Car Review: Mercedes - R Class  Series 05 (2 stars)

The Mercedes R Class answers questions that no-one has asked - or ever will

The bigger a Mercedes gets the more objectionable it becomes - it's the Madonna principle. When you to a car the size of the GL it can't help but get on your nerves through sheer lane-blocking girth. Mercedes might try and disguise the size of its R Class by somewhat opaquely calling it a 'grand tourer', but no-one is fooled.

A grand tourer sounds more like an adventurous aristocrat on his way to Venice to see the world; what doesn't immediately spring to mind is an overweight Mercedes MPV. For that is essentially what you're getting - it's based on the oily parts from the ML and GL Class models and sits between those beasts and the rest of the range in size and stature. No, we didn't think there was a gap there, either.

Everything is bigger with the R Class - if only it was in the US as its makers seemingly intended then everything would be in better proportion, but in the humble United Kingdom it dwarfs its surroundings. The styling doesn't quite work, with bulbous blank-eyed looks that don't do it any favours.

All that said, the R Class is pleasant enough inside, with interior quality matching that of the E Class. It doesn't feel bespoke in the same way that the CLS does, but the build quality is solid and the equipment is of good quality. As with any Mercedes buying extras and upgrades quickly gets expensive on top of what are already pricey cars.

Despite the size of the R Class, the standard car is even a little cramped in the back - the larger car, with its six seats, makes more sense and does lack the brutalist anti-environment image of its massive SUV siblings if nothing else.

On the road the R Class drives respectably well - it's not a performance car but likewise it's not unpleasant. Its speciality is wafty cruising, and feels right at home on the motorway. The smaller entry-level engines fit in with this rather sedate character, with more appropriate performance and more acceptable economy than the top V8 engines. After all, you don't really want children piling up in the boot.

For all its practicalities, the R Class is mostly impractical where it counts - it is very expensive to run and difficult to thread through the urban environment. Unless you have your heart set on a massive Mercedes perhaps you should cast your eye elsewhere.

Mercedes R Class Series 05 StatisticsCar Reviews

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