Mercedes' '04 M-Class
Although the current generation of Mercedes' M-Class wonder trucks remain state-of-the-off-road-art, DaimlerChrysler designers aren't resting - the next generation of M-Class has been spotted undergoing testing by the lens of Brenda Priddy & Company. Shown heavily disguised and undergoing cold-weather testing in Sweden, the new M-Class will feature unibody construction, optional computer-controlled air suspension, and a sophisticated brake-by-wire braking system.
Power for the five-seat M-Class will include the 3.0L (231 hp) or 3.6L (258 hp) V-6s and a pair of V-6 diesels with 190 hp (2.6L) or 218 hp (3.0L). When production gets up to full speed, DaimlerChrysler will introduce a 5.0L V-8 with 300 hp for the new SUV; if you have money to burn, AMG will build a special M-Class with a 5.5L 350hp V-8 under the hood. As with the current M-Class, the new Mercedes will be built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama - AMG versions will be shipped to Germany for installation of the AMG performance goodies, and then sent back to the USA for sale.
Automakers Seek Changes To Instrument Panel Control Regulations
As most enthusiasts would reason, the government places regulations on every part and segment of the vehicles we drive. While some of these regulations have stood the test of time and remain viable despite advances in technology, many regulations are outdated and could use an update to take advantage of current high-tech designs.
Such is the case with instrument panel controls. The existing government regulation requires automakers to place a label or symbol identifying a control "...on or adjacent to the control." The 30-year-old rule creates clutter on a modern vehicle's dashboard and can cause driver confusion, according to automakers. An alliance of 13 automakers is requesting that the federal rules governing the design of controls be revised so the industry can take greater advantage of advances in the electronics industry. Basically, the automakers want the rule to read: "...the identification of a control be visible to a seated and restrained driver".
When you think of it, requiring that controls be labeled near the actual control isn't always a good idea. Placing the control images on a small remote screen or in the center of the dash pod makes better sense than having the control images scattered about the dash face.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into the automakers' request for rule changes, and we will know later this year if automakers will be permitted to design dash layouts with remote status images.