4 April 2005

Mercedes-Benz has at last unveiled the production six-seater that prompted BMW’s SFC.Three years after the GST concept car rocked the Detroit Motor Show, the R-class has arrived, and New York show-goers were the first to see this new breed of Benz last week.

Dubbed a crossover by the industry, this new car combines the comfort and luxury of an executive saloon, load-carrying characteristics of an estate, sophisticated 4x4 system and lofty driving position of an off-roader and six-seat capacity of an MPV. Americans will get the first cars this autumn, with UK orders being fulfilled from the beginning of next year.

The R-class will be sold in just one form — it had been speculated that there would be two wheelbases – measuring 5157mm from nose to tail. It is just a millimetre shorter than an S-class saloon, and more than 200mm longer than an E-class estate.

Inside, the new R-class makes as much of that space available as possible to passengers. Six individual ‘captain’s chairs’ will offer cosseting comfort for occupants in each of its three rows. With the middle row sliding forwards and back, a maximum of 990mm of legroom is on offer in its second row and 920mm in the third. A separate DVD/CD entertainment system will be on the options list for middle- and rear-seat passengers, as well as an independent air-conditioning system. Alternatively, the four rearmost seats can be folded away into the floor to provide 2057 litres of carrying capacity — more even than the new M-class off-roader.

The M-class donates its monocoque chassis, double-wishbone front axle, air-sprung four-link rear axle and full-time four-wheel-drive system to the R-class, albeit with a lowered ride height for better on-road dynamics.

Three engines will be available from launch: 268bhp 3.5-litre V6 and 302bhp 5.0-litre V8 petrols, plus the new 221bhp 3.0-litre V6 common-rail diesel. Mercedes’ seven-speed automatic gearbox will be standard.

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There is no official word on how much they’ll cost, but expect the diesel to be the cheapest at around £45,000, with the V8 petrol rising to £55,000.

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