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Though Turkey Day has come and gone, the Holiday Season is just now getting into its groove.  You’ll decorate the house, do some shopping, and mingle with friends and relatives.  But have you given any thought to your car?  You’re probably thinking that cars don’t have anything to do with the holiday season, but you’re wrong.  Tacky bow-festooned Lexuses aside, this time of year presents special challenges and opportunities, and you wouldn’t want to meet them unprepared, would you?

Allow me to introduce you to the Mercedes R-class.  I know, I know.  It’s not in production anymore, you’ll have to buy used.  That’s fine.  Your relatives will think you’re especially frugal for letting someone else take the initial depreciation hit.  No, it’s not a minivan, so don’t worry about soccer-mom stigma (the three-pointed star mostly wards that off anyway).  I know it’s not pretty, but it’s got enough going for it that the looks don’t matter.  I mean, it’s not Pontiac Aztek ugly, either.  Besides, you don’t have to look at the exterior when you’re driving it.

For starters, it seats six people in S-Class luxury.  At some point between Halloween and New Year’s Day you will be asked to ferry co-workers, friends, relatives, or even in-laws around.  This time of the year is stressful enough without packing them sardine-like into the back seat of a Camry.  This is your chance to be Johnny-on-the-spot with a people-mover.  That the people-mover in question has nice leather seats and Mercedes’ vault-like isolation is icing on the cake.  If all else fails, your passengers will at least be impressed by the badge.  And no, you don’t want to roll up to your in-laws house in an Escalade, they might find the over-abundance of chrome a bit tacky.

Even if your people-hauling opportunity never arises, the space will still come in handy for those inevitable shopping trips.  It really doesn’t matter what you’re buying, the big Merc has space for it.  Just remember when you’re sizing up potential Christmas trees: just because there’s room for it in your R-class, doesn’t mean there’s room for it in your house.

Sure, you could enlist a minivan for this sort of thing, but for many of you, the weather this time of year presents its own special challenges.  The R-Class is widely available with AWD.  No need for boulder-hopping 4×4 stuff here – you’re not tackling the Rubicon Trail, just snow, sleet, and whatever else Mother Nature has up her sleeves.  A full-size SUV would be wasteful.

At this point, all that’s left is to choose what flavor of R-class you would like.  You’re spoiled here.  Mercedes offered more varieties than Baskin-Robbins.  Early models could be had with the 5.0L V8 – ultimate wafting power there.  If you can’t stomach the fuel bills, V6s were available, too.  They actually dominated sales, so finding one that’s just right shouldn’t be hard.  Of course, if you fancy the ultimate road-trip machine, you can even have a diesel R-class – you’ll be limited by the range of your bladder before you run out of fuel.  My personal choice would be the R63 AMG version.  You’ve been sensible with the rest of the vehicle, why not treat yourself to the snarling hand-built V8?  Boredom will not be a problem.  As an added bonus, the AMG goes nicely with the patriotic summer holidays.

Yes, the R-class.  It’s an impressive, comfortable, capable, frugal or ridiculous Swiss-Army knife.  It’s the perfect car for any holiday, and a sweet piece for all the other days of the year too.  If it had been styled better, we might all be driving one already.

About the Author

I live and work in Midland, Texas. I grew up in Michigan and have been fascinated by cars since I was a toddler. My "day job" involves staring at rocks.

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