The 2011 R-Class is being touted by Mercedes-Benz as the new generation of its grand sports tourer, a.k.a. luxury crossover, which was first introduced in Canada in the 2006 model year. But the truth of the matter is that the 2011 model is basically a heavily restyled version of the existing vehicle.
These days, image is everything, and the R-Class definitely had an image problem. First and foremost, Canadian car buyers had difficulty figuring out exactly what the R-Class actually was. Was it a lowered minivan, a taller station wagon or a softer-edged SUV, all characterisations that seemed to fit the R-Class in some ways if not all? Second, the vehicle was very large, yet it did not have much road presence, which was largely due to its unassuming styling. In terms of sales in Canada, the R-Class accounted for only 394 units in 2008 and 308 units in 2009 for Mercedes. These numbers mean the R-Class was massively outsold by a four-to-one margin by the GL-Class large SUV and by a 10- to-one margin by the M-Class SUV for the last two years running, a trend Mercedes hopes to buck with the arrival of the facelifted luxury crossover for the 2011 model year.
In reworking the R-Class, Mercedes set out to give the vehicle a much more muscular look, while integrating various styling elements borrowed from its line of SUVs and cars. Gone is the soft-edged, almost feminine look and in comes the new bold corporate face with a larger three-pointed star set in a more upright and rectangular grille. The front end also features the sharpened edges of the new hood and front fenders as well as the now de rigueur LED running lights and Bi-Xenon headlights. The back end has also been redone with a revised rear bumper with integrated exhaust tips as well as LED tail lights. Inside the cabin, the only significant change to the R-Class is the adoption of a new gauge cluster.