First Look: 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class

Try, try again…it’s still a van.

by on Mar.29, 2010

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class goes through an "assertive" exterior upgrade.

Some vehicles never quite live up to their initial expectations, and the original Mercedes-Benz R-Class was one of those.  Of course, it would have helped if the automaker did a better job of positioning the people mover.  Those who bought the R-Class were generally pleased with its van-like qualities, but the van-like looks didn’t quite live up to the official designation of “sport tourer.”

So, Mercedes is giving it another try, with a fairly significant mid-cycle update that looks more sporty – “a new level of assertiveness,” in the automaker’s words – but still maintains the original R-Class functionality. The 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class will make its formal debut, this week, at the New York International Auto Show.

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The new nose on the 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is less droopy, with a taller hood and wider grille, as well as a revised fascia and the addition of LED driving lamps.  There’s a new rear bumper, restyled tailpipes and an updated taillights, as well.  All add up to a look that’s more macho, SUV-like.

The changes to the interior of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class are more subtle.

The interior retains its basic layout, with optional six or seven-passenger seating – along with all the nooks and crannies you’d expect in a people mover.

The powertrain choices are holdover, with either a 3.5-liter V6 making 268-horsepower, or a 210 hp V6 turbodiesel.

Whether all this will make much of a difference remains to be seen.  The R-Class has never developed a buzz in the U.S. market, and it could take more than a moderate update to kickstart the nameplate.

Mercedes still calls it a "sport tourer," but most folks will still see it as a facny minivan, with all the baggage that carries with it.

Curiously, the original R-Class launched about the same time as the Pacifica, another people mover that fell into the neither-fish-nor-foul category and never quite connected with the public.  Pacifica, you may recall, was built by Mercedes’ former U.S. partner, Chrysler.  Too wagon like, it eventually vanished from the line-up like a tree falling in the woods, silent and unnoticed.

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