Guest Post Contributed by Hugh Ujhazy
The open road, wind in your hair, the smell of leather, the bass note of a performance engine caressing your inner ear. That’s the image we cherish. The one we hold onto. The one we clutch desperately. Sad, really. The reality of city living and driving is moving people and things from A to B where the route from A to B is subject to roadworks, road rage and general road congestion.
Even though the popular sport utility vehicle has taken tremendous mind share, it’s hard, in most cases, to realize that ultimate dream. Getting a baby carrier, two children under the age of eight, mom and dad into a Porsche 911 could happen but only in an alternate universe where the laws of physics are subject to major rearrangement.
Rather than face the challenge of rear-engined, air-cooled, performance-optimized driving (with the family in tow), there is a compromise that gives push you back in your seat performance (when needed) and yet manages to carry the afore-mentioned load of stuff from the previously referred A to some designated B. The Mercedes-Benz R-Class has been a behind-the-scenes player in the Mercedes stable for some years.
Overshadowed by the exotic SLS, the stately S-Class and the day to day sedan appeal of the E-Class, the virtues of the R lay forgotten behind an unfortunate mishmash of bloated styling and mixed marketing messages. For 2011, Mercedes has looked long and hard at the needs of us who have families and want to move them around conveniently. Seven true seats (not a fold out afterthought that robs all storage space from the vehicle), the R is a true contender against the Audi Q7 and the BMW X5, and it offers more space in a truly lifted package.
Benefiting from a new front end shared across the range, the stance is slightly more aggressive and well planted, having lost the droopy nose of the previous models. Some time at the gym has trimmed the previously generous flanks, narrowing them and creating an attractive line down the side of vehicle. The rear is still dominated by the full tail gate but the lighting package and rear glass help minimize the dominance of metal. All told, the styling changes have unified the R300 with the M- and B-Class models.
In addition to the grille, the front end features daylight running lights or new chrome-ringed fog lamps in the grille’s lower bout. Overall, the appearance is newer, wider and in Mercedes-Benz speak, more assertive. In the rear, the exhaust finishers are integrated into the rear fascia. Among the safety features are Mercedes-Benz Blind-spot assist, Pre-Safe and Neck-Pro front seat head restraints.
Configurable as a four-, five-, six- or seven-passenger vehicle, it can be equipped with centre consoles between the middle row of seats, as well as a back row that reclines. The amount of cargo space depends only on how many seats you fold forward, or order in the first place. R-Class vehicles ordered without third-row seating are equipped with an under-floor storage area. Overall capacity is 15.2-cubic feet with all three rows in the upright position. Fold them flat and capacity tops out at 85-cubic feet.
The R-Class defends its luxury status by avoiding the sliding doors of mini-vans, opting instead for swing out rear doors that yawn cavernously to give access to the interior. Luxury abounds inside. An AMG sport package with custom seats and trim is one way to go. A refreshed interior with aluminum and chrome highlights and extravagant wood trim dresses up the cabin. The seating configuration is good, although it does take several tries and adjustments to finally get the seats to fold forward for the flat-floor cargo area to finally be realized.
In Malaysia, the R-Class offers the 3.0-liter V6 petrol engine producing 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. The CGI diesel versions will not be sold here in Malaysia due to the amount of sulphur in the fuel. Performance buffs can mix the engine with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The R300 rides on a suspension comprised of upper and lower control arms, coil springs, shocks and stabilizer bar in front and a load-leveling air suspension out back.
The mix of leather, styling and an eco-friendly powertrain (plus the inevitable and dominant three-pointed star on the grill) make this a vehicle that wonâ€™t be for everyone. Fully imported into Malaysia, it tops out close to RM500,000. That said, this is the vehicle for conquering distance and inner city traffic alike. A vehicle that will park close to your neighbour’s Q7 and feel comfortably superior.
Staying clear of the bread-box minivan styling chosen by Toyota and Hyundai, the R-Class offers a fully-imported, beautifully-appointed and extremely comfortable ride for the whole family. Performance from 0-60mph in around 8.6 seconds is not nose-bleed territory but respectable for a vehicle over two tonnes in curb weight. When pushed on positioning the vehicle in the market, Mercedes places it as a first-class people mover. Given the 11l/100km fuel economy and a comfortable seating arrangement for a true seven adults, they have delivered against their claim. The Mercedes-Benz R-Class is available now in Malaysia from all Mercedes-Benz dealers.