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Serious Performance

It is another brick in the wall for Benz which seems content on catering for every niche in the market before making some new ones.

The R-Class is essentially a sixseat people-mover with all-wheel drive.

It is at the upper end of the spectrum on all counts, easily outpacing the likes of Tarago and Voyager except in seating capacity.

The R350 is where it all starts at a sobering $82,900 but against this is measured a high level of performance, safety and luxury.

It is also a high quality vehicle – something evident as soon as you open the door and view the sumptuous and stylish interior.

It’s a thought-provoking alternative to a sports utility vehicle that many people use as a family bus.

People movers have only recently gained a level of acceptance after changes in their design, styling and performance.

The R350 takes people movers to a new level almost to the point where they could become aspirational.

Mercedes likes to call it a cross-over – between people mover and sports utility vehicle.

It is powered by a 3.5-litre, petrol V6 engine lifted from other Benz models and is good for 200kW/350Nm output.

Drive goes to all four wheels via a slick shifting seven-speed automatic transmission.

Though fairly large and portly, the R350 has some serious performance and steps off the line like a sporty sedan.

Closely spaced gearing is ideal for a vehicle this size and it keeps the R350 on the boil throughout the engine rev range.

It is also steady in the wet with

permanent all-wheel drive and other electronic controls including electronic stability program.

Ride is in luxury limousine class with air suspension all round.

It isn’t half bad to drive, offering plenty of feel and you tend to forget it’s a big lump of a thing.

Access is aided by large doors and the seating layout can be adjusted to suit even offering individual fore/aft movement in the centre row.

The boot is nearly useless in six-seat mode offering room for one overnight bag.

There’s a space saver spare hiding under the rear floor.

Safety is well addressed in primary and secondary forms.

The vehicle’s dynamics are full modulated and the body offers an array of injury preventing technology.

The R350 is a good looker and is more like a pumped-up wagon than a people mover.

Other models are available including long wheelbase models, V6 diesel and two V8s.

Fuel consumption on test was a creditable 10.6-litres/100km.