2011 Mercedes-Benz R-class

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-class 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-class
Quick Spin

What Is It?

We’re not exactly sure. This not-an-SUV, not-a-wagon, not-even-a-crossover is Mercedes-Benz’s version of the people mover. Seats for six are standard, and an optional second-row bench increases capacity to seven. With the seats down, the R-class can swallow a seven-foot surfboard or 85 cubic feet of circus peanuts. New front styling is part of the 2011 model-year freshening. U.S. versions come in two flavors: the gasoline-powered R350 and the diesel R350 BlueTec. Both come with 4MATIC all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic.

How Does It Drive?

Don’t expect Euro-wagon handling; the R-class has light, vague steering and doesn’t like to be hustled around corners. Long-distance comfort is the goal of this Benz, and in that sense, the quiet, comfortable ride succeeds. The gasoline engine is more responsive at low speeds and, weighing about 250 fewer pounds than the diesel, reacts slightly quicker to driving inputs. But the diesel is the better long-range pick, with a 24-mpg EPA highway rating.

How Does It Stack Up?

Compared with what? Against luxury seven-passenger SUV-like crossovers, the R-class looks good on paper, with plenty of interior space and impressive (diesel) fuel economy. But even with the improved styling, the R-class looks dowdy to minivan-fearing Americans. If you can get over appearances and have a thick wallet, then the R-class stands up well.

What’s the Cost?

If Mercedes-Benz keeps prices in line with those of the outgoing model, the R350 should start just above $50,000 and the R350 BlueTec will cost an extra $1500. Option packages are largely the same. The $4000 Premium 1 package, which includes navigation, voice recognition, an iPod interface, a power liftgate, and a backup camera, seems like a mandatory selection. Three-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, and rear-seat entertainment are among some of the stand-alone options. The 2011 R-class goes on sale imminently.