Within the coming weeks, Mercedes-Benz will introduce the second of three new models planned this year – their new third-generation M-Class sports utility vehicle.

Coming in the wake of their new B-Class, the M-Class links a strong off-road heritage to the comfort of a luxury premium saloon.

In appearance, it has been given a more defined, forceful look with the introduction of new headlamps and grille and centrally mounted three-pointed star.

Improvements include a more spacious and comfortable interior with more elbow room, a new dashboard and upholstery and a raft of standard and optional high-tech infotainment systems.

Equipped with permanent four-wheel drive and new 7-G Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, the M-Class is powered by an all-new line up of engine consisting of one petrol and two diesel units that deliver fuel economy some 25 percent better on average than the model it replaces.

Here in Ireland the version most likely to appeal is the 204bhp ML250 CDI BlueTEC 4-MATIC selling at EUR71,060 ex works with road tax of just EUR481, making it a benchmark in the premium large SUV segment.

Powered by a 2.1-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, it delivers power similar to its predecessor whilst consuming 28 percent less fuel (6-litres/ 100km) with lower CO2 emissions (158g/km). It has a top speed is 210km/h with a 0-100km/h time of 9 seconds.

A second diesel – the new 3-litre, V6, 258bhp ML350 BlueTEC 4-MATIC – is equally frugal delivering a 24 percent reduction in consumption with lower emissions (179g/km) despite a 27bhp increase in power. Top speed is 224km/h and 0-100km/h is a faster 7.4secs. This version comes on the market at EUR76,140 with road tax of EUR677.

With entry level prices for the ML250 and ML350 reduced by 11% and 13% respectively – and with low emissions and correspondingly low road tax – Mercedes-Benz believes that SUV owners now have good reasons to remain within the segment.

Though Ireland will be a diesel-only market, a new 3.5-litre, V6, 306bhp, ML350 BlueEFFICIENCY petrol version can be had on order.

Notable features of the new M-Class include a new on/off road package that provides six transmission modes, depending on road conditions. Air suspension, anti roll stabilization, adaptive damping that moves from firm to soft, electric steering and a tightest-in-its-segment turning circle combine to boost driving pleasure.

A full suite of safety features includes a comprehensive range of airbags and warning systems, drowsiness-detection and tyre-pressure monitoring, adaptive brake lights, electronic brake assist and numerous other standard and optional items already familiar from the C, E and S-Class ranges. Amongst these are Pre and Post-Safe systems that significantly reduce the impact of an accident and help protect occupants from further impacts.