An all-new version of the Mercedes R-Class is coming, and, with its more macho appearance, this “Grand Sport Tourer” could finally gain a bit of traction in the U.S.
What is it about minivans – or anything that even looks like a van -- that Americans run from?
It’s too bad for Mercedes-Benz, and too bad for potential buyers who’ve missed out on the many appealing features of the old Mercedes R-Class.
But an all-new version of the German crossover is coming, and, with its more macho appearance, this “Grand Sport Tourer” could finally gain a bit of traction in the U.S.
We spent a couple of days getting to know the new R-Class and quickly realized you won’t confuse it with the carmaker’s classic utility vehicles, the GL and M-Class. There’s a sharper edge to the new look.
Functionality and flexibility are hallmarks of a vehicle like this, and you have some considerable options when it comes to configurability. You can order the 2011 R-Class as a four-, five-, six-, even seven-seater, and opt for both a middle-row center console and a reclining back row. What you can’t order is sliding rear doors. That minivan touch would’ve been a kiss of death, despite its maxi-functionality.
Obviously, whether you choose a two- or three-row model will affect your potential cargo capacity, but at max, you’re up to 85 cubic feet and a 7-foot cargo floor, with a minimum 15.2 cubic feet, enough to carry a few roll-on suitcases or a week’s worth of groceries if you stack carefully.
As you’d expect of a Mercedes in this price range and category, even the most basic version of the 2011 R-Class is lavishly equipped, and you can load it with the sort of “long-range comfort” touches, in the words of chief engineer Thomas Ruhl, that will appeal to empty-nesters as much as affluent young family buyers.
We expect a sizable share of buyers to not only go for the in-dash navigation but the twin rear-seat entertainment system, as well as advanced safety features like Blind Spot Assist and radar-guided Adaptive Cruise Control.
The 2011 R-Class certainly is not going to appeal to everyone, especially those who will continue to search for a truly macho alternative. But the updated Benz offers an appealing blend of comfort, style and functionality that’s definitely worth a closer look.
Paul A. Eisenstein is an award-winning journalist who has spent more than 30 years covering the global auto industry. His work appears in a wide range of publications worldwide, and he is a frequent broadcast commentator on subjects automotive.
2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class
Engine options: 3.5-liter V6, 268 horsepower, 258 pound-feet torque (gasoline); 3.5-liter BlueTec V6, 200 horsepower, 400 pound-feet.
Miles per gallon: 14 city/19 highway with 3.5-liter gasoline engine, 18/24 with 3.5-liter BlueTec diesel.
Manufacturer’s suggested retail price $50,000 (est.).
Cost fully loaded: $65,000 (est.).