First Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Page 2

June 9, 2010

Seating that will win friends and influence people

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

Enlarge Photo

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

Enlarge Photo

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

Enlarge Photo

Front and back and behind that, the R-Class has great seats. While those seats—the second-row ones especially—are great for passengers, the R-Class's setup isn't quite as good as a minivan’s for cargo. The second and third rows fold to create a mostly flat space for large items, but they don’t fold low into the floor as in most of today’s vans. Also, folding the seats is a daunting, multi-step operation that in no way, as in many competitors, can be done with one arm still holding onto a kid or a stroller. Second-row headrests need to be manually removed, and the driver’s seat has to be pushed forward a bit first in order for it all to work smoothly.

The 2011 Mercedes R-Class still comes in two models for the U.S.: an R350, with a 268-hp, 3.5-liter gasoline V-6, and the R350 Bluetec, with a 210-hp, 3.2-liter turbo-diesel V-6. Of the two, the Bluetec is the way to go for all but those who absolutely detest diesels. It’s clean and economical, and only when just starting from a stop do you momentarily hear the customary diesel clatter. With 400 pound-feet of torque (compared to only 258 for the V-6), the diesel model has a strong, refined, relaxed feel and isn’t flustered by hills or full loads (where V-6 models need to downshift more frequently).

Whichever the model, the seven-speed automatic transmission churns through the gears smoothly, and 4Matic all-wheel drive provides all-weather reassurance.

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