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First drive: Mercedes slashes R-class line-up

Lean burn: The slimmed-down R-class range now has only one engine choice, a 140kW diesel.

Slow-selling Mercedes-Benz people-mover culled back from six models to one

29 Nov 2010

MERCEDES-BENZ is pressing on with the slow-selling R-Class people-mover in Australia, but has drastically reduced the number of variants available.

The seven-seater, which has a relatively high ride height and all-wheel drive, has been given a styling change and general upgrade to increase its appeal.

Mercedes has culled the R-class line-up from six models to just one for now, dropping three of the four engine options, including the two petrol units.

The only model now available is the short-wheelbase R300 with a 3.0-litre diesel V6 engine, although a long-wheelbase R350 diesel model will be added in the first quarter of 2011.

4 center imageThe R-Class has struggled for sales against luxury SUVs since it was introduced in 2006 and has averaged just 12 sales a month so far this year.

Mercedes-Benz Australia calls the R-Class an SUV tourer which doubles as a people mover and feels that customers are coming around to the concept.

“I think this segment has gained a lot of acceptance, which it didn’t have when the car was launched,” said Mercedes-Benz Australia managing director Horst von Sanden.

He said the company was “simplifying the choice” for the customers by offering one model, but would still consider adding a petrol engine to the range when new engines become available.

The R300 costs $92,200 and the 3.0-litre V6 common-rail turbo-diesel engine generates 140kW at 4000rpm and 440Nm from 1400-2800rpm, linked to a regular torque convertor-type seven-speed automatic transmission to deliver average fuel consumption of 9.3L/100km.

Most attention has been paid to the exterior, especially the front end, to make it “far more SUV-like in its appearance”.

Mercedes has dropped the very large oval headlights, which set the previous R-Class apart from anything else on the road, while the front guards, bonnet, grille, bumpers and headlights (bi-xenon with LED daytime-running lights) are all new.

Mercedes has largely left the rear alone and has also steered clear of changing the interior, which retains the same changeable two-three-two seating layout, with the rear seats folding into the floor.

The R300 sits on 20-inch alloy wheels and comes standard with Artico “man-made leather” seats, burr walnut woodgrain trim sections, chrome exterior features, electric folding mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors, metallic paint, 6-disc CD changer, 4Gb music hard drive, voice recognition control, eight airbags and a full suite of electronic safety aids.

Also standard is the Easy Pack tailgate feature, which opens and closes the tailgate automatically, parking sensors and a rear-view parking camera that displays onto a high-resolution dash-mounted screen.

Options include adaptive radar cruise control ($3549), blind spot assist ($1469), leather upholstery ($2447), panoramic glass sunroof ($3204), keyless entry and start ($1684), heated front seats ($627) and heated second row seats ($627).

Customers can choose a Vision package ($3776) that includes a Harman/Kardon Logic 7 sound system, glass sunroof and keyless entry and start.

An AMG Sports package is available for $4895 and includes an AMG steering wheel, anthracite trim sections, leather sports seats with multi-contour backrests for the driver and passenger, brushed stainless steel pedals, interior lighting package and semi-active adjustable air suspension.

2011 Mercedes-BenzR-class pricing:
R 300 CDI (a)$92,200

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