Mercedes-Benz does not want you calling the R500 a minivan. Period.

R500 is a "Grand Sports Tourer," according to the German giant, and it represents a whole new breed of luxury craft designed to transport those of means in high style.

Fine. But despite not having sliding side doors, R500 has to be considered a minivan. Just like the similar Chrysler Pacifica from its fellow DaimlerChrysler brand and just like Cadillac SRX, another high-end vehicle with the same tall-wagon configuration.

So let's just call it what it is. R500 is a minivan for the wealthy.

There should be no shame in being a minivan, the most practical, efficient and versatile people hauler on the planet. But minivans smack of domesticity, a relinquishing of style and sassiness, a tacit admission that, no, I'm no longer on the prowl.

R500 suffers from none of those perceived flaws. It comes across more like an executive jet or a private yacht, an opulent symbol of success, but family-style. Sure, there are more expensive vehicles, especially among the Benzes, but R500 manages to combine practicality and excess under one glorious roof.

You can get a base model R-Class for about $48,000, the V-6-powered R350. But then, you're not playing with the big dogs. The test R500, with its sparkling V-8 engine and superb drivability, came loaded up with a slew of options and crossed over into exclusive $70,000 territory, putting it among top-drawer sedans and SUVs. Here's one minivan that won't fade into traffic. And it should get plenty of attention for the kids when they're dropped off for soccer practice.