INTERIOR

It's inside the R-Class where some of those previously mentioned quirks start rearing their ugly heads.

The R-Class has an electronic gearshift lever on the steering wheel. Putting the car into Park using this gearshift annoyed me because I wanted some type of sensation to verify that I had just put the car into Park. Maybe I was waiting for a "gadunk" feel many cars give you when they're put into Park, only an upscale Mercedes-worthy version. Instead, I had to visually check to see if the instrument cluster read P for Park before taking my foot off the brake.

The placement of the electronic gearshift on the right-hand side of the steering wheel as well as the cruise-control stalk lever on the left side is awkward. If the driver isn't familiar with this car she might accidentally shift into Neutral. The cruise control can be accidentally set while attempting to use the turn-signal stalk, which is next to it. According to Mercedes-Benz, after a week or two a new Benz owner gets used to the odd placement of various levers around the steering wheel. However, not knowing if your car is in Park, accidentally setting the cruise control or inadvertently putting the car into Neutral all seem like safety hazards to me. Call me paranoid.

The R-Class has a scant six cupholders scattered throughout the cabin's three rows. That hardly seems like enough for a family. The in-door storage bins were shallow, not allowing for storage of an extra cup or water bottle. I usually keep an extra bottle of water stashed in the car and tried to keep mine balanced on top of the R350's in-door storage bin. Every time I opened the door the water bottle went rolling under the vehicle. After a few sessions of chase I had to come up with a new game plan.

It wasn't all bad in the interior. I loved the amount of legroom in the second row and the ability to move the row's two captain's chairs back and forth, creating more or less legroom for the third row. However, the armrests on the captain's chairs eat away at the amount of space for the passageway to the third row. It's quite snug, ever for the littlest of passengers who would be walking through there. The second-row's captain's chairs slide and collapse forward to create access to the third row, but if you have a child-safety seat or high-back booster seat in the captain's chair you're stuck using the passageway to get to the third row.

The third row's utility for little passengers is great and doable for full-sized passengers on short trips. When not in use, it folds out of the way seamlessly. It's folding it back up into place that's a pain in the butt. Standing behind the cargo area, first pull the third row's seatbacks up with the pull-tabs. Then walk around the side of the car and move the second-row captain's chair out of the way to climb to the rear row and push the seat cushions down into place. Um... did anyone tell Mercedes that for $50K people want seats that fold and unfold easily


maybe even power-folding seats, if you want to get super-thoughtful?

I was appreciative of the R350's 110-volt outlet, which I used to plug my iPad in, and my kids loved the rear entertainment system's dual screens in the second row.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample-Galore

    See also:

    Operating video DVD
    ► Switch on COMAND and select video DVD (see the separate operating instructions). ► Press the button on the steering wheel to select the Audio menu. DVD changer display (example) ...

    Special seat belt retractor
    All seat belts except the driver's seat belt are equipped with a special seat belt retractor. When activated, the special seat belt retractor ensures the seat belt will not slacken once the ch ...

    Important safety notes
    WARNING Grains of sand, particles of dirt and other abrasive materials can enter the brake system. This can lead to excessive wear and unpredictable braking efficiency. After the brakes have ...