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2007 Mercedes-Benz RClass

by Martha Hindes

2007 Mercedes-Benz R-Class
2007 Mercedes-Benz R Class Interior

While "luxury" in the automotive world usually refers to cars, it's by no means restricted to them. Nearly every upscale auto has a sport truck sibling out there. Think Porsche and there's the Cayenne, crossover/sport utility vehicle. Same with VW and its Touereg. Lincoln has it's Mark LT luxury pickup truck. So when Mercedes-Benz brought out its new R-Class vehicle a year ago, it seemed logical to highlight its luxury status.

Outside, the R is less a boxy hauler and more an elongated wagon for six with smooth, upcurving style lines running fore to aft. Side windows outline the suggestion of a sedan shape, without adding visual weight to the rear hatch treatment. The familiar tristar badge anchors the front grille. M-B calls the vehicle an "automotive decathlete," blending qualities of a spacious sport utility, luxury wagon and hot performance sedan.

A foray into the R-Class would probably frustrate someone unfamiliar with it. Instead of a traditional console shift lever, gear changes such as "drive" or "reverse" are done with a Touch Shift, by tapping a steering column-mounted stalk. Want to park? Press the button on the end of the stalk and that's it. Manual mode can come from tapping optional paddles at the back of the steering wheel to upshift or downshift.

Technology abounds. Outside, pivoting headlamps follow road curves. Inside, sound systems include speed sensitive volume. A pollution sensor blocks out contaminated outside air. Among options there's a DVD navigation system and heated second row seating. AIRMATIC air suspension lowers the vehicle for added high speed control or raises it to gain ground clearance. A full complement of safety features includes rollover sensor.

Pricing begins at $43,775 for the R350 (add $1,000 for direct injection diesel added for 2007), but can rise to the high $80,000 range before options in the high performance AMG version, another 2007 addition. All R versions are four-wheel-drive. Powertrains range from 268-HP, 3.5L V6 to 302-HP, 5.0L V8. Estimated best mileage is 21/28 (diesel) and 16/21 for the V6.