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Part minivan, part station wagon, part "what were they thinking?" the Mercedes-Benz R-Class is several cars rolled into one. Although the R-Class isn't quite as roomy as a minivan and only features six standard seats (a seventh seat is optional), it is essentially a luxury family hauler for those who would never consider owning a traditional minivan. Of course, the R-Class isn't as versatile as a real minivan. Its traditional hinged rear doors, for instance, aren't as family-friendly as a minivan's sliding doors.
Still, for those who can afford it, the R-Class is roomy, luxurious and available with two different engines, not to mention just about all of Benz's latest techno toys. It also comes standard with all-wheel drive for extra traction in inclement weather. For those wanting a versatile 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.
Current Mercedes-Benz R-Class
Both trim levels of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class -- R350 and R350 Bluetec -- come with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission. A 2+2+2 seating arrangement (for a total capacity of six people) is also included for every model, with a 2+3+2 configuration optional.
The R350 is powered by a 3.5-liter 302-horsepower V6, while the R350 Bluetec gets a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. It's good for only 210 hp but delivers an impressive 400 pound-feet of torque along with highway fuel economy in the mid-20s. Both come standard with 19-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver seat, Bluetooth and an older version of Mercedes' COMAND control interface.
Upgrades include 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 is not available on the R-Class -- Mercedes' admittedly nice MB-Tex premium vinyl is standard across the board.
In reviews, we've noted that while the R-Class is certainly roomy inside, with excellent interior materials practically everywhere you look and touch, its overall size can be a hassle in tight spaces. The rear doors provide a huge opening to ease getting in and out, but they are very long and can result in plenty of dings in the mall parking lot. Behind the wheel, the R-Class is a bit like driving your own personal high-speed train: It's big, it's heavy and it has an eerie way of making high speeds seem completely reasonable. Handling isn't an especially strong point, as the R-Class doesn't inspire much more confidence than a typical large luxury crossover. Neither engine will produce especially impressive acceleration.
Used Mercedes-Benz R-Class Models
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 current engine. 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 current V6 while swilling fuel at the rate of 14 mpg combined.
For 2007, the R320 CDI and R63 AMG debuted. The R320 CDI was similar to the current Bluetec diesel in terms of output, but it wasn't certified for sale in California-emissions states. The R63 AMG 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 larger wheels and tires and firmer suspension tuning.
Soft sales brought the demise of the two most powerful Mercedes-Benz R-Class models. The R500 and R63 AMG were discontinued after 2007, and a rear-wheel-drive R350 joined the lineup for 2008, as well as optional seven-passenger seating with a middle seat in the second row. Model year 2009 saw the introduction of the 50-state-compliant R320 Bluetec diesel engine in place of the R320 CDI, as well as new audio and navigation systems and the discontinuation of the short-lived rear-wheel-drive R350. For 2010, the diesel model became the R350 Bluetec and received a smidge more torque.
These R-Classes produced prior to 2011 can be identified by their front fascia, which was different from that on the current car. Specifically, it had odd round headlights and a softer appearance than the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup. The current R350's more powerful and efficient V6 arrived for 2012.