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2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Overview
No matter what Mercedes-Benz tries to tell you, the R-Class is not a “sport-touring” machine. It’s a minivan at worst, an SUV at best. But more importantly, it’s also not ugly anymore, thanks to a mid-cycle refresh.
The R-Class has suffered since its introduction. No one knew what it was supposed to be, and regardless, they didn’t like what they were seeing. In an attempt to revive what is clearly a dying model, Mercedes has given its 7-passenger midsize SUV a visual refresh to more closely resemble its Bavarian brethren. The grille has been increased in size and structure for a flatter appearance, allowing for a hood that has much less angle to it. This has alleviated a lot of the W.C. Fields effect that was noted with the previous model. Quad-fogs grace the lower fascia, and new headlights seem to connect bumper, grille, and hood in a way that was obviously ignored previously. Astute fans will also notice new LED daytime running lights and a slight redesign of the mirror-integrated turn signals. Rear bumper and taillights have also seen attention, including LEDs, but the changes are far less dramatic. The most obvious change out back is rectangular exhaust tips replacing the old oval units, and it works well.
For the interior, changes are much more subtle. Getting in, it’s obvious that something’s been done, and the changes are good, but what they are isn’t immediately evident. Look closer and you’ll notice some new trim, a new dash top, and some additional wood on the steering wheel. As said, they're not monumental by any means, but they're good changes and fit the exterior changes well.
Each of the two trims has its own standard engine, a naturally aspirated or turbodiesel V6. The base R350 starts with a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6, and it’ll certainly get you around with its standard seven-speed automatic transmission. However the real story is in the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that comes with the R350 BlueTEC trim. Also mated to the seven-speed automatic, it offers 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque as well as an 18/24 mpg rating as opposed to the R350’s 15/19, and it has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. The BlueTEC trim also comes with run-flat tires.
All R350s come with a 2+2+2 arrangement, although an optional second-row bench can be swapped for the rear buckets to give a 7-person capacity. Safety is taken well in hand with standard stability and traction control, six standard airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and the PRE and POST-SAFE systems.
Will this be enough to take up the slack of almost 40,000 unsold units per year? Mercedes certainly hopes so. All we can say is that they’re on the right track, but it’s still not a sport-tourer.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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I'm shopping for a vehicle that can seat 6-7 people. Mostly for the daily carpool run and don't want a minivan. I've looked at the Q56 (too bloated), MDX, Q7 (3rd row is too small) and the Suburban...