2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Preview

Critical Facts

  • Significant facelift for 2011
  • New front fascia, grille and headlights
  • New rear bumper, taillights and diffuser
  • Interior mostly unchanged
  • Gasoline or diesel powerplants
  • Standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive
  • Standard 6-passenger seating
  • Optional 7-passenger accommodations

Green Facts

  • Diesel-powered R350 BlueTEC 4MATIC with 400 lb.-ft. of torque

Introduction

The Mercedes-Benz R-Class is a crossover utility vehicle that combines the 3-row capabilities and seating positions of a traditional minivan, the doors and tailgate of an SUV, and the dynamic capabilities and styling of a sleek and modern station wagon. Launched as a new model in 2006, the R-Class is based on a unibody platform shared with the automaker's M-Class and GL-Class models. Like its sibling SUV models, the R-Class is offered with standard full-time all-wheel drive (4MATIC), although the R-Class is not designed for off-road use.

While Mercedes-Benz has offered the R-Class with a variety of engines over the past six years-even offering an entry-level, rear-wheel-drive model and a high-performance 500-horsepower R63 model-only two facelifted models will arrive in North American showrooms in 2011.

The 2011 R350 4MATIC and 2011 R350 BlueTEC 4MATIC wear completely redesigned front ends with new front bumpers, grilles and headlamps. (Vehicles with the optional HID headlamps also received LED daytime running lights.) The rear of the R-Class has been upgraded with a new bumper (featuring integrated reflectors), new taillight lenses, and a new rear diffuser. The interior is mostly unchanged.

Model Lineup

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-ClassThe Mercedes-Benz R-Class is available in two versions for the 2011 model year: R350 4MATIC and R350 BlueTEC 4MATIC. Both models offer 6-cylinder power and standard full-time all-wheel drive. All R-Class models are fitted with 3 rows of seats for seating up to 6 passengers. An optional bench-style second-row seat (offered on both models) increases seating capacity to 7 passengers.

Standard equipment includes MB-Tex seating (vinyl with an upscale appearance), air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel, front driver and passenger bucket seats (8-way power driver seat), privacy glass, burl walnut interior trim, and a full range of power accessories (power windows, power door locks, etc.).

Optional equipment includes auto-dimming mirrors, COMAND system with navigation, HD digital radio, iPod/MP3 interface, power rear tailgate, rearview camera, and a 4-gigabyte hard-drive with music register downloading of MP3 files. An optional Premium 2 package includes an upgraded Harmon/Kardon audio system and Keyless-go entry system.

Hardware

The Mercedes-Benz R-Class, like all other models in the automaker's lineup, is offered with a choice of engines-in this case either gasoline or diesel powerplants. The gasoline-powered R350 4MATIC is fitted with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. It is mated to a standard 7-speed automatic transmission. Power is sent to all four wheels through a standard permanent all-wheel-drive system (4MATIC).

The R350 BlueTEC 4MATIC features a turbocharged, diesel-powered, 3.0-liter V-6 engine that provides 210 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine runs on the newer "clean" or low-sulfur diesel fuel. Like its gasoline-powered sibling, power is sent through a 7-speed automatic transmission to its standard 4MATIC permanent AWD system.

The new R-Class suspension is independent, both front and rear. Up front, it is fitted with a double-wishbone design featuring die-cast aluminum-alloy upper arms and a stabilizer bar. A 4-arm multi-link design is in the rear, again with die-cast aluminum-alloy upper arms and a stabilizer bar. The steering is power-assisted rack-and-pinion with an integrated hydraulic damper. Disc brakes are standard on all four corners with standard anti-lock control (ABS). Standard wheels are 19-inch cast aluminum alloy-an optional Sport Appearance package adds 20-inch AMG-style wheels.

Safety

2011 Mercedes-Benz R-ClassIntroduced several years ago-and now common on all Mercedes-Benz models including the 2011 R-Class-is the automaker's Pre-Safe predictive occupant protection system. The system is designed to detect an impending collision before it happens, according to the company, and take measures to protect occupants before an impact occurs. These include tightening front seat belts in an effort to move the front passengers to a seating position that offers ideal occupant protection. In addition, side windows will close and, if an impending rollover is sensed, the sunroof will also close automatically.

All 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class vehicles are equipped with front air bags for the driver and passenger, side-impact air bags for the second and third rows, and window curtain air bags that span all three rows on each side of the cabin. All R-Class models are also fitted with standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP) as well as traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), and a tire-pressure-monitoring system. The standard Hill Start Assist technology ensures the vehicle won't roll back while starting on steep grades.

Technology

The redesigned 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is available with the automaker's 50-state-certified 3.0-liter turbo diesel powerplant. According to Mercedes, the engine makes the R-Class one of the world's cleanest vehicles. To achieve these bragging rights, there are several innovative technologies at work in the R-Class exhaust system. First, the diesel exhaust passes through a "diesel particulate filter," or DPF, to scrub the emissions. According to Mercedes, these filters are able to attain nearly 100-percent efficiency-meaning a diesel-powered vehicle will emit no visible smoke from its exhaust. Second, to address the nitrogen oxide emissions, engineers have developed urea-based solutions ("Ad Blue") that are injected upstream of the catalytic converter. When the solution hits the hot exhaust gasses, a chemical reaction occurs thus reducing the harmful nitric oxides, the automaker explains. The only downside is that the urea injection must be re-filled at regular service intervals.