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FrontRunners: In A Class Of Its Own

Patrick C. Paternie

The R in the name of the new R-Class from Mercedes-Benz (www.mbusa.com) could stand for riddle. After all, what do you call a vehicle that is 4 inches longer than a Cadillac Escalade, is equipped with full-time 4-wheel drive, seats six, handles better than an E-Class sedan, and—with a front end that appears to be scowling—looks like an angry, beefed-up minivan? Indeed, to classify the R-Class, Mercedes-Benz has coined a new term for the automotive lexicon: grand sports tourer.
 
Priced at about $56,000, the R-Class should appeal to those with young children—or to those who entertain their children’s young children—who find minivans too plebeian but want comfort levels, fuel efficiency, and performance (thanks to a peppy V-8 and standard air suspension) that are superior to those of most SUVs.

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