Pros: Does not drive like a van at all
Cons: Looks like a van
I know I will receive a lot of complaints about my opening title, but really, think about it...if you were a car company that operated on ever shrinking margins, wouldn't you go ahead and take something from one of your subsidiary's car bins? The Mercedes that I am reviewing is the R350 which has the six cylinder engine versus the 8 of the R500. Painted in a beautiful Obsidian Black, my R350 looked exactly like a really nice hearse. While this may be creepy to some, I thought it was pretty close to what it did look like, and the reason I bought it. The car had every available option sans DVD entertainment system, and second row console. Despite the fancy nomenclature of the vehicle being a "Grand Sport Tourer", it is what it is, a nice, sporty van. The R350 handles capably, its AWD system functions like a dream and is totally unnoticeable, until the road gets "frisky". In Honolulu, there are more than enough streets to make the moon's surface seem like a cue ball, and on these mad streets the R350 performs like a champ. Rainy, oil slicked roads? Don't worry about hard accelerations. Potholes the size of a just excavated Egyptian pharaohs tomb? The R350 smashes through them like the Incredible Hulk making his way to a buffet. The seats are comfortable, the rear passengers never complained and acted as if they were aboard a private Learjet which is what the cabin kind of resembled (don't ask why I know this, lets just say I have watched all of the James Bond movies to know). BUT there were problems. If you believe that you will be able to carry grandpa and grandma on this thing, the step in is high, and awkward. The second row seats are set far in from the floor sill and requires anyone entering into the second row chairs to put a leg up and then lifting themselves into the chair. Perhaps this would not be a problem for a long legged person, but it definitely was a chore for my shrunken grandparents. Getting into the third row seats are best left for the young, or retired contortionists. While there were comments in other reviews that a seven seat capacity was not available this fails to realize the point of the R Class, which is to be a refined Grand Sport Tourer for the gentry, not a soccer mom's conveyance. Mercedes does market such a creature called the Vanios in Europe, but it won't be sold here for good reason. American consumers expect their trucks and vans to drive like cars, and the Vanios is often spotted doing UPS duties around town. Cargo space with all seats in use is about the same as....a Honda Civic. With the seats folded down, it is capacious. I was left wondering though what I would be carrying in this vehicle. I once saw a gentlemen loading chicken manure at a Home Depot into the trunk of his S-Class Mercedes sedan and thought that to be crazy. Needless to say, I had the same stares while I was loading a Dyson vacuum cleaner into the back of my R350 at Best Buy. I managed to put a Dyson vacuum cleaner box, along with a 24 inch Toshiba TV again still in its box, and miscellaneous Christmas gifts in the R350 with all seats folded excepting the driver and front passenger chairs. The third row seats fold down, and would be a problem for a slight person to handle. The second row seats are not as intuitive to fold forward as they might be in a normal van, but again, Mercedes does not market this car as a van. Another aspect that some may find to be troublesome is the size of the rear doors. These are huge doors by any measure. Never in the three months that I had the vehicle did a person NOT have to attempt a second go at shutting the door after exiting. The leather, wood, and plastic throughout the R350 was excellent and tight. At this price point one would expect a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, this vehicle did not have it. Also while at the Mercedes dealer, one of my friends grabbed at the anchor lever for the child seats and it snapped off in his hand. Fortunately it was not on the vehicle I was taking delivery of. Many fantasize about having a do it all car, and in fact, a sporty, luxurious minivan would fit that bill. Like most multi-purpose devices that you may have in your home or office, you will find that the R350 does a lot of things well, but not excellently.