Mercedes-Benz has released pics and details of its next gen M-Class SUV, which will premiere at the Frankfurt show. They’ve taken the evolutionary route in terms of styling, which masks the fact that this M-Class rides on new underpinnings. No major change in recipe too – the ML still sits five in two rows.

Although the new car’s 2,915 mm wheelbase is unchanged, it’s 24 mm longer, 16 mm wider and 19 mm lower than the car it replaces. But at 4,804 mm long and 1,926 mm wide, the Merc is still 53 mm shorter than rival BMW X5, which is also slightly (7 mm) wider. Because of the familiar proportions and design, the ML is immediately recognisable as one. Perhaps Merc surveys showed that most are happy with the current looks.

What’s clearly all new is the cabin design, a big upgrade from the dated dash of the current car. The elements are the same, but the housing isn’t. As you can see here, it also looks very luxurious with a leather bound dash top, matte finish wood trim and quilted hide on the seats and door cards.

Three engines will be offered at launch, including a small four-cylinder diesel unit. It’s a twin-turbo 2.1-litre oil burner in the ML 250 Bluetec that produces 204 PS and 500 Nm of torque. That’s very impressive as it’s just 41 PS and 40 Nm short of the X5 30d despite displacing almost one litre less. For something we know, the N47D engine in the F10 520d does 184 hp and 380 Nm. Combined with stop-start and brake energy recuperation, the ML 250 Bluetec achieves 28% better economy than the current six-pot ML 300 CDI.

A step up is the ML 350 Bluetec with a 3.0L V6 diesel engine. This one has 258 PS and 619 Nm of torque. This should be good for a 7.5-second 0-100 km/h run before topping out at 224 km/h.

For the petrol fans in America and Asia, the ML 350 BlueEfficiency comes with a 3.5-litre V6 engine that pushes out 306 PS and 370 Nm of torque. A twin-turbo V8 powered ML63 AMG is in the works, as is a diesel hybrid. The latter will add an electric motor to the 2.1L diesel in the ML 250 Bluetec to make it the eco champ of the range. Autocar UK’s sources say that the hybrid will have 19.2 km/l economy.

All engines are paired to Merc’s 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmission and an AWD system. There’s also selective damping suspension and the optional Airmatic self-leveling air suspension plus Active Curve System with dynamic roll stabilisation. All these chassis tricks are controlled by knobs between the seats.

Full gallery after the jump.

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