The first generation of Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUVs was available between 1998 and 2005. Its variants included the ML55, which was offered from 2000 to 2003 and featured a V8 engine made by AMG, a subsidiary of Mercedes that specialises in high-performance vehicles. The powerful engine made it one of the fastest full-time all-wheel-drive SUVs on the market but it still provided passengers with typical luxury features from the German automaker.
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The ML55 featured a 5.5-litre, 24-valve V8 engine with a twin spark plug/three-valve, SOHC design. It provided 342 horsepower at 5,500rpm and 376 foot-pounds of torque. The full-time all-wheel-drive system included an electronic five-speed automatic transmission that continuously networked with the engine and chassis management system for smooth shifting on uphill ascents as well as downhill descents. The towing capacity of the vehicle, when fitted with the optional Class-III hitch, was 2268kg.
The ML55 could reach 60mph in 6.7 seconds and 90mph in third gear within 15 seconds. Despite an approximate weight of 2.27kg., the ML55 stopped from 60mph in 129 feet and performed well during slalom testing. Maximum control was provided by its independent rear suspension that consisted of a double-wishbone system also used in the front suspension.
The ML55 was designed with a steel frame that included front and rear crunch zones with reinforced side braces for maximum passenger safety. Other standard safety specifications included daytime running lights, front and side airbags for both the driver and passenger, a four-wheel anti-lock braking system and a state-of-the-art electronic stability and traction-control system. For passengers travelling with infants, the vehicle also provided the Mercedes BabySmart system, which disabled the side air bag when an infant seat was detected.
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