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On The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website they make the following references:

"The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has evaluated the crashworthiness of a 1999 ML 320 with the structural changes in a 40 mph frontal offset crash test into a deformable barrier."

"Mercedes M class models were introduced in the 1998 model year. All M class models manufactured after March 1999 include structural changes to improve occupant protection in frontal crashes."

Does anyone know what the structural changes are and how much safer they are compared to the 1998?
 

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I read this in Consumer Reports as well. My fading memory was that the article said somthing about some bracing to the frame.

It appears that the original MB design had a safety flaw that they fixed after a year and half of production.

MB also continued to make improvements in the ESP system. From what I have read on Wolfgang's web site, ESP has proven to reduce accident rates among those vehicles equiped with ESP. In other words, it is a valuable safety feature.

If you have young kids (or plan to) you may also want to see when the LATCH system was added. I think it was 2000 or 2002.

Also, I believe it was 2002, when they added a head safety air bag system that is not available on the earlier model years.

In general, the ML is a nice design that was poorly executed in the early model years. Each model year has various improvements with major updates in 2000 and 2002. The 2003-2005 model years appear to be the best and safest.

Finally, I would say that even an early model year ML is probably much safer than most other SUVs. I have a 99 manufactured in April and I feel safe driving it!
 

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Aside from the structural improvements in the '99, the biggest safety difference between 98's and 99's is that the 98's did not have ESP. On this basis, I would venture that a '99 is safer, because of standard ESP.
 
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