Starting price: $49,865 (includes $875 delivery)
Base engine: 3.5 liter, V-6, 302 horsepower
What's new: Complete redesign with new high-tech safety features
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz M Class is the third generation of the first luxury-brand SUV. When it debuted in 1997, people weren't sure "Mercedes" and "SUV" belonged in the same sentence. Since then, the company has sold more than 1 million worldwide -- about half in the U.S.
The first generation was developed with robust off-road driving in mind, a capability that few owners ever used. Each version since then has gotten better on-road. The 2012 ML350 4Matic has a 3.5-liter, gasoline-powered, direct-injected V-6 that gets 13 percent more horsepower and 6 percent more torque than the engine it replaces. It also gets 2 more miles per gallon, at 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Safety features include a drowsiness warning that can tell if you start wandering in your lane.