Smooth operator

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By Nick Jones

Friend of mine has a rather nice Mercedes S-Class and was admiring the R-Class I had on test as they sat side-by-side in the golf club car park.

He had a look around the front, sat inside, then a look around the back and then said he liked it very much – and asked me a few questions about it.

My R-Class was the 300CDI Blue EFFICIENCY version, the one with a silky-smooth V6 common-rail diesel under the bonnet and with the excellent 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic gearbox, mated to DIRECT SELECT; a column shifter mated to wheel-mounted shift buttons that allow the gears to be changed manually.

The engine produces a very healthy 190bhp, achieving the mandatory 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds on the way to a top speed of 134mph.

It’s rear wheel drive this version, as it’s the baby of the bunch: not so long ago, it was badged the 280CDI.

Riding on the S-Class chassis, the R-Class is a smooth operator thanks to the air suspension. It doesn’t pitch or wallow in any significant way and you are cosseted in leather seats that are flat but very comfortable (and heated, thank goodness).

Looking at it diplomatically, it’s a long car and has high haunches with swaged hips and a bulbous rear end, topped off with lots of glass and metal; but I found out this is actually the shorter of the two wheel bases – seven seat configuration is not going to cause a problem in the LWB then, methinks.

I think the take up of the seven-seater has been very good, looking at the figures, but this version, with five seats and not an abundance of room in the rear might be challenged by the M-Class or perhaps the new E-Class estate as viable alternatives.

Fit and finish inside is exemplary, with comprehensive standard kit and highlights like collision sensor, 7-spoke alloy wheels, airbags all over the place, automatic climate control, that 7G-Tronic gearbox, DVD-based navigation system with neat 5in screen... the typed list fills an A4 piece of paper.

There are lots of storage bins and cubby holes, a fine CD/stereo system and a socket for the power supply to both the i-Phone and the Tom Tom (can’t use the fiddly standard nav systems on any car) and the best bit is the elevated driving position – damn fine it is.

I had to lay flat the third row of seats to accommodate my golf kit.

The R-Class does achieve a very creditable 30mpg, and the emissions are 201g/km on the environmental front. It’s an unusual car certainlyand attracts a mixture of odd and bemused looks from other motorists. Not sure why, perhaps the £41,995 you have to stump up for one is a factor.

My friend, the S-Class man, thought he liked the R-Class so much he would only have one in 4x4 guise; so a quick look through the range and I had to tell him they don’t do one – but an ML is a 4x4 and would do the job he craves and for similar money. Perhaps more people should be made aware the R-Class. I loved it.