What is it?
Anyone of a cynical persuasion could be forgiven for thinking that the Mercedes R-class has, until now, rivalled a broken pencil for its lack of an obvious point. Mercedes' belief that well-heeled punters would be forming queues for an XXL MPV that combines four-wheel drive with the kudos of the three-pointed star has proved woefully wide of the mark. On both sides of the Atlantic, buyers have been staying away in droves.
So now a rethink, and the arrival of a new entry-level R-class that gets five normal seats in place of the previous 2-2-2 three-row seating, and which also gets rear-wheel drive instead of the early R-class's default all-paw 4-Matic.
All this de-contenting has allowed Mercedes to cut the entry price of the range, with the R 280 CDI wearing a screen sticker of £36,420. The R 350 petrol and R 63 AMG versions have been quietly dropped, while further up the range a new optional seven-seat configuration replaces the previous six pews.
What’s it like?
The new car certainly makes a better case for itself than its precedessor. The 280 CDI engine is a slightly detuned version of the 320 CDI's 3.0-litre V6 diesel, but with 188bhp and 324lb ft of torque it's still capable of motoring the R's considerable bulk along at a respectable pace.