From £43,330
If you’re in the market for a large SUV or upmarket estate it’s worth considering

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2006-2012
The R-Class sounds like a jack of all trades; it's certainly the master of none

The Mercedes R-Class is "a wholly new motoring experience" according to its maker. But is it?

  • First Drive

    Mercedes-Benz R 350 CDI

    If you’re in the market for a large SUV or upmarket estate it’s worth considering
  • First Drive

    Mercedes R 280 CDI

    Cheaper entry-level R-class strengthens the big MPVs hand, but it's still a tricky car to understand
4 June 2010

What is it?

For a while there signs were that Mercedes-Benz was set to give up on the R-class. Launched in 2005, the big MPV has never really managed to fulfill the hype placed on it. It was, or so we thought, destined to be abandoned as part of the German car maker’s cost cutting efforts.

And yet now, despite worldwide sales of less than half those originally projected – many of them at heavily discounted prices, Mercedes-Benz is giving the R-class a second chance – prompted, it says, by efforts of rivals, most notably BMW with the 5-series GT, to muscle in the market it had become used to calling its own.

At the heart of the R-class’s renewed push to win over buyers is a heavily revised appearance. Gone is the odd combination of styling cues adorning the original model, replaced by a more cohesive looking design that gives it an instantly more confident air, especially the front-end which benefits from new headlamps, grille, bonnet and bumper – all reflecting the latest Mercedes-Benz lineage.

The revised R-class continues to come in both short and long-wheel base guise – the latter stretching to 5157mm and supporting a third row of seats to provide space for up to seven in a largely unchanged interior. It’s impressively spacious and versatile.

However, finding a parking space large enough to accommodate its exceptional width of 1922mm can prove difficult and begs the question as to why Mercedes-Benz hasn’t seen fit to equip it with side parking sensors like those available on the 5-series GT.

In a move that is crucial to its prospects of gaining sales momentum in the UK, Mercedes-Benz has also given its up-market MPV a new range of diesel engines in a line-up that supports both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models, including the latest, high power version of its 3.0-litre V6 common rail unit.

With a gutsy 261bhp and 457lb ft of torque, it is clearly the pick of the engines offered in the heavily facelifted R-class, kicking out 40bhp and 81lb ft more than before while bringing a 2.9mpg reduction in overall consumption at 33.2mpg in the four-wheel drive R 350 CDI 4Matic driven here.

The R-class is also among the first models to benefit from a revised version of Mercedes-Benz’s 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox. Standard across the line-up, it gets a faster acting torque converter that now automatically decouples the engine at standstill for added fuel savings among other detailed changes.

What's it like?

Together, the new engine and gearbox provide the R 350 CDI 4Matic with an energetic step off and good turn of speed away from the traffic lights – the prodigious torque making light weight of its 2175kg kerb weight. Indeed, for such a big car it is quite lively and impressively smooth in continual stop/start conditions.

But with those oversize dimensions and a large turning circle, city driving is not where it excels. It is at a steady cruise out on the motorway where the luxury MPV finds itself most at home. With all that torque at just 800rpm above idle, it devours distance with consummate ease. But while mechanical refinement is always impressive there is a fair amount of wind noise around the large exterior mirrors at speed.

With four-wheel drive helping and a whole armada of electronic driving aids, the R-class hangs on remarkably well when driven hard over winding roads – better than the M-class and G-class with which it shares its underpinnings and is build alongside at Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa plant in the US.

And with air springs and adaptive damping, it also rides with aplomb; the comfort setting provides with a pleasingly relaxed nature while the sport setting gives it a noticeably tauter feel. However, it should never be considered sporting. That role is left to the E-class estate, which is a good deal more agile at all times.

Should I buy one?

If you’re in the market for a large SUV or upmarket estate, it’s definitely worth considering the revised R-class. The various changes, particularly the new top-of-the-line diesel engine, make it a good deal more desirable than before.

Granted, it is not a car that appears to make great sense but it grows on you the more you drive it, especially over longer distances. As always, though, continues to have its limitations around town.

Join the debate

Comments
17

7 June 2010

[quote Autocar]better than the M-class and G-class with which it shares its underpinnings [/quote]

GL-class, not G-class.

Anonymous

7 June 2010

[quote nicksheele]

[quote Autocar]better than the M-class and G-class with which it shares its underpinnings [/quote]

GL-class, not G-class.

[/quote]

Tw@

7 June 2010

If Merc really wanted this to succed they should put a 2litre turbo engine petrol and diesel and a 2.5 in it and reduce the price by 20 or 30 grand and have new spec levels and trims then maybe people would be able to afford to buy and run one and I would even consider one for the old man if they done this as he has no interest in 4x4s and the saloons are too low down but this would be perfect so wake up Merc or don,t bother one or the other .

7 June 2010

This is a car which sold 371 units in the forst quarter of the year in it's home market. Why on Earth are they bothering?

7 June 2010

I'll wait for the next-gen R-class, thanks. That one will be (if I have my way), based on an all-new aluminium platform (2175kg is just too bloody heavy!), RWD not 4WD (who needs 4WD in a road car that isn't going to see mud or gravel or anything like that anyway?), new straight-six engines, a six-speed manual gearbox... hell, even with the existing V6 and slushbox, I'd be moderately happy IF THEY STRIPPED OFF ALL THE FAT! Oh, and I hope the next-gen one will lose the banana side profile in favour of a more angular look. In fact, I hope that all Mercs lose that banana look. ARE YOU LISTENING, MERCEDES?!

7 June 2010

R class very rare sight only ever seen 2 or 3 in my lifetime, I dont like the new front end does not suit the car would rather just get an e class estate or an Audi Avant A6 4X4

7 June 2010

[quote moe360]R class very rare sight only ever seen 2 or 3 in my lifetime[/quote] They're quite common here, especially among taxi drivers who seem to be moving to them from the S class.

7 June 2010

[quote chandrew][quote moe360]R class very rare sight only ever seen 2 or 3 in my lifetime[/quote] They're quite common here, especially among taxi drivers who seem to be moving to them from the S class.[/quote]

Are you meaning in Germany ?

7 June 2010

[quote moe360][quote chandrew][quote moe360]R class very rare sight only ever seen 2 or 3 in my lifetime[/quote] They're quite common here, especially among taxi drivers who seem to be moving to them from the S class.[/quote]

Are you meaning in Germany ?

[/quote]

In my part of Southern England, they're rarer than Astons and Ferraris - but then I see those pretty much every day. Today, a V8V, a pair of DB9s, a DBS and an F430. I do see R-classes moderately frequently, but the real exotica are mind-numbingly common.

7 June 2010

[quote Straight Six Man]

[quote moe360][quote chandrew][quote moe360]R class very rare sight only ever seen 2 or 3 in my lifetime[/quote] They're quite common here, especially among taxi drivers who seem to be moving to them from the S class.[/quote]

Are you meaning in Germany ?

[/quote]

In my part of Southern England, they're rarer than Astons and Ferraris - but then I see those pretty much every day. Today, a V8V, a pair of DB9s, a DBS and an F430. I do see R-classes moderately frequently, but the real exotica are mind-numbingly common.

[/quote]

You guys must live in some posh areas down south very rare we see any Aston, Ferraris, bentleys etc up North, would not mind seeing a few more exotica up north

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