Mercedes-Benz’s new R-Class crossover will remain true to the concept car, as revealed by this first official sketch of the production version.
The estate/SUV hybrid, due to hit showrooms in Summer 2005 dumps the usual MPV five- or seven-seat layout in favour of a six-seat cabin.
The R-Class is based on the next-generation ML off-roader and will make use of its electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system and 7G seven-speed auto.
The sketch pictured here shows a design almost unchanged from the Detroit 2002 GST concept (pictured right), although the rear-hinged ‘suicide’ doors and panoramic glass roof are gone, and the sweeping line that cuts down to a wide D-pillar is replaced by a more conventional design.
Production cars will echo the concept’s heavy focus on technology and Mercedes claims the R-Class will offer ‘highly intelligent engineering, which will be able to actively contribute towards preventing accidents’.
A range of six- and eight-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are confirmed, and Mercedes will offer two different wheelbases. The stretched version may be reserved for the American market, although even the shorter European version still measures five metres long.
Following a £387 million investment by Daimler- Chrysler, around 60,000 R-Class models a year will be built alongside the ML at Merc’s factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.