The R-Class launch is getting nearer

http://www.viamichelin.com/viamichelin/gbr/tpl/mag4/art20050901/htm/route_mercedes-classe-R.htm
Made in Alabama.
Short-wheelbase version for Europe.
"Big sister" of B-Class?
DAS
On the road The new Mercedes R-Class: an automobile of the 3rd kind
This will be one of the big events of the next Frankfurt Motor Show. Big and beautiful, you can't miss it: the R-Class. To prepare yourself for the shock, here is a foretaste of Mercedes' new 6-seater concept.
DaimlerChrysler Despite its imposing dimensions, the R-Class is sleek and elegant.
A new concept? In a supply-saturated automobile market, it is difficult to find a place in the sun. Mercedes knows this and is once again striking a decisive blow with an innovative and unconventional concept: the Grand Sports Tourer... more simply baptised the "R-Class". Following the CLS, the flamboyant "coup-saloon" [see our article], the R-Class also breaks with convention, blithely combining different vehicle types. Growth now takes place on the fringes by attracting a rather unconventional clientele which expresses new needs and does not see itself in the social profile conveyed by certain models: the family man who wants a "real car" and refuses to drive a people carrier, the senior executive seeking a spacious vehicle to transport his colleagues during the week and leisure equipment at weekends, or lastly all those who like sporty cars but want more space.
Although other manufacturers have been able to scent the opportunity to devise a different car, Mercedes has the merit of being the first to clearly formalise the concept and make it a reality. BMW is working on a project for a sporty 6-seater estate car/people carrier hybrid (nicknamed V5), but it is not due to be marketed before 2008. Credit also goes to Renault, the other innovative big car manufacturer, for having sensed this need and come up with the Vel Satis: a powerful car with the comfort of a saloon and the dimensions of a people carrier... However, it lacks the versatility of the estate and, above all, a sixth seat, not to mention its somewhat disconcerting aesthetics.
Safety
DaimlerChrysler This is, of course, the important aspect of any would-be family car. In addition to 6 airbags ESP comes as standard, with a tyre pressure loss warning system and a system which deactivates the passenger airbag when a rear-facing child seat is installed in the front. Options include the Neck-Pro system which, in the event of a rear-end collision, brings the head restraint forward by 40 mm (1.5 in), reducing the risk of whiplash, and the Pre-Safe system which combines passive and active safety by detecting critical situations and taking preventive protection measures: the seat belts are pulled taut, the seat position adjusted, and the sunroof closed...
An athletic mutant
DaimlerChrysler The swept-back windscreen and arched roofline make for a coup-like silhouette. Of more universal appeal, the R-Class is surprising but not unsettling. We tried it out in Switzerland, around Zurich, and the initial contact was rather impressive. The big sister of the B-Class surprises first of all by its size: 5.15 m (16.9 ft) long, 1.92 m (6.3 ft) wide and 1.65 m (5.4 ft) high. It is also hard to determine whether it is a very large estate or a sporty people carrier... you may be tempted to agree with those who speak of a people-carrier-styled estate car. According to Mercedes, the Grand Sports Tourer was designed to meet the following requirements: the dynamism and comfort of a luxury saloon, the versatility of an estate, the spaciousness of a people carrier and the performance of a SUV. A difficult undertaking, but the aesthetics of this mutant, the result of improbable crossbreeding, are quite convincing. So much so that you almost forget its imposing dimensions.
As with the CLS, the Stuttgart designers have performed a real stylistic feat. The sleek and dynamic lines give it a resolutely sporty look. The striking radiator grille is imposing. Lastly, the pronounced bonnet makes it a grand touring car in its own right, not just another people carrier.
Enter the new dimension
DaimlerChrysler 2,385 litres for bulky leisure equipment. The first impression is of an incredible feeling of space, further enhanced on the model we tested by a panoramic sunroof (optional), which covers the entire surface of the roof. A volume that makes it possible to have 6 proper seats. Judge for yourself: the distance between the front seats and second row seats (individually adjustable) can be as much as 990 millimetres (3.2 ft), and the second and third rows are 840 millimetres (2.7 ft) apart. The seats are all individual, the second row benefiting from a central armrest, unlike the third row situated on the wheel arches which is nonetheless very comfortable. It is therefore ideal for families with 4 children, but those with 5 will have to stick with the good old people carrier, because the addition of a 7th seat does not appear to be on Mercedes' agenda on account of the small percentage that this target represents on the European market.
With six people, the boot is still a decent size (around 314 litres), sufficient for luggage for a weekend away but certainly not for a lengthy trip. With four people, the load volume is from 600 to 1,000 litres. Lastly, the four seats in the rear fold flat individually increasing the load capacity to 2,385 litres: ideal for bicycles or surfboards.
