Downside: The R-Class causes envy.

Upside: It is better to be envied than it is to envy.

Ride, acceleration and handling: The R-Class is heavy -- 4,765 pounds for the V-6 and 4,845 pounds for the V-8 -- yet they are swift in lane changes and exceptionally nimble in corners. Neither the V-6 nor the V-8 had problems in high-speed traffic.

Head-turning quotient: These are polarizing vehicles. People hated and loved them. The richer they were, the more they loved. The less affluent dismissed the wagons as extravagances.

Body style/layout: R-Class models are front-engine, all-wheel-drive, five-door vehicles designed to feel like luxury limousines, run with the passion of sports cars, and carry people and their things with the ease and utility of full-size sport-utility vehicles.

Engines/transmissions: The R350 comes with a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 that develops 268 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 258 foot-pounds of torque between 2,400 and 5,000 rpm. The R500 is equipped with a 5-liter, 24-valve V-8 that produces 302 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 339 foot-pounds of torque between 2,700 and 4,750 rpm. Both engines are linked to seven-speed automatic transmissions that also can be shifted manually.

Mileage: I averaged 22 miles per gallon on the highway in the R350, in which I spent most of my time. Journalists who spent most of their time in the R500 said that model averaged 19 miles per gallon on the highway.

Cargo and fuel capacities: The R-Class has seating for six adults. Maximum cargo capacity is 85 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 21.3 gallons of recommended (for "best performance") premium unleaded gasoline.

Safety: All of the safety that money can buy, including side and curtain air bags, traction and stability control, the works.

Price: The R-Class goes on sale in the United States this fall. Initial base pricing is set at $56,275, including a $775 destination charge, for the R500. Base pricing for the R350 is $48,775, including the $775 destination charge.

Purse-strings note: The good life deserves a good ride. This is it.