In a class of its own

Mercedes-Benz gives its peo­ple mover a facelift, writes Stu­art Martin

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

AN ALL-DIESEL line-up has been in­stalled for the up­dated Mercedes-Benz peo­ple­mover, the R-Class.

It has a new look which the com­pany hopes will im­prove its sales ap­peal, as well as bring it into line with the bulk of the Mercedes-Benz range.

R-Class prod­uct man­ager John Vasilj says the facelift for the ra­tio­nalised R range in­volves a re­shaped nose to in­tro­duce the new model line-up, which will ini­tially be sold only in a short wheel­base model.

The long-wheel­base R 350 CDI is ex­pected to wear a $110,000 price tag when it joins its smaller sib­ling in the sec­ond quar­ter of next year, but nei­ther model will be of­fered with petrol driv­e­trains.

‘‘The diesel is a longer-term trend — the cus­tomer pref­er­ence is for R diesel,’’ he says.

Value

THERE’S a high ask­ing price for the en­try-level R 300 CDI short- wheel­base — start­ing from $92,900 — but for that you get 20-inch wheels (up from 18-inch), all-wheel drive, in­su­lated glass, bi-xenon head­lights, a trip com­puter, auto-dim­ming mir­rors in­side and out, a re­vers­ing cam­era, ‘‘pri­vacy’’ tint for the rear win­dows, an au­to­matic boot, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, and a six-CD sound sys­tem with Blue­tooth phone link all now stan­dard.

Technology

IT’S all about the look of the new R-Class as the fun­da­men­tals of the en­gine, gear­box and safety sys­tems are largely un­changed.

There’s the seven-speed au­to­matic and the 140kW/440Nm tur­bod­iesel V6, as well as the Benz Pre­Safe safety sys­tem.

De­sign

THE out­go­ing R-Class was far from the nicest-look­ing Mercedes-Benz, with droopy front-end styling; the new R car­ries all-new sheet metal for- ward of the A-pil­lar, which the com­pany says aims at giv­ing it a more dy­namic and mus­cu­lar ap­pear­ance.

Safety

MOST ma­chines that wear the three-pointed star have safety as part of the DNA and the R is no ex­cep­tion.

There’s all-wheel drive, the Pre­Safe sys­tem, a re­vers­ing cam­era, dual front and side airbags for first and sec­ond row pas­sen­gers, cur­tain airbags, three-point seat belts with belt force lim­iters and pre­ten­sion­ers for all outer seats.

Drive

THERE’S no doubt­ing this is a cruiser, with space for the fam­ily and a cou­ple of friends. The new R-Class feels a lit­tle lighter on its feet, but it’s still no ban­tamweight at 2100kg.

The diesel is rea­son­ably quiet but it needs a solid prod of the long-travel throt­tle pedal to get mov­ing, as the out­puts are be­ing put to work to shift a se­ri­ous kerb weight even be­fore the kids and their gear are on board.

Vi­sion for­ward is good, look­ing rear­ward is less en­light­en­ing — head­rests and a big rear pil­lar make it re­stricted, but the cam­era is stan­dard, thank­fully.

Ver­dict

A MUCH im­proved look for the Mercedes-Benz fam­ily trans­porter will mean it gets parked closer to the club­house and day spa.

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