2008 R-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz R-Class was created for buyers seeking the driving characteristics of a good luxury sedan with more space and functionality. Mercedes calls the R a grand sport tourer, but in essence it's a luxurious minivan.
For 2007, the R-Class line expands with two new models. The diesel-powered R320 CDI eliminates just about everything bad associated with old-technology diesels except the outstanding fuel economy. The R63 AMG is powered by a hand-assembled 503-horsepower V8, with other mechanical enhancements that make it the undisputed hot rod of minivans (if the R-Class is indeed a minivan).
Yet the best news of all applies to the price. Perhaps due to slower-than-anticipated sales, Mercedes has lowered the sticker on other R-Class models roughly $5,000, without a significant reduction in standard equipment.
The R-Class has four conventional swing-out doors and a top-hinged, one-piece tailgate, like a station wagon. It has full-time electronically controlled all-wheel drive like many upscale SUVs, and it has three rows of seats, like the typical minivan. The R-Class is also quite large, though a good-looking wedge shape and sweeping lines help disguise its considerable size.
This grand sport tourer is longer than many full-sized, truck-based SUVs. Its doors are among the longest on any vehicle, and they open to expose a spacious interior that comfortably accommodates six adults in nice, supportive seats.
Whatever the R-Class is, we like it. Each of the four models accelerate, corner and ride like big luxury sedans, with the all-weather security of standard all-wheel drive and impressive flexibility for people and cargo hauling. All offer the passenger-friendly accoutrements of a mainstream minivan, including an abundance of cup holders and interior lighting and an optional DVD entertainment system. And all come loaded with passive safety features designed to protect occupants in the event of an accident.
What's New for 2007: Two new, very different models. The R320 CDI ($44,000) is equipped identically to the base R350, except that it's powered by a high-tech, 3.2-liter diesel V6 with 216 horsepower and a substantial improvement in mileage. The R63 AMG ($87,400) is a hot rod for large families. It's equipped with a 503-hp, 6.2-liter V8 hand built by a single technician at Mercedes' AMG racing subsidiary, other mechanical enhancements and a long list of ultra-luxury features. The retail price of existing R-Class models was reduced nearly $5,000.
So the 2007 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is now available in four models. Each is distinguished primarily by its engine, and all are equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission, standard all-wheel drive and load-leveling rear suspension.
The R350 ($43,000) is powered by 268-hp, 3.5-liter gasoline V6. Standard equipment includes leather seating, birds-eye maple trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, folding second- and third-row bucket seats, rain-sensing wipers, multi-function control buttons on the steering wheel, an eight-speaker stereo with AM/FM/WB/CD, an integrated garage door opener and lots of cup holders.
The R500 ($50,500) has a 302-hp V8 engine. It also adds a six-disc CD changer, heated front seats, burl walnut trim, three memory buttons for seats, mirrors and steering column, TeleAid emergency communication, additional chrome exterior trim, tinted front and side glass, speed-sensitive steering and 18-inch wheels with 255/50 tires.
Options include turning bi-xenon headlights ($900), Keyless Go automatic starting ($1,100), Airmatic suspension ($1,400), and three-zone automatic climate control ($1050). The Premium package ($4,225) includes the Panorama sun roof, with a five-and-a-half-foot glass section in two panels, the rear-seat DVD entertainment package, navigation system, a power tailgate, and TeleAid. The AMG Sport package ($4,500) includes Mercedes' Airmatic air suspension, and it delivers the look and feel of the R63 AMG without the crazy powerful engine.
Safety features include multi-stage front airbags and both side-impact and head-protection curtain airbags for all seats. Active safety features include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Mercedes newest electronic stability program (ESP). A tire-pressure monitor comes standard.