Moving people is what cars are all about, and moving them in luxury and style is what Mercedes-Benz is all about. But what happens when Mercedes fanciers need to move more people than one of their big sedans or SUVs will hold? Well, that’s easy; they turn to the all new 2006 R-Class, a big people mover built as only Benz can. Mercedes-Benz has built its share of people movers over the years, from big sedans to rectangular SUVs. But the 2006 R-Class is a whole new kind of conveyance for Germany’s number-one luxury brand.

Based on the M-Class SUV’s unit-body platform, the R-Class sports tourer is built at the same Tuscaloosa, Alabama production facility. But the 203-inch R-Class is much longer than the M-Class; a full 14-inches longer. And at 126.6-inches, wheelbase is almost a foot more. This stretched out all-wheel-drive platform is wrapped in rakish styling that rises and falls, favoring the CLS 4-door coupe more than a boxy, boring minivan, or even Chrysler’s smooth Pacifica effort.

But like Pacifica, the R-Class cabin tries to combine the best of sedan, SUV, and minivan worlds. The high-style interior on our R500 tester included plenty of leather and burl walnut trim. Standard features include leather-trimmed and powered front seats with heat, a 6-disc CD stereo is standard, with a Harmon/Kardon Logic 7 upgrade available. Optional is rear seat DVD entertainment with dual screens on the front seat head rests.

Unlike many so-called people movers, the R-Class offers adult-sized head and leg room in the sliding second row seats, which flip forward to allow easy access to the also adult-size third row. An optional power rear lift gate provides access to the 15.2 cubic-foot cargo area, which can be expanded by folding the second and third row seats to produce a space that’s over 7-feet long and 85 cubic-feet large.

And speaking of large, the optional Panoramic sunroof is 5-foot 7-inches long, the biggest in the industry. The spacious R-Class cabin is also safe, equipped with standard multi-stage front, side impact, and head curtain airbags. R-Class power is also derived from the M-Class, with a 3.5-liter 268 horsepower twin-cam V6 for the R350, or our R500’s 5.0-liter single-cam V8 with 302 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque.

Power always goes to all four wheels by way of a 7-speed automatic transmission with short column stalk and manual shift mode, and a capable all-wheel-drive system with a 50/50 center differential and electronic traction control. With everything spinning, the R500 hits 60 in 7.2 seconds. The quarter mile takes 15.5 seconds, at 91 miles-per-hour. More than acceptable for a 4,800 pound people mover.

The 5.0-liter V8 and 7-speed gearbox are a truly refined combo, pulling strongly off the line and delivering a smooth, even flow of power through every gear. R-Class handling is courtesy of a double wishbone front and 4-link rear suspension with electronic stability control, and on our tester optional air suspension.

Turn ins are sedan quick, but the R500’s substantial weight produces plenty of van-style roll in corners.  That said, stability and grip are well above that of any minivan and any truck-based SUV. And when driven in the real world at a real world pace, the R500 delivers a solidly comfortable ride, with luxury sedan levels of noise and vibration control.

Stopping the R-Class at the end of a drive are 4-wheel disc brakes with 4-channel ABS. 131 feet from 60 is a good average stopping distance, and once again stability and feel are well above any minivan average. Prices are also well above minivan levels, but appropriate for a substantial Mercedes, at $48,775 for the R350. The R500 begins at $55,775.

The 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is 100% Teutonic luxury, but with 6-passenger and cargo hauling capabilities far above that of the brand’s sedans and utilities. This 5-door sports tourer is stylish, opulent, and very capable, a big people mover built as only Mercedes-Benz can. 



  • R500 Engine: 5.0-Liter Single-cam V8
  • Horsepower: 302
  • Torque: 339 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.2 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 91 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 131 Feet