Mercedes-Benz R-Class History
2006 Mercedes-Benz R-ClassEnlarge Photo
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Part station wagon, part crossover utility vehicle, and part minivan (although Mercedes-Benz has never wanted to see it this way), the R-Class covers a lot of ground in appealing to large families. In reality, its layout is closer to that of an especially roomy minivan than anything else, just with rear hinged doors instead of sliding ones. With its swoopy shape and curvier profile than most people-movers—at least at the time when it was first introduced—the R-Class doesn’t completely put function over form, however.
The R-Class’s sheer passenger and cargo capacity, along with its excellent long-distance highway capability, are its strengths. The standard seating configuration, with seating for three in the second row and two in the third row, allows enough reasonable space for six adults. Seven-passenger seating, with a bench at the far back for three, is optional. Inside, the R-Class is as luxurious, quiet, and comfortable as you would expect from any of the larger Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The adjustable air suspension is the way to go for those who plan to normally carry heavy loads, or even tow with their R.
The R-Class made its debut for 2006, with R350 and R500 models powered by V-6 and V-8 gasoline engines, respectively. A high-performance R63 AMG model, with a 503-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8, was introduced for 2007 and gave the R-Class much quicker acceleration and better handling. While a diesel model had been offered on a limited basis before, Mercedes-Benz brought out an R320 Bluetec for 2009, with a 50-state diesel V-6 that offered better fuel-efficiency while being as quick, if not quicker, than the R350.
Because the R-Class and Chrysler Pacifica were introduced within a year or so of each other, and Daimler-Benz was Chrysler’s parent company at the time, there was some confusion over whether the two vehicles are related; they’re not at all.
The downside of the R-Class is that it’s huge; at more than 200 inches long, the R-Class isn’t a vehicle that you’re going to be happy parallel-parking in the city on a regular basis. Rearward visibility, if you don’t go by the camera system, isn’t great, and the long, wide-opening rear doors, which are very useful in gaining access to the third row, become a liability in tight parking lots.
For 2011, Mercedes-Benz gave the R-Class a modest refresh that sharpened its look and took it somewhat more in the direction of utility vehicles. Powertrains remained a 210-hp, 3.2-liter turbo-diesel V-6, in the R350 BlueTec (our preference), or a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, in the R350.
Due to slow sales, Mercedes-Benz decided to discontinue the R-Class in the U.S. after the 2012 model year, although it will still be built in Alabama for other markets.
2009 Mercedes-Benz R ClassEnlarge Photo