15,000 songs in your glove box
DaimlerChrysler Since comfort guarantees serenity when travelling especially with children the R-Class has a multitude of equipment: dual-zone air conditioning as standard, including for 2nd row passengers (optional for the 3rd row), a DVD and CD player just for rear-seat passengers (parents and children rarely like the same music), with earphones and colour screens integrated in the seat backs (optional). Mercedes also offers an integrated audio system for your iPod. You can connect very easily to the iPod, concealed in the glove box, by a simple button on the radio. You can then navigate through the menu using controls on the steering wheel, which give you access to almost 15,000 music tracks and 875 hours of listening time.
A German car made in America The R-Class is made in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the factory where the M-Class is assembled. An important detail, since the two models have an estimated 30 to 40% of parts in common, mainly with regard to the engine, gearbox and control systems. A guarantee of reliability that is appreciable on a new model. The American touch is noticeable in a few details such as the automatic selector lever behind the steering wheel (already on the ML) or the cup holders of a size uncommon in Europe, for a large Coke or a self-heating soup (Americans are known to often have lunch in their cars). As for the size of the vehicle itself, it seems better adapted to the wide-open spaces of America than to a city centre on the old continent.
DaimlerChrysler All-wheel drive and ESP guarantee good road-holding in this large vehicle, whose body is automatically lowered at speeds over 120 kph (75 mph). The R-Class will be launched this autumn in the United States with a choice of two engines: a 306 hp V8 on the R 500, which reaches 100 kph (62 mph) in 7 seconds, and a new 272 hp V6 petrol engine on the R 350, which accelerates to 100 kph in 8.3 seconds. In Switzerland, where we took them for a test run, it was hardly possible to assess the full potential of these two engines, since speeds are limited to 120 kph (75 mph) on motorways and 80 kph (50 mph) on roads, but we were able to appreciate their speed on the little mountain roads. Although, of course, the V8 (inherited from the ML) offers incomparable driving comfort, carrying the 2.2 tonnes of the R-Class like a wisp of straw, the V6 seemed to us to be more than enough and, above all, more economical. Admittedly, the famous 7-speed 7G-Tronic gearbox enables the engine to consume less fuel, but although the manufacturer gives a combined fuel consumption of 13.3 litres / 100 km for the V8, we noticed that the needle on the gauge went down at breakneck speed. Here again, this engine seems better suited to the American market. The more sober V6 has a fuel consumption of 11.5 litres / 100 km, while waiting for the new V6 diesel engine with common rail direct injection that Mercedes is promising for the launch of the R-Class in Europe early 2006.
The 7G-Tronic gearbox, now fitted as standard on all of the marque's new models, proved very impressive, particularly when operated manually using steering-wheel-based controls, which are very handy for mountain driving. As for road-holding, we did not notice the slight tendency to lurch in bends encountered on the ML, no doubt on account of a lower centre of gravity, the R-Class being nearly 15 cm (6 in) lower. That is all the more noteworthy since the R-Class models distributed in Europe will be given a more rigid chassis and sharper steering than on the model tested, intended for the American market. Also of note: the Airmatic system (optional) automatically lowers the vehicle's ground clearance at speeds above 120 kph (75 mph).
DaimlerChrysler With a long or short wheelbase, the R-Class still offers 6 seats with maximum comfort.
Until Frankfurt... There remains the delicate question of price. The manufacturer has not been very forthcoming on the subject, hinting that it would be close to that of an ML. We are in a top-of-the-range market with a new car that is one of a kind. So we should probably reckon on between 50 and 60,000 euros (approx. 34,000-41,000). We will find out more in Frankfurt. Another surprise lies in store in Frankfurt: a short version of the R-Class for the European market. It should be around 25 cm (10 in) shorter than the long version but will still have 6 seats, without this impinging too much on the level of comfort, since the reduction in space is to be spread between all the rows of seats as well as the boot. It will be 60 kg lighter, equipped with a V6 diesel engine, and already seems to have won the approval of the European consumers sounded out by Mercedes, to the detriment of the long version Watch this space!
Technical specifications R 350
a.. Engine: V6 petrol b.. Capacity: 3,498 cc c.. Output: 272 hp d.. Torque: 350 Nm between 2,400 and 5,000 rpm e.. Transmission: 7-speed automatic f.. Combined fuel consumption: 11.5 litres / 100 km
R 500
a.. Engine: V8 b.. Capacity: 4,966 cc c.. Output: 306 hp d.. Torque: 460 Nm between 2,700 and 4,750 rpm e.. Transmission: 7-speed automatic f.. Combined fuel consumption: 13.3 litres / 100km Mercedes web site: www.mercedes-benz.com
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Pacifica.
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Thom wrote:

