The Mercedes-Benz R-Class could be revived to take advantage of the world’s current taste for SUV-style vehicles.
The seven-seat R-Class went on sale in its original form in 2006, before an update in 2010 saw some big styling changes. The car was discontinued from most international markets in 2013 due to slow sales, though it is still being built and sold in China for that market only.
Why would it be revived, then? Well, according to Wolf-Dieter Kurz, Mercedes-Benz’s vice-president of product group SUVs and sports cars, the company could have been too early with its crossover model that blurred the lines between a traditional station wagon and a higher-riding SUV.
Speaking at the launch of the brand’s new GLE and GLE Coupe modes in Europe, Kurz suggested the brand is looking to fill more SUV holes in its line-up with vehicles that are designed to offer buyers alternatives to standard SUVs. It already has the aforementioned GLE and GLE Coupe, and there’s also going to be a GLC and GLC Coupe pairing. But Kurz said there is room for practicality-focused models.
“Of course we are thinking many variants and many opportunities,” Kurz said.
“Basically I think I feel that the SUV segment – due to its growth, and the worldwide interest that the SUVs have – the SUV segment will be also in future the one which sees most derivatives, let’s say, in the outskirts of the portfolio. Because it’s getting kind of fussy in it’s outskirts, let’s say.
“There was already one that we had in the portfolio – maybe we were too early – which was the R-Class, which we are still selling in China. It’s doing good, with 12,000 to 14,000 units per year,” he said.
“So let’s say these more, let’s say, on-road based but still very roomy, but not station wagon, is definitely an interesting segment also in the future,” Kurz suggested, giving a strong indication the brand is considering a revival of that model.
“There are others, but if you cancel, let’s say the convertible and roadster, definitely, because that will not work in the SUV, then I think it’s more in the design play,” he said.
“How much are you dealing in terms of coupe-ness, or station wagon direction, or the rear boxy SUV – I think there is lots of design play which is possible in terms of the SUVs.”
Asked by CarAdvice if the company would consider offering off-road-style versions of some of its regular wagons – in the same vein as the Audi A4 Allroad and Audi A6 Allroad – Kurz suggested the project would be simple to do.
“Possible is everything in that regard. Audi did it the same way: they just lifted up the all-wheel drive variants of the A4 or A6 station wagon,” he said. “That’s technically no big deal.”
Still, he insisted he couldn’t confirm if there are such models on the way as that’s not part of his product portfolio (it falls under the banner of rear-drive models and derivatives, despite the clear SUV intentions).