The Inside

The redesigned interior mixes familiar styling cues with new design themes. Thanks to greater use of wood trim Ч especially on the dashboard Ч the cabin looks richer. There were, however, some annoying rattles in our test car, and I noticed some chassis flex.

Having driving a lot of cars lately, the commanding views afforded by the M-Class were a reminder of one of the reasons people like SUVs. The front bucket seats are supportive without being overly firm, and there's room for taller drivers to get comfortable (I'm 6-foot-1). Simulated leather upholstery is standard, while real leather is optional. With a starting price of nearly $50,000 for the M-Class, you'd think you could get real leather without having to pay extra.

Backseat comfort is decent; there was enough legroom with the driver's seat adjusted for me. There's not as much thigh support as I'd like, however, and the backseat doesn't slide forward or backward for additional cargo space or backseat legroom. The split backrest reclines by lifting a lever at the base of the seat.

The backseat folds flat with the cargo floor, but you first have to flip the seat cushion forward and make sure the head restraints are lowered. This is a dated, cumbersome design that was once common in SUVs but has largely been abandoned, which makes its presence in a redesigned luxury model all the more unusual.

Mercedes updated a key interface Ч the Comand system Ч and the changes make the M-Class' entertainment features easier to use. Prior versions of the SUV had a keypad on the dashboard that filled the role of the knob controller that's been used in other Mercedes models for years. From a usability perspective, it was a poor substitute. The redesigned M-Class' new center console incorporates a control knob just in front of the armrest. With this setup, Comand is one of the easier integrated systems to use thanks to intuitive on-screen menus navigated by simple knob movements.

    See also:

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