The new R-Class Grand Sports Tourer from Mercedes-Benz
By Mike Hanlon
March 23, 2005
March 24, 2005 For the second time within the space of a month, Mercedes-Benz is lifting the wraps on another brand new model series, the new R-Class, which is making its world debut at the New York International Auto Show. The R-Class founds a new and highly promising market segment in that it takes the strengths of established vehicle categories, such as sporty Saloon, Estate, MPV and SUV, and fuses them to create a new car with a character all of its own, a car that is all about the three Ds: Dimensions, Design and Dynamism. The new R-Class is being launched first in North America, in autumn 2005; deliveries to customers in Europe will begin at the beginning of 2006.
The novel concept of the Grand Sports Tourer caters to the needs of modern-minded people looking for a car that offers tremendous versatility combined with athletic performance. Quite apart from boasting ample spaciousness, exemplary standards of safety and impeccable comfort for up to six passengers, the new R-Class also enthrals with its beguiling styling, prestigious flair and, last but by no means least, its dynamism out on the road.
It was back in 2002 that Mercedes-Benz first unveiled this revolutionary new vehicle concept to the public; three years later the study has evolved to reach series-production status.
Measuring 5157 millimetres from nose to tail, the body of the new Mercedes-Benz R-Class is akin to a luxury saloon in size but is considerably more spacious inside. This is due primarily to the sophisticated vehicle concept and a dimensional design that has been ingeniously planned right down to the finest detail: around 64% of the vehicle's overall body length is available for the occupants, proportions that conventional notchback saloons are simply unable to match.
Dimensions: spacing between seats up to 990 millimetres
Consequently, standards of interior spaciousness and comfort are nothing less than first-class. Take the seat spacing, for instance, which amounts to 920 millimetres, while the second and third rows of seats can be separated by up to 840 millimetres. Moreover, the second-row seats can be adjusted individually fore and aft, thereby increasing the seat spacing to as much as 990 millimetres. The maximum distance between the second and third rows of seats (depending on seat position) is 920 millimetres.
Likewise, the figures for headroom (rear: up to 1027 millimetres) and shoulder room (front: 1530 millimetres; rear: up to 1514 millimetres) take the levels of space and comfort aboard the Mercedes-Benz R-Class into a new dimension.
Each of the vehicle's six passengers can sit back and relax in comfortable individual seats which offer the added luxury of armrests in the second row. The list of optional extras includes a centre console between the individual seats in the rear with extra stowage compartments along with large cup holders for holding both cups and bottles upright during the journey.
The separate DVD/CD player which is also available as an option gives passen-gers in the rear full control over their own in-car entertainment programme. Colour screens and earphone connections are integrated into the back of the head re-straints in front.
The efficient air conditioning system makes long journeys aboard the new R Class all the more comfortable. In addition to the standard-specification THERMATIC dual-zone climate control featuring a separate control panel for the passengers in the rear, Mercedes-Benz is also able to offer a newly developed multi-zone THER-MOTRONIC system as an option. Equipped with over a dozen sensors as well as an auxiliary booster blower, the system is able to faithfully maintain the temperatures set by the driver, the front passenger and the occupants in the rear. Climate control in the new R-Class is rounded off by a separate rear air conditioning unit which can be ordered as an option for the third row of seats.
The specially developed panoramic sunroof (optional), whose glass panels extend over virtually the entire surface of the roof, ensures a cooling supply of fresh air for the interior whilst letting in a pleasant amount of extra light, which all adds up to a matchless open-air motoring sensation for the occupants.
Families who are keen on sports and recreational activities and who are looking for a versatile car that can adapt to all manner of transportation tasks quickly and easily are also catered for by the new R-Class as only Mercedes knows how: the four seats in the rear fold flat individually, allowing the load capacity to be expanded to as much as 2057 litres (VDA measuring method), a figure which clearly eclipses the load space offered by estate cars. Loading and unloading is particularly straightforward, courtesy of the level load floor measuring over 2.20 metres in length and the generously proportioned EASY-PACK tailgate, which is available with remote-control opening and closing as an optional convenience-enhancing feature.
