Boarding pass? Check. Passport? Check. Travel insurance documents? Che… wait a minute. Note to self… this is a car not a first-class airliner cabin. To be fair, it’s an easy sort of mistake to make (sort of) because the interior of the new Mercedes R-Class is one of the very best around; a sumptuous, cosy, spacious and luxurious mix of leather, chrome and carpet with six individual seats, armrests and stowage space aplenty.
If you have to make a journey, you’re unlikely to enjoy being there as much in any other car.
But great interiors mean precisely diddlysquat unless they match the shell. And, boy, have Merc nailed that one, too. Its sleek lines somehow completely disguise how mammoth a beast it is; until you’re right up next to it, you can’t fully understand its dimensions. The thing is big (4.9m for the short wheelbase, an obscene 5.2m for the long wheelbase) but perhaps because it shares similar styling cues to the marques smaller models, it looks at first like a jacked up B-Class, even though it’s significantly larger in every way.
In black, with massive rims and optional privacy glass, the R-Class has the gangsta charm of Snoop Dogg holding a velvet-covered brick and singing My Way. You scare yourself whenever you catch your reflection in a shop window, so just think how other drivers feel when you’re bearing down on them
Despite the overall size and weight of the thing, the engine and seven-speed auto gearbox cope just fine. Diesel makes more sense than petrol, for both economy reasons and for the extra low-down grunt that helps shift all that bulk from a standing start. And in truth, the power bands are so good you’ll never really know you’re driving a diesel until you reach for the black nozzle at the petrol station.
The bonkers 5-litre V8 petrol version may give you a 0-60mph time of just 6.9secs, but the 8.8secs in the 3.2-litre diesel is more than adequate and is significantly more grunty than the 3.5-litre petrol variant. But while economy in the diesel is much better than the petrol R-Class, at just 30mpg it doesn’t make good reading compared to other diesels in similar segments.
Handling poses zero problems. Three suspension settings allow you to adjust ride stiffness to suit the road conditions, and even in its softest mode, body roll is no issue unless you make a total hash of entering a bend.
Back inside, the six-seat set-up is well thought out, offering you plenty of flexibility with load capacity. Even with all seats deployed, you get a fair amount of space at the back; fold one or both down and load space is gargantuan. Controls for rear passengers also allow for localised climate control and the driver can divert sound to individual speakers to optimise sound for others.
This, as with most electronic functions, is controlled via the central display unit – the same one that’s on most modern Mercs and that has way to many buttons and is rather unintuitive. The satnav is also rather average.
So how much does a car like this cost? Relatively, it’s actually rather good value for money. It doesn’t really have any obvious competitors but for the levels of comfort and the huge practicality, at £41,470 on the road, we think it’s very keenly priced indeed.
Engine: 3.2-litre turbodiesel
Power: 224bhp @ 3800rpm
Top speed: 134mph
Emissions: 122 g/km