2009 Mercedes M-Class

First offered in '97 as a '98 model, the Mercedes M-Class SUV marked the automaker's first step into a shift from being a quaint regional luxe automaker into trying to play with the big boys on a global level. Step two was the "merger of equals" with Chrysler. Step three, which we all know to be profit, never so much happened. But, although the Teutonic knights may not have the same delusions of grandeur they once had, they're still pushing the M-Class — and here's the first shots of what the new-look 2009 Mercedes M-Class will look like with some full uncovered photos of a mid-cycle facelift. The new '09 ML is expected to get a diesel engine under the hood. On the exterior — well, see for yourself with the almost entirely nude shots below. All we know is if you take away the spare tire from the back, we think it'd look like a smiley face! Full spy report from Brenda Priddy after the jump.

Mercedes M-class is due for its mid-life facelift for the 2009 model year and we've already photographed it undergoing road testing in Stuttgart.

Like the rest of the range, the ML will receive a somewhat more prominent front bumper and skirt, plus slightly re-designed taillights.

The interior will likely be refined just a bit, and expectations are high for a cleaner Bluetec engine.