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Mercedes-Benz R-Class R500 2006 review

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By way of explanation the German car manufacturer has a tradition of naming its vehicles after letters, with cars like the A-Class, recently released B-Class and the best selling C-Class – to a name a few.

Joining this exclusive but rapidly growing list of models this week is the all-new R-Class, a six-seater that is difficult to pigeon hole.

It's not quite a wagon, not quite a 4WD and not quite a people mover – but combines elements of each.

The seemingly endless flow of models from Benz and other manufacturers is a reflection of the fact that car companies can no longer afford to build one, two or even three basic vehicles and hope to be all things to all people.

These days car buyers are a far more discerning lot and manufacturers are being forced to assemble a much wider variety of models designed to cater for smaller, niche groups in the community – with some vehicles often sharing the same platform under the skin.

Volkswagen is the Jedi master of this finely honed craft and it is a lesson that has obviously not been lost on its German compatriot.

The recently released B-Class is a good example because it sits on a stretched version of the smaller A-Class platform.

The new R-Class follows in these footsteps.

With seating for six people in a two plus two plus configuration, and with all seats facing forward, the big Benz sits on the same platform as the off road M-Class wagon and features the same engines and all-wheel drive power train.

It is built at Benz's Tuscaloosa plant in the American state of Alabama, right alongside the M-Class.

R-Class comes in short and long wheelbase versions with a choice of V6, V8 and turbodiesel engines, priced from $82,900 to more than $122,000.

There's even an AMG R63 version that will join the lineup later this year, at a price yet to be named.

Standard equipment includes front and rear parking sensors as well as self-levelling rear air suspension.

Front, side and curtain airbags are standard.

We got to go for a spin this week in the V8 powered long wheelbase R500 with all the trimmings.

Initial impressions suggest a large stylish wagon, with a long swept back roof line.

But closer inspection reveals subtle differ- ences, like the higher ride height, all-wheel drive underpinnings and versatile seating layout – even if it adds only one extra seat.

At 5157mm and weighing in at 2240kg, there's no concealing the size and weight of the beast.

The flagship 5.0-litre V8 as tested is expected to account for about 13 per cent of sales, but its the 3.0-litre CDI diesel that will take the lion's share with almost 50 per cent.

The V8 delivers 225kW of power and 460Nm of torque from 2700rpm and is capable of pushing the wagon from 0 to 100km/h in 7.0 seconds, with a top speed of 245km/h.

You can see from the figures it's no slouch despite its bulk.

The engine in all models is paired with a seven-speed auto, with power channelled to all four wheels through a fulltime all-wheel drive system split evenly between front and rear wheels.

As in the M-Class, the shift lever is located on the steering column with gear shift buttons on the rear of the wheel.

The ride height can be altered electronically for dirt roads, but that is about all the four- wheel driving this car is likely to see.

The dampers can also be set for sport or comfort.

There's the usual Benz arsenal of electronics to keep the car in check.

Performance is good but not sensational and pushed hard the sheer bulk wants to carry the vehicle wide on bends.

Fuel consumption is rated at 13.3L/100km, but we got about 13.8L/100km during testing.

Although Benz is loathe to admit it, the R-Class is more of a people mover than anything else, but with six seats it is limited.

Still, it's a stylish one, but one that will have limited appeal.

Benz admits that it doesn't expect to sell huge numbers, probably about 350 a year – but it all ads up.

The car has been on sale in the States since October, but while it is meeting expectations it has not surpassed them.


Pricing guides

Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

R350 (AWD) 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $8,000 – 12,430 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2006 R350 (AWD) Pricing and Specs
R320 CDI (awd) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $8,300 – 12,870 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2006 R320 CDI (awd) Pricing and Specs
R320 CDI L (awd) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $8,800 – 13,310 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2006 R320 CDI L (awd) Pricing and Specs
R350 L (awd) 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $8,300 – 12,870 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2006 R350 L (awd) Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 2 car listings in the last 6 months

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