An all-new model in 2006, the Mercedes-Benz R-Class adds two new models for 2007: a diesel variation, and a high-performance AMG version. The existing R350 and R500 also receive improved equipment levels and simplified option packages. As well, Neck-Pro active head restraints and a chrome-designed SmartKey are standard on all models, while rear side airbags and telephone pre-wiring are dropped from the list of standard features.

Model choices are now the R320 CDI, with 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine; the R350, with 3.5-litre V6; the R500, with 5.0-litre V8; and the R63 AMG, with 6.2-litre V8. All feature 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission.

The R350 includes power front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seating inserts, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, integrated garage door opener, anti-theft alarm system, privacy glass, CD/MP3 player with eight speakers, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, cargo cover, birds-eye wood trim, six cupholders and four bottle holders. New features added for 2007 include the larger wheels, along with power sunroof, heated front seats and steering wheel, electronic compass, auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, power-folding mirrors, second-row centre console, tinted glass, chrome package, and power pop-out third-row vent windows.

The R320 CDI has the same equipment as the R350, but with a premium for the diesel engine.

The R500 includes all of the R350’s features, and adds Parktronic parking assist system, full leather interior, panoramic sunroof, memory package including power steering column, active bi-Xenon headlamps with cornering lights and washers, three-zone automatic climate control, and power liftgate.

The R63 AMG adds 20-inch five-spoke wheels with performance tires, and builds on the R500’s list with air suspension, navigation system, Harman/Kardon surround sound system with six-CD changer, AMG Nappa leather upholstery, multi-contour front seats, heated rear seats, burl walnut wood trim, aluminum running boards, roof rails, TeleAid emergency calling system and cellular telephone preparation.

The R-Class is beautifully styled, and although it’s huge, its sloping style cleverly hides its bulkiness. The rear doors open conventionally, rather than sliding open like a minivan. There’s a great deal of room inside, and unusual for this crossover segment, the third row of seats is comfortable enough for adults, with plenty of legroom. Both the second and third row of seats fold flat for extra cargo space.

With the two new engine variations, the R-Class ranges from a fuel-saving diesel to a fire-breather that will get six adults from zero to 100 km/h in a mere five seconds. If the thought of a performance minivan is a little too much, or if diesel’s difficult to find in your neighbourhood, both of the mid-range V6 and V8 engines also do an excellent job of moving the R-Class around. Despite the increase in standard features, the price on the R350 has also dropped over 2006 levels, with the new diesel now priced the same as the 2006 gasoline V6 model.

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