funny thing happened after driving Chrysler's
Pacifica test vehicle. We did a double take at
the sight of Mercedes-Benz's brand new R class,
debuting for 2006.
sloping curve from nose to rear with narrowing
rear window above a rising belt line looks familiar.
Non-typical utility/wagon seating holds six in
three rows. (Where have we seen that before?)
Headlamps and a hint of nose V are distinctly
Mercedes-Benz, but the overall shape somewhat
echos a familiar family hauler. We won't use the
ID, but you get the idea. With perhaps more girth
than one might expect from M-B (substitute "zaftig"
in German) it should qualify as a high-priced,
tonier version of practical family wheels. Given
the Mercedes-Benz/Chrysler relationship, that's
understandable. But beyond a bit of deja vu, any
similarities tend to depart.
dubs this an aptly-named "sports tourer,"
given its wide-mouthed sunroof, cushy seating,
and loping ride on long road cruises. A load of
amenities include toney bird's eye maple touches,
individual reading lights, personal adjustments
for all seats, iPod integration and a dual screen
R comes in two models, R350, 3.5-liter, 268-horsepower
V-6 ($48,800 before options) and R500 5.0-liter,
302-HP V-8 ($55,000 base). Unlike its sportier
M class brother, the R's road manners are queued
for Mercedes drivers wanting a sport utiilty with
the driveability of a sports sedan.
R versions feature M-B's industry-top seven speed
automatic, with an additional shift gate for smooth,
nearly imperceptible gear changes. The apparently
missing shift lever has become a steering wheel
stalk instead. 4MATIC four-wheel-drive is full
time. A load leveling suspension accommodates
a packed house of passengers or cargo. Rain drops
disappear quickly thanks to rain sensing wipers.
the rush to invent new attention teasing descriptions
that's a peculiar industry trait, M-B has adopted
"automotive decathelete," to explain
R class character -- "a vehicle that can
excel at an unprecedented range of owner needs."
We think a fun drive with function fits that terminology