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Part minivan, part station wagon, part "what were they thinking?" the Mercedes-Benz R-Class was several cars rolled into one. Although the R-Class wasn't quite as roomy as a minivan and only featured six standard seats (a seventh seat was optional), it was essentially a luxury family hauler for those who would never have considered owning a traditional minivan. Of course, the R-Class wasn't as versatile as a real minivan. Its large, wide-swinging traditional rear doors, for instance, weren't as family-friendly in a tight parking lot as a minivan's sliding doors.
Still, the R-Class was roomy, luxurious and available with a wide variety of engines, not to mention just about all of Benz's latest techno toys. Almost all R-Class models also came standard with all-wheel drive for extra traction in inclement weather. For those wanting a versatile used luxury vehicle that deftly sidesteps the perceived stigma of a minivan (or an SUV, for that matter), the Mercedes-Benz R-Class might make sense.
Used Mercedes-Benz R-Class Models
Produced from 2006 through 2012, the Mercedes-Benz R-Class was a large crossover wagon that during its run offered a wide choice of engines ranging from a diesel V6 to a powerhouse AMG V8. Most R-Classes came with all-wheel drive, as a rear-drive model was offered for just a single model year.
The most recent version of this model came in a choice of R350 (gas V6) and R350 Bluetec (diesel V6) trims. Both came with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission. A 2+2+2 seating arrangement (for a total capacity of six people) was standard, with a 2+3+2 configuration optional. The R350 was powered by a 3.5-liter 302-horsepower V6, while the R350 Bluetec had a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. The latter made only 210 hp but delivered an impressive 400 pound-feet of torque along with highway fuel economy in the low- to mid-20s.
Both trims came standard with 19-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver seat and Bluetooth connectivity. Upgrades included a panoramic sunroof, a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a power liftgate, adaptive xenon HID headlights, a rear seat entertainment system, a navigation system and an iPod interface. Oddly, leather upholstery was not available on the R-Class -- Mercedes' admittedly nice MB-Tex premium vinyl was standard across the board.
In reviews, we noted that the R-Class was certainly roomy and boasted excellent interior materials. But while the rear doors provided a huge opening to ease getting in and out, they were very long and could result in plenty of dings in the mall parking lot. On the road, the R-Class was a bit like driving your own personal high-speed train: big, heavy and with an eerie way of making high speeds seem completely reasonable. Handling wasn't an especially strong point, as the R-Class didn't inspire much more confidence than a typical large luxury crossover. Neither engine produced especially impressive acceleration.
The Mercedes-Benz R-Class was introduced for 2006 in R350 and R500 guises that could only be had with six seats and all-wheel drive. Through 2011, the original R350 featured a 3.5-liter V6 that produced 268 hp and achieved worse fuel economy than the later V6. The R500 and its 5.0-liter V8 might have provided a welcome amount of extra grunt, but it actually produced the same 302 hp as the later V6 while swilling fuel at the rate of 14 mpg combined. All R-Class models had a seven-speed automatic transmission.
For 2007, the R320 CDI and R63 AMG debuted. The R320 CDI was similar to the later Bluetec diesel in terms of output, but it wasn't certified for sale in California-emissions states. The R63 AMG high-performance-tuned model was essentially a minivan on steroids, boasting a monstrous, naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 that made 503 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes estimated that the R63 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. The R63 also handled better than the other R-Class trims thanks to firmer suspension tuning and larger wheels and tires.
Soft sales brought the demise of the two most powerful Mercedes-Benz R-Class models, as the R500 and R63 AMG were discontinued for 2008, the same year that a rear-wheel-drive R350 joined the lineup and optional seven-passenger seating (with a middle seat in the second row) debuted. The following year saw the 50-state-compliant R320 Bluetec diesel engine replace the R320 CDI, new audio and navigation systems debut and the short-lived rear-wheel-drive R350 leave the lineup.
For 2010, the diesel model became the R350 Bluetec and received a smidge more torque. The biggest changes took place for 2011, when a styling refresh saw a larger grille debut and the oddly shaped front lights give way to cleaner units that looked more like those used on other Benz models. New mirrors, wheels, taillights and bumpers rounded out the exterior remake, while new headrests, new wood accents and a revised instrument display updated the cabin.
The last year of production for the R-Class was 2012, which may be the most desirable for the gas-powered V6, as that year brought a new 3.5-liter gas V6 with more power (302 hp) and slightly better fuel economy than the older engine. That year also saw a few more standard features thrown in, including a navigation system and satellite radio.