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Driving the R-Class

Driving the R-Class

At Mercedes-Benz's press launch for the new R-Class, I got to spend a good five hours driving the car--er, I mean sports tourer--through the winding roads between Carmel and Cambria on the California coast. Sports tourer is a new model type in which the R-Class is the vanguard. I began my drive in the 268-horsepower, V-6 model, then switched over to a 302-horsepower, V-8 at the halfway point. Both vehicles had navigation and an integrated cell phone. I'm not entirely impressed with the Map mode on the navigation, since it doesn't show street names. It's similar to (if not shares the same OEM with) the one in the VW Touareg. Mercedes-Benz hasn't embraced Bluetooth yet, instead relying on hardwired phone integration. Seems there's not much trust for wireless at MB.

I found both vehicles had plenty of power to charge the hills. Each incorporated a seven-speed automatic transmission that allowed manual, clutchless shifting via paddles on the steering wheel. At 203 inches, the R-Class is longer than a lot of SUVs, but it handled tight cornering pretty well for a vehicle of this size. At tamer speeds and in traffic, however, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was driving a minivan, due to the high seating and large cabin area behind me. The suspension on the V-8 could be adjusted between three modes: Normal, Sport, and Comfort. I noticed a little more roll in the corners in Comfort mode, but otherwise, the differences seemed minor. Overall, it definitely qualifies as a Mercedes-Benz, even though it can seat six in comfort. As air travel becomes more inconvenient due to lines at security and overcrowded airports, I envision teams of executives driving R-Class vehicles all over the country, working away on their laptops in the backseats.

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