2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350
2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350. Click image to enlarge

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Mercedes unveils new R-Class in New York

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2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

Hoboken, New Jersey – For 2011, Mercedes-Benz has given its luxury people-mover, the R-Class, a mild face-lift to keep it looking fresh and to more closely align it with the corporate look.

The difference between the 2011 and the outgoing model may not be apparent from a quick glance at the front – the most noticeable change being new headlight assemblies – but the grille has been given a more upright position, which does wonders for its profile. Looking less like some alien space creature, the nose job gives the R-Class a more formal and conservative presence.

It is a complete revision of the car from the A-pillar forward. As well as a new hood, headlights and grille, the front bumper has been re-designed with LED daytime running lights and new mirrors, with integrated blind-spot monitoring system added.

2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350
2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350
2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350. Click image to enlarge

Mercedes-Benz designers also took their air brush to the rear-end adding a new rear bumper with reflectors on either side, LED tail lights and trapezoidal tail pipes replacing the previous model’s round units.

It is difficult to categorize the R-Class. With all-wheel drive and three functional rows of seats it shares attributes of a minivan, an SUV and a wagon. There really is nothing quite like it on the market today although comparisons may be made to seven-passenger crossovers like the Audi Q7 or the five-passenger Toyota Venza. But the vehicle closest in concept would have to be the departed Chrysler Pacifica.

The Pacifica was never a big seller and its four or six-passenger “touring car” configuration (individual captain’s chairs for each passenger) may have been a factor in its demise. But despite having a more versatile, seven passenger configuration, the R-Class is a bit of a slow mover too. In 2009, Mercedes-Benz sold just 308 R-Class models in Canada. By comparison, more than 5000 GLK and 3,146 M-Class SUVs were sold. Apparently Canadians prefer more traditional SUV-style vehicles over the somewhat unusual and unmatched R-Class.

2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350
2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350
2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350
2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350
2011 Mercedes-Benz R 350. Click image to enlarge

The R-Class’ standard seven-seat configuration includes a middle seat in the second row providing a versatile interior to accommodate both people and cargo as the need arises. It can be configured to carry four passengers with a wide arm rest between the two outboard second row seats; five passengers by raising the armrest which provides ample space for cargo as well; six passengers by raising both third row seatbacks and lowering the second row middle seat to its armrest position, or by using all second row seats and lowering one of the third row seats, or; seven passengers by using all seats in all three rows.

Unlike many seven-passenger utilities, the R-class’ third row is easily accessible and will comfortably accommodate average sized adults. Note though that when carrying a full load of passengers, cargo space is limited to a smallish 414 litres behind the rear seat.

The emphasis of the R-Class is on passenger comfort and convenience. Standard equipment includes heated and powered front seats for both driver and passenger, burl walnut trim, automatic climate control, SIRIUS satellite and high definition radio and sliding glass sunroof. Drivers will like its new for 2011 3D gauge cluster, standard auto dimming mirrors (rear-view and driver’s side), memory package with power adjustable steering column, heated steering wheel, rear air suspension, bi-xenon headlights and headlight washers and heated windshield washers.

Optionally, the R-Class can be equipped with a premium package which includes blind spot monitoring system, panoramic sun roof, navigation system with DVD changer and media interface, heated rear seats, power tailgate and keyless ignition. Climate control, leather upholstery, rear-view camera, wood and leather steering wheel, trailer hitch, second row centre console, poplar wood trim, Harman/Kardon Logic7 surround sound, rear seat entertainment system (with dual front head rest mounted screens), and interior lighting package can all be added separately.

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