R(IP) Class

Slow-sell­ing barge was a rare Benz mis­fire

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

THE unloved and unlovely Mercedes-Benz R-Class has left the show­room.

The slow­est seller on the lo­cal Benz books has been dumped, re­mov­ing one of the few gen­uine seven-seater wag­ons from price lists in Aus­tralia.

Benz says it in­tends to take up the slack with a seven-seater ver­sion of its just-up­dated E-Class, even though the back bench in the mid-sizer faces back into the traf­fic and sits in area most vul­ner­a­ble to a rearend shunt.

‘‘ We knew the R-Class would not be avail­able for much longer, so we moved to the E-Class,’’ says MercedesBenz spokesman David McCarthy.

He says R-Class pro­duc­tion is now de­voted en­tirely to China and the car worked well enough, even though in 2011— its best sales year— there were all of 325 down un­der de­liv­er­ies. So far in 2013 the tally is 42 sales, com­pared with 90 last year.

‘‘ The ve­hi­cle didn’t re­ally fit a cat­e­gory in Aus­tralia,’’ McCarthy says.

‘‘ It’s still be­ing pro­duced for China, but we can­not make a busi­ness case for it in Aus­tralia. It filled a niche and the up­date model went a lot bet­ter.

‘‘ The peo­ple who bought them re­ally liked them and there are a few in use as lim­ou­sines.’’

He says two cus­tomers even bought the hottest R of all, the R63 AMG with thump­ing V8 power and all-wheel drive.

McCarthy de­fends the E-Class seat­ing lay­out, say­ing the back bench is re­ally only for oc­ca­sional use by young­sters and not full-time oc­cu­pa­tion.

‘‘ There are an E200, an E250 and an E400 avail­able as seven-seaters. E-Class Es­tate has been a seven-seater for a cou­ple of years,’’ he says.

‘‘ The sixth and sev­enth seats are ob­vi­ously fac­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion but they have lap-sash seat belts.

‘‘ For peo­ple who need seven seats we also have the Viano and Va­lente vans. They are both five-star-safety ve­hi­cles.

‘‘ So we ac­tu­ally have quite a few seven-seaters. Peo­ple have the lux­ury of choice, and the choice of lux­ury.’’

Mov­ing end: The R-Class gives way to the sev­enseater E-Class

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