Design: a poised, assured presence
The design provides a visual expression of the poised, assured and dynamic character of the new R-Class. The front end is dominated by a striking radiator grille whose long, horizontal louvres symbolise strength and energy – attributes which characterise more than just the shape of the Grand Sports Tourer. The headlamps are equally expressive. Set well to the outside, they reinforce the powerful-looking, broad stance of the bodywork.
The arching roof line is a further typical styling element of the new R-Class, providing a sweeping link between the A-pillar and D-pillar and lending the car a sleek, coupe-like silhouette. The pronounced, muscular shoulders of the body add yet more dynamism to the Grand Sports Tourer and reveal its true nature.
Dynamism: V6 and V8 engines with up to 510 Newton metres of torque
Engine outputs range from 165 kW/224 hp up to 225 kW/306 hp, clearly signalling just what the new R-Class is capable of in terms of dynamic performance and motoring enjoyment. The powerful V8 powerplant under the bonnet of the R 500 propels it from standstill to 100 kmh in just 6.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 240 kmh (provisional figures).
Also to be found in the engine line-up is a new six-cylinder power unit with third-generation common-rail, direct-injection technology, whose credentials include improved fuel consumption, even lower exhaust emissions and an audible improvement in refinement. The V6 engine places its class-beating peak torque of 510 Newton metres on tap from as low down as 1600 rpm. The fuel consumption figures returned by the R 320 CDI are no less astounding: 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres (combined consumption).
Powered by the new 200-kW/272-hp V6 petrol engine, the R 350 accelerates from 0-100 kmh in just 8.3 seconds and goes on to reach a top speed of 230 kmh.
All engine models are partnered as standard by the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission, which itself comes with a noteworthy new feature in the form of DIRECT SELECT. This electronic transmission control system has allowed Mercedes engineers to dispense with the conventional automatic selector lever in the centre console and to replace it instead with a lever on the steering column. Additional gearshift buttons on the steering wheel enable drivers to manually pre-select the seven forwards gears, just like in a Formula One racing car. This allows the power reserves of the six and eight-cylinder engines to be harnessed to optimum effect in any driving situation.
Permanent all-wheel drive, the electronically controlled 4ETS traction system and ESP team up to offer peerless driving safety and keep the new R-Class safely on course, even in very bad road conditions. These systems all make up part of the vehicle's standard specification, as does air suspension at the rear axle.
Mercedes customers also have the option of AIRMATIC all-round air suspension. This is interlinked with the ADS Adaptive Damping System, offering motorists the facility of raising the body by up to 50 millimetres when driving along rough roads. At high speeds above 120 kmh, the body is automatically lowered by 20 millimetres to reduce wind resistance.
Quite apart from making travelling in the Grand Sports Tourer an extremely comfortable experience, the very latest innovations from Mercedes also make it an extremely safe one too: PRE-SAFE, the multi-award-winning anticipatory protection system which is available as an option, detects critical handling situations and immediately springs into action to prepare occupants and vehicle alike for an imminent collision. Precautions include pulling the driver's and front passenger's seat belts taut, adjusting the front passenger seat to the optimum position and automatically closing the sliding sunroof. These preventive protection measures improve the seating position of the vehicle's occupants prior to impact, thereby enhancing the restraining effect of the seat belts and airbags.
Adaptive front airbags and front sidebags as well as windowbags can all be found on the standard specification list of the new R-Class, and all passengers enjoy the added reassurance of belt tensioners and belt force limiters. A further Mercedes first for improving standards of occupant safety still further is the NECK-PRO crash-responsive head restraints (optional): in the event of a collision from the rear, the head restraints instantly slide forwards by 44 millimetres and upwards by 30 millimetres. This has the effect of cushioning the front passengers' heads earlier, which reduces the risk of whiplash.
Mercedes-Benz offers a number of packages comprising valuable extras for the new R-Class. This allows customers to appoint and upgrade their Grand Sports Tourer to suit their personal taste. In addition to the AIRMATIC package, options include the chrome styling package for the exterior, a sports styling package featuring a specially styled instrument cluster, sports pedals, 19-inch wheels and power-adjustable sports seats upholstered in Alcantara/ARTICO man-made leather, as well as an interior appointments package comprising leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats and wood trim.