If it’s good enough for the Pope, it’s gotta be good enough for the rest of us, right?
Based as it is on the Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV, the Popemobile is perhaps the most iconic role Mercedes-Benz’s first mainstream SUV plays. Well, except perhaps the starring role the M-Class enjoyed in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
In fact, it was through that product placement tie-in the Mercedes SUV was introduced to the world. Seen in the film just before it went on sale in 1997 — as a 1998 model — the M-Class immediately became the darling of luxury suvs.
The first Mercedes-Benz automobile to be built in the United States, the M-Class hails from the city of Vance, in Tuscaloosa county Alabama. The Mercedes-Benz U.S. International factory there also builds the R-Class Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes’ GL-Class.
While the M-Class was the company’s first “mainstream” SUV, it was not the first Mercedes-Benz suv. That honor goes to a vehicle Mercedes designed primarily for military usage, which became known as the Mercedes-Benz “G-Wagen”, (a contraction of the German word Geländewagen, which means cross-country vehicle). Sold for many years in the U.S. as a “gray-market” import, Mercedes-Benz USA began officially importing that vehicle in 2001.
Thus, the 1998 M-Class is the first Mercedes-Benz SUV to be officially (by the company itself) offered in the United States. There have three generations of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV to date.