove compartment and control it from the vehicle's stereo system. The cost of the integration system is $299 plus installation but if you can afford the vehicle why not go all the way and get the iPod integration system. All your favorite songs are now at your fingertips in a vehicle that was clearly designed with driver comfort and convenience in mind. The interior of the vehicle is quite comfortable and all controls are within easy reach, including a unique column-mounted electronic shifter. Tap it up for reverse, tap it down for drive and tap it in toward the steering column for park. By placing the shifter on the steering column, Mercedes left room for two large cup holders on the center console. As for interior packages, there is the sporty looking Appearance Package featuring a combination of Alcantara and aluminum - or you may prefer the rich look of leather and wood in the Premium Package. Well, enough looking - let's start driving! Our route takes us from the hotel through Pasadena and onto the 210 Freeway through La Canada and La Crescenta. We exit the freeway in the city of Sunland and, after making a brief stop at a local park, we proceed into the Angeles National Forest to do some mountain driving, allowing us to experience a variety of road conditions including bumpy roads and sharp turns (in fact, I'm kind of glad we haven't eaten lunch yet). 

How does the M-Class drive? Combine the power of a 268 hp V6 or a 302 hp V8 engine with a seven-speed automatic transmission (the only seven-speed automatic in an SUV), and you have a car with plenty of power and shifting so smooth that's it is barely noticeable. The vehicle is quite responsive, and I feel secure on the road thanks to ESP stability control and 4ETS 4-wheel drive and traction control. This vehicle combines the practicality of an SUV with a luxury car feel.   The new M-Class also has an impressive list of standard safety features, including two-stage driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags and a roll-over sensor. As a courtesy to the nice folks at Mercedes who invited me, I decided not to test the roll-over sensor during our drive.   There's nothing better than a scenic drive on a beautiful spring day in Southern California, but all this driving has given me quite an appetite, so it's back to the Ritz-Carlton for lunch. To be honest, I find myself driving a little slower now so I can enjoy my remaining moments in the stylish new Mercedes M-Class.

For more information on Mercedes-Benz products, go to www.mbusa.com

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