Next-generation Mercedes ML-Class spied getting its road-legs on the streets in Germany. The SUV's new design seems consistent with the ML-Class and doesn't seem to provide any undue surprises.

Here's a series of spy shots of the next-generation Mercedes ML-Class SUV.

It's hard to envision what the next gen Merc will look like when wearing that heavy, black coat, but the photographer did remark that the model looks slightly smaller than its predecessor. A sign that automakers are downsizing their shamelessly indulgent SUVs of old. Otherwise, the new design does seem to be consistent with the ML-Class and won't be providing any undue surprises. The question is whether there will still be much of a market for these premium-brand, large-sized SUVs. There are many indications that the SUV's hey-day is past.

In the engine bay, nothing new is expected, as the ML-Class was provided with the brand's most updated range of motorization options with its somewhat recent facelift. A gasoline/electric hybrid will also likely be in the works, as seen most recently in the S 400 model. A plug-in hybrid is also (as always lately) hinted at.

The next-generation Mercedes-Benz ML is expected to debut sometime in 2012.