Same platform, maybe? Both are manufactured by the same international company...
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Just came back from a short trip to NA (Tronna), where I saw a Pacifica. Definitely R-Class... or Magnum...?....
This is VW-style badge engineering.
DAS
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Did you like Ontario?
I thought the R was based on the new M class platform.
I do not know what the Pacifica is based on. They may just be similar.
.
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Broad question. Only went to a boring northern suburb of Toronto. Enjoyed the 360 Restaurant atop the CN Tower, though. http://www.cntower.ca/portal/GetPage.aspx?at 0
Now gourmet, with a spendid wine list. We had an Ontario (red) wine, of course. Very nice.
One just needs to stand well back in the outside lift...
Tronna is a pleasant city.
Not the first time I have been there (my main business partners' plant is in Richmond Hill), nor the first time I've drunk Ontario wine.
I have yet to drive into moose country. (Did Niagara many years ago.)
Actually the flight back yesterday afternoon left Toronto more or least in an easterly direction, following the 401 ... :-)... and we flew over Kingston (my seat neighbours' home - were they excited!) and saw the many islands. Shame they were maybe 20 000 feet too far away...
Can't recall - do you live there?
DAS
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I live near Washington DC.
One of these days I have to try that restaurant.
It must be nice to have a job that allows you to travel so many places at the Company's expense.
.
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Weeellll, in this instance I paid only for the hotel and somebody else for the flight and meals (incl the 360, thankfully).
In general I pay for my own expenses (am self-employed) but at least a lot of it is tax deductible. I am a past-master at finding economic flights... I am sure my travel agent gets very little commission from my travels, but I feel less 'guilty' now because the UK has followed much of the rest of the world in that the airlines have cut or abolished commissions to agents, who have to recover this by charging fees.
DAS
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True, the R class id bassed on the new M class platform. I am not sure what the Pacifica is based on, but it is far too wide for the Magnum/300 platform. Maybe a cheaper version of the older M class?
I do have to say that the Mercedes looks far nicer than the Chrysler. Maybe the Merc engines will start filtering down to chrysler like they have to Jeep.
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Along the same lines I recently read that VW and Chrysler are jointly developing a vehicle in the US ... meanwhile, Porsche and VW are jointly producing their SUV's .... just how intertwined are these manufacturers ... Are we going to see a global manufacturer embodying MB, Porsche, and VW.
Anyone understand how Porsche - surely less than 1/10 the sales of VW - can be in a position to help out VW???
cheers, guenter

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Sure.
Porsche is using VW's mass production ability and SUV platform for the Cayenne. I am sure the upcoming 4 door from Porsche will have some Audi A8/VW Phaeton influence (i.e Porsche 924/944/968).
Porche can help out Audi/VW with MONEY!! for the stuff they get from them. Not to mention VW SUV sales would not be what they are if it werent for the fact that many believe they are getting a less powerful Porsche.
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Thom wrote:

Bears a remarkable resemblance to something called a 'Pacifica'...
Jan
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According to all the reviews the R is supposed to be much larger than pictures would indicate. Is that true?
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greek_philosophizer wrote:

Jan
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See link in top post:
5.15 m (16.9 ft) long, 1.92 m (6.3 ft) wide and 1.65 m (5.4 ft) high.
Indeed not small.
DAS
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R CLass is Pacifica body at the ride height of a Magum, Looks good ! No real reason for Pacifica to sit that high, make it a TE
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