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Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2006 review

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Designed as an on-road family wagon, it has proportions that are beyond that of what others market as a people mover.

In standard wheelbase, it's 4922mm long, 1922mm wide and 1656mm tall. With a 3215mm wheelbase, its length grows to 5157mm, with much of the 235 extra millimetres aiding the middle-row occupants.

Its maker – who is also laying claim to starting the luxury SUV segment with the M-Class almost a decade ago – is spruiking it as part SUV, part family wagon and part luxury sedan.

It's being marketed as a four plus two – a four-seater machine with serious luggage capacity, or a six-seater that still has adequate space.

Mercedes-Benz Australia managing director Horst von Sanden says the R-Class caters for people who need extra space without compromising on-road dynamics. It is luxurious, powerful and stylish.

"Thanks to powerful engines, a seven-speed automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel-drive, the R-Class is as dynamic on the road as it looks," he says.

The model range will start at $82,900 for the standard wheelbase, rising through to $122,900 for a long-wheelbase R500.

The base-model R350 runs the now-familiar 3.5-litre V6, which produces 200kW and 350Nm between 2400 and 5000rpm.

The entire range uses the seven-speed automatic transmission, controlled via a column-mounted stalk and buttons on the wheel – even the hot-rod AMG R63, due late 2006, will also use the new gearbox with its 6.2-litre 375kW/630Nm V8-engine.

The other petrol power plant is the five-litre V8, producing 225kW and 460Nm, with the torquey 165kW/510Nm R320 turbo-diesel expected to arrive by the end of the month.

Among the standard fare on the R-Class are 17in wheels, multi-zone climate control, traction and stability control, all-wheel-drive, dual front airbags, side and window airbags front and rear, anti-lock brakes, eight-speaker 6CD sound system, load limiters and pre-tensioners for all seat belts, tyre pressure monitoring system and rain-sensing wipers. The R 500 V8 top-of-the-range model, adds among other things 18in wheels, leather trim, electrically adjustable front seats and steering wheel, DVD satellite navigation, electrically folding and automatically dimming exterior and rear-view mirrors, air suspension with adaptive damping and a Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system.

Also available on the R-Class is the sports package which ups the wheel size to 19in and adds some sports trim and a new instrument cluster.

The only model sampled during the launch drive was the R500 long-wheelbase model, which has styling cues from a number of different Benz models, but the main achievement of the design has been to initially hide its size.

The R-Class is a big wagon and that becomes apparent as you get to know it inside and out. Much of the interior has been donated by the M-Class – hence Benz's assertion the R is more like a passenger-car version of the Benz four-wheel-drive.

Getting comfortable behind the wheel is never difficult, getting under way is also easy apart from grabbing for a conventional auto transmission selector, but even with a V8 under the snout there needs to be a solid prod for serious forward momentum. It will saunter along easily once up and running, but the R-Class weighs over 2200kg so there's plenty of bulk to be overcome.

Dynamically, the R-Class provides a comfortable ride, with the adjustable suspension keeping body roll in check but getting a little jiggly on rippled bitumen – comfort mode takes some of that away.

It can cover ground easily but never feels light on its feet.

However, transporting four to six people in comfort will be completed without issue, thanks to a flexible and roomy interior, with DVD screens, climate control and adjustable seats making passengers feel at home.

The R-Class will move six people in comfort, with plenty of safety equipment and luxury features on offer.

Pricing guides

Based on third party pricing data
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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
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist


Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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