The Mercedes Benz ML320 is a part of the M-Series, the German automaker's line of luxury SUVs. The ML320 is a landmark vehicle in more ways than one. First, it was one of the first luxury SUVs in the market. It debuted way back in 1997 as a 1998 model. Next, it was the first Mercedes-Benz vehicle that was primarily designed for the American market. In fact, the ML320 is exclusively built in the United States (in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to be precise). On top of those, it's also the first vehicle to be launched in the M-Series.
1997-2005: The First Generation
As mentioned earlier, the first generation of the Mercedes Benz ML320 (also known as the W163 series) was introduced to the American market in 1997. The ML320 was powered by a 3.2-L V6 engine (hence the "320" name) that was paired with either a five-speed manual transmission or Mercedes Benz's trademark five-speed overdrive automatic transmission (better known as
5G-Tronic). It also featured the 4matic four-wheel drive system, another trademark of Mercedes Benz. The 4matic system, together with the ML320 traction control system, allowed the SUV to gain superior traction when traveling over slippery roads.
The Mercedes Benz ML320 boasted of yet another first--it was the first luxury SUV to feature an electronic stability control system. As if those features weren't enough, the ML320 also had an intelligent airbag system that was able to detect the occupants of the front seats. With those, it's clear that Mercedes Benz didn't hold anything back for the model's first generation.
2005-2011: The Second Generation
Amazingly, the development of the Mercedes Benz ML320's second generation (also known as the W164 series) began as early as 1999, just two years after the debut of the first ML320. When the new ML320 hit car showrooms in 2005, it immediately generated interest because of its more streamlined design. The second generation ML320 was sleeker, sportier, and more aerodynamic (its drag coefficient is down to 0.34) than its first-generation counterpart. While some of the features of the first-generation ML320 were retained, new ones were introduced as well such as the revolutionary 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission system.
2011: The Third Generation Arrives
2011 marked the arrival of the third-generation Mercedes Benz ML320. Just like the second generation, its design process started just a few years after the introduction of the previous generation. The results are impressive of course as the latest ML320 comes with improved transmission, suspension, and safety features.