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Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2010 Review

Petrol power has been dropped in favour of an all-diesel line-up for Mercedes-Benz' peoplemover, the R-Class.  But more important it has a new look, so the Benz kid-carrier is expected to improve on the unspectacular sales volumes of the outgoing car, which was launched in 2006.

R-Class product manager John Vasilj says the R range has a resculpted nose that announces a rationalised model line-up, which starts with a short wheelbase model for launch, with the long-wheelbase R350 CDI expected in the second quarter of next year, but no petrol variants were coming.

"The diesel is a longer-term trend - the customer preference is for R diesel - but we're not completely dismissing petrols in the future," he says.

VALUE

The entry-level R300 CDI short-wheelbase model asks a high price - starting from $92,900 - but the features list has 20in wheels (up from 18in), all-wheel drive, bi-xenon headlights, trip computer, insulated glass, reversing camera, privacy tinted rear windows, automatic bootlid and auto-dimming mirrors inside and out.

There's also satellite navigation, a 6CD sound system with Bluetooth phone link and a 4gig music hard drive all now standard.

"The old entry point 2WD petrol car was $82,200 - however the new model has a number of features now standard over the predecessor model, so net customer advantage is in the vicinity of $14,000," Mr Vasilj says.

TECHNOLOGY

The new R-Class is more about the exterior upgrade than new technology, as the fundamentals of the drivetrain and safety systems are unchanged.  It has kept the seven speed automatic and the 140kW/440Nm turbodiesel V6, but has the Benz PreSafe safety system.

The PreSafe system uses the same sensors as the stability control and anti-lock brakes to assess if there is an impending impact - the car looks at all the information and then prepares the seatbelt and airbag systems for use, setting the seat positions (where it can) to the optimum position for occupant safety.

The infotainment and adjustable air-sprung suspension system can be upgraded as part of the $7000 AMG extras pack.  That also upgrades the seating and steering wheel, adds sports pedals and shift paddles for the auto.

The Vision package adds $5400 to the bottom line but improves the features list with the Harman/Kardon Logic 7 12-speaker sound system, sunroof and the keyless entry and start system.

DESIGN

The outgoing R-Class was far from the prettiest Benz ever to turn a wheel, with droopy frontal styling that was reminiscent of a Ford Taurus.  The new R carries all-new sheet metal from the A-pillar forward, which Benz says aims at giving it a more dynamic and muscular appearance - it is an improvement.

The bonnet, front fender panels, radiator grille, headlights (now bi-xenons) and bumper have all undergone a major redesign, with the addition of integrated LED daytime running lights, while the rear end gets a restyled bumper, a rear air diffuser and updated tail lights.

SAFETY

As you would now come to expect from the three-pointed star, there's no shortage of safety gear.  There’s all-wheel drive, the aforementioned 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

As a cruising vehicle with room for the family and a couple of friends, the out-going R was flexible, capable and frugal in the diesel.  It still is for the most part, but where the old one felt heavy and lardy, the new R-Class feels a little lighter on its feet - but it's still no bantamweight at 2100kg.

The look is certainly much better, it's as if someone has given it a pep talk and made the R pull its shoulders back and walk tall, instead of droop around like the old one did.

The diesel is reasonably quiet but it needs a prod 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 with headrests and a big rear pillar to deal with, but the camera is now thankfully standard.  It is a comfortable car, although the test vehicle had the AMG package which improves the seating and adds the full air-sprung suspension.

Sport mode does tighten up the ride and gives the R better cornering prowess, aided by the all-wheel drive, but if you're unlikely to be hitting corners quickly in this vehicle.

For those not wanting the big, grunty seven seater GL-Class SUV the R-Class has a useful and flexible interior, without being too long for parking - it's just all going to happen at a genteel pace, whether you like it or not.

VERDICT

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

Mercedes-Benz R-Class

Price: from $92,900
Engines: three-litre turbodiesel, all-wheel drive
Power: 140kW at 4000rpm
Torque: 440Nm from 1400 to 2800rpm
Transmission: seven-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 9.3, tank 80 litres

Pricing Guides

$18,485
Based on 9 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$19,880
Highest Price
$19,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
R350 (AWD) 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $18,150 – 22,990 2010 Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2010 R350 (AWD) Pricing and Specs
R350 CDI (AWD) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $18,810 – 23,870 2010 Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2010 R350 CDI (AWD) Pricing and Specs
R280 CDI (RWD) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $19,470 – 24,640 2010 Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2010 R280 CDI (RWD) Pricing and Specs
R280 CDI Alpine Edition (AWD) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $21,670 – 27,390 2010 Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2010 R280 CDI Alpine Edition (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$13,699

Lowest price, based on 10 car listings in the last 6 months

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