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Actual rating will vary with options, driving conditions, habits and vehicle condition.
The standard features of the Mercedes-Benz R350 Base include 3.5L V-6 268HP engine, 7-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain 1st, 2nd and 3rd row overhead airbag, rear side-impact airbag, airbag occupancy sensor, Thermatic automatic air conditioning, 19" aluminum wheels, cruise control, ABS and driveline traction control, and a 4MATIC all-wheel drive. (en)
The diesel alternative is the BlueTec turbodiesel, sporting 210 horsepower with more than 400 foot-pounds of torque available from 1600 to 2400 rpm. The diesel, which uses an array of exhaust scrubbers and chemical injection systems using urea, is legal for sale in all 50 states.
The 7-speed automatic transmission that comes on all R-Class models gradually adapts to each driver's driving style and changes shift patterns accordingly. By analyzing speed versus throttle opening comparisons, the transmission will know whether the R-Class is going uphill or downhill and will either delay upshifts or hasten downshifts accordingly. And, unlike most SUV automatics, the transmission in the R-Class comes with a TouchShift feature for side-to-side manual control and a choice of Comfort or Sport shifting modes for the driver's choice of higher rpm shifting and harder shifts or lower rpm shifting and softer shifts.
The 4MATIC system has a 45/55 front/rear torque bias and uses a dual-disc clutch that acts as a locking center differential in difficult traction situations.
The R-Class normally rides on 19-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels shod with 235/50R19 all-season tires. Optional 20-inch, seven-spoke wheels, 8.5 inches front and 9.5 inches in the rear, wear 235/40R20 tires in front and 255/40R20 at the rear.
Traveling on the freeways, winding country roads, and village streets in upstate New York, we pushed the R-Class as hard as we dared, and it behaves more like a luxury sedan than a truck, quietly soaking up bumps and potholes and other imperfections, and it cruises easily with the 3.5-liter engine when traffic and space permit.
Acceleration is very good for a vehicle of this weight, and in seventh-gear overdrive, it just purrs along at about 1800 rpm at 75 mph. Steering feel is good, braking performance is exemplary, and the R-Class is very quick and easy to learn. Nothing tricky in the switches and controls, and ergonomics are excellent.
Towing capacity is just 3500 pounds, so the R-Class is not our first choice for towing.
The hood is more steeply raked than the hood on the original. The bodysides have not had to be completely recontoured to fit with the new nose, so that it looks about the same from the sides, but the rear end also has been redone more crisply, with a new diffuser, new bumpers, exhaust tips, and LED fiber-optic taillamps.
The R-Class has had some difficulty finding buyers in the past because there is nothing else quite like it on the road (since the Chrysler Pacifica was cancelled). The R-Class has four hinged side doors, not sliding doors, and a hatch in back, so it's not a proper minivan. It has all wheel-drive, but it's not tall enough to be a called a real SUV, even though its off-road prowess is far better than most. And it's not shaped or sized like a Mercedes-Benz station wagon, either.
From its introduction, the company has referred to the R-Class as a sport-tourer, speced out for long-distance comfort, interior roominess, and, with that giant sunroof, a feeling of open space inside. Mercedes-Benz says that the R-Class is the roomiest vehicle in its entire passenger-car lineup for its overall size.
The R-Class is aimed to compete with the Cadillac SRX, Lincoln MKT, Buick Enclave and Audi Q7 in one of the U.S. market's fastest-growing market segments. The R-Class is sold in 90 markets around the world, with a mix of small V6 gasoline engines, diesels, and 5.5-liter V8 engines (which were once offered here but were canceled due to lack of interest and high gasoline prices).
The U.S. market demands larger engines and larger interiors than Europe does, so we get the gasoline V6 and turbodiesel V6 engines. Both come with the 7-speed overdrive automatic and 4MATIC all wheel-drive, using the long-wheelbase chassis. Where some other R-Class markets get a short-wheelbase model, a small 3.0-liter gasoline engine, and as few as four seats, we get only the larger configuration, with a buyer's choice of six seats in a 2-2-2 layout or seven seats in a 2-3-2 layout. The six-seat layout offers an optional second-row console.
The 5000-pound R-Class uses welded steel unibody construction with front and rear subframes to mount the steering and suspension systems, with almost half the body weight in high-strength low-alloy steel. This is standard Mercedes-Benz practice on almost everything they make, because it's lighter, stronger, easier to build and easier repair than traditional body-on-frame vehicles.
The engineers have paid huge amounts of attention and money when it comes to making the front and rear suspensions and the large tires work together for a ride quality that is both taut and plush, absorbent and resistive, so that the occupants are not bothered by road irregularities and can just sit back and enjoy the view.
When loaded up to the top edge of the rear-seat backrests, the load compartment of the R-Class has a capacity of 15.2 cubic feet. The rear-seat backrests fold down in a 33/67 split or folded down completely to produce a flat load floor. Folding the second seat flat produces 42.2 cubic feet of load capacity, and all seats down yields a cargo capacity of 85 cubic feet, with a load compartment measuring 66 inches (5.5 feet) long.
The load compartment can be hidden from sight thanks to the load compartment cover, while load-securing rings make it easier to fasten down items of luggage. There are also bag hooks, hooks in the tailgate trim, a 12-volt power outlet and a lamp at the side of the load compartment. Standard equipment also includes an additional 86-liter stowage compartment under the fold-up load compartment floor. The compartment is split into smaller partitions by a removable stowage tub. Optional features include the safety partition net as well as the power tailgate, which can be opened and closed at the push of a button, either from the driver's seat or by remote control.
Standard features include cloth upholstery, dual-zone air conditioning, real burl walnut wood trim, cruise control, a power sunroof, windows, rear quarter windows, mirrors, seats, locks, paddle shifters, the Comand system, multi-function steering wheel, AM/FM/CD/DVD sound system, Bluetooth hands-free telephoning, rain-sensing wipers, rear self-leveling air suspension, and automatic headlamps.
Options include the Premium 1 Package ($4000) with the hard-drive navigation system, Comand vehicle control system, enhanced voice control for audio telephone and navigation, Gracenote media database, HD Digital Radio, iPod/MP3 media interface hidden in the glovebox, a memory package for driver seat, power steering column and exterior mirrors, power folding mirrors, power liftgate, power steering column, rearview camera, auto-dimming mirrors, Sirius satellite radio with real-time traffic and a Zagat Survey restaurant guide, one 115V AC power outlet, and a 4GB hard-drive with Music Register for download of MP3 files.
Premium 2 ($6050) has everything above plus a Harman Kardon Logic7 surround sound system with Dolby digital 5.1, and Keyless Go. A lighting package ($985) adds bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, and headlamp washers. The Sport Package ($1350), for gasoline models only, adds dark-tinted taillamp lenses, heat-absorbing blue-tinted glass in the first row, and AMG 20-inch sport wheels and tires.
Individual options for the R-Class will include the electronic adaptive damping system, complete front and rear Airmatic air suspension, Distronic adaptive cruise control, a power/memory front passenger seat, rear side window sunshades, the multicontour seat for driver and passenger, the second-row center console, infrared-reflecting glass, poplar wood trim, and heated rear seats.
Safety features include ABS, Quick Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Program, Automatic Slip Control, traction control, 4MATIC all-wheel drive, Blind Spot Assist warning, eight front, side, and roof airbags, Pre-Safe, Neck-Pro.
Jim McCraw filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Hoboken, New Jersey.
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