Supple ride—and surprisingly economical with the Bluetec diesel
The 2011 R-Class’s ride is creamy yet firm, and soaks up jittery back-road surfaces with aplomb. Even over the potholes and crumbled sections that are all too common in the New York City metro area, the R-Class maintained a feeling of composure and solidity. It's no coincidence or mistake that these vehicles are becoming increasingly popular with high-end livery companies.
You won’t find the 5,000-pound-plus R-Class exciting to drive either, but it handles in a secure manner, with less pitching than taller or shorter SUVs. The steering has no real feel of the road and has a unnecessarily hefty feel at parking speeds, though especially in gasoline versions it’s weighted nicely for highway ramps and back-road corners.
Next to some of the latest infotainment systems, with bright, large touch screens, Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND system is beginning to feel dated. Though the menus can be navigated from either a control on the dash or from the steering wheel, the menus for some frequently accessed functions (like zooming in or out in a nav-system map) are less straightforward than they should be. Properly optioned, the R-Class includes an SD card slot, 4 GB of music storage, and an iPod interface along with harman kardon surround sound. Pricing hasn’t yet been announced (and likely won’t be substantially changed), but a long list of options and packages will continue to be offered, including an air suspension, adaptive damping, heated active front seats, and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Luxurious, secure, sensible
We’d venture to say that the solid-feeling R-Class is one of the safest vehicles in which to carry your family and friends. There are eight airbags on board, along with the Pre-Safe safety system and front active headrests. Newly available is a blind-spot system that alerts with a triangle in the rearview mirror, as well as a chime, when you use the turn signal and another vehicle is alongside.
The 2011 Mercedes R-Class—particularly the R350 Bluetec—is one of the most often overlooked alternatives on the market. Whether an upscale alternative to a minivan or a lower, more people-friendly alternative to a truckier ute, its comfort and accommodations are first-rate.