Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but a small number of people who observed the first 2005 Mercedes-Benz R-class said it was a work of art. Designers constructed a curious creation by combining a sharp, pointed nose similar to the 2002 F400 concept model to what looked something like an extended SUV.

That surprising visual is in the past, as Mercedes-Benz is providing its 2011 R-class model to an extensive facelift. Every inch of sheet metal ahead of the A-pillars, including the bumper, grille, fenders and hood, is totally rebuilt.

Inspired by the newly revamped GL-class SUV, Mercedes-Benz engineers discarded the previous R-class’ narrow nose in favor of a wide, extended hood that streams into a large grille opening. Ovoid headlights have been replaced by rectangular lenses that flow into curved fenders. A staple of the redesigned GL – LED running lamps – appear in the lower bumper openings in place of fog lights. Five-spoke, 17-inch, aluminum wheels come standard, while a fresh sport appearance package includes smoked tail light lenses and AMG-designed 19-inch rims.

Internal modifications are somewhat less widespread, however. The Mercedes-Benz R-class’s cabin has been left alone, for the most part, though it is now offered with a gray-on-black two-tone or beige-on-brown design. Six-passenger seating is still standard; however, there is an optional seven-passenger design that has a split bench seat replacing the second row of buckets.

The R-class is still a two-model arrangement in North America. The 2011 R350 still employs Mercedes-Benz’s 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Diesel enthusiasts will probably be inclined to shell out some extra cash for the R350 Bluetec, which uses the same 215-hp, 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 as the GL350 Bluetec and ML350 Bluetec. The diesel and gasoline engines are connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission that directs power to all four wheels through Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel-drive arrangement.

Pricing and option packages for each 2011 R-class model will probably continue to be comparable to the 2010 model. The revised 2011 R is expected to roll off the Mercedes-Benz assembly line in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the next several months.