The R-Class is an all-new vehicle that joins the Mercedes lineup for the 2006 model year. Neither a traditional station wagon nor traditional SUV, the R-Class is a contemporary crossover vehicle that offers car-like architecture, dynamics, and ride quality, as well as SUV-like cargo capacity and three-row seating. But forget those tiny third-row seats you find in many SUVs; all six seats in the R-Class are designed to provide first-class comfort for adult passengers.
What distinguishes the new Mercedes-Benz R-Class is its 3 X 2 seating configuration. Just like the driver and front-seat passenger, each middle and third row occupant sits in leather-covered, individually adjustable seats with their own reading lights, armrests, air vents, and cup holders. Passengers have separate audio-source outlets, and rear-seat DVD-based video and iPod integration are available. An available panoramic sunroof provides all six passengers with a view of the sky above. The R-Class is the same overall length as the Mercedes flagship S-Class sedan. Some 40 inches separates the first and second rows with more than 30 inches separating the second and third rows. Still, there are nearly 20 inches of cargo room behind an occupied third-row seat.
The 2006 R-Class is available as the R350 or the R500. The R350 is powered by a 268-hp, 3.5L V-6 engine. The R500 has a 302-hp, 5.0L V-8. All R-Class models feature a new seven-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive, which Mercedes calls 4MATIC. The list of standard features includes eight-way power front seats, bird's-eye maple interior trim, load-leveling suspension, and rain-sensing wipers.
The R350 rides on 17-inch wheels, the R500 on 18s, and either model can be outfitted with a sport package, including 19-inch wheels, from AMG, Mercedes' high-performance tuning shop. Attention to driver and passenger safety is evident. More than 60 percent of the R-Class body structure is formed from high-strength steel. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes, Electronic Stability Program, four-wheel traction control, and side-curtain air bags that span all three rows of seating. The R-Class is one of three Mercedes models built in the United States for international distribution. It is built in Vance, Alabama, also home to the ML and GL sport utility vehicles.
The Mercedes-Benz R-Class competes in the highly competitive Midsize Premium Crossover Utility Vehicle segment where luxury features and build quality are the price of admission for automakers.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report,SM the Lexus RX Series is the sales leader in this segment, with more than 100,000 units (108,775) sold in calendar year 2005. Other strong sellers include the Acura MDX (57,948), BMW X5 (37,598), Volvo XC90 (35,976), Mercedes-Benz ML-Class (34,959), Infiniti FX-Series (26,786) and Cadillac SRX (22,999). Other competitors include the new Audi Q7, Lincoln Aviator, Mercedes-Benz R-Class (4,959), Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, and the Volvo XC70.