- Supreme comfort
- Uncompromised safety
- Available diesel engine
- Effortless highway cruiser
- Ungainly styling
- Slow steering
- Ultra-long rear doors
If you seek a supremely comfortable people hauler but eschew traditional station wagons, minivans, and SUVs, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class may be for you.
The Mercedes-Benz R-Class has been a curiosity since its 2006 introduction. To many, it was clearly a station wagon. To others, it was a minivan variant. At its introduction, Mercedes-Benz sternly referred to its product as a segment-creating Sport Tourer SUV. The reasoning was that back then, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class, as it still does today, shared many components with the M-Class SUV. The 2008 R-Class is also manufactured at the same facility as the M- and GL-Class SUVs.
It doesn't matter what you call the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class. What does matter is how this people hauler performs its duties. It is the opinion of some editors from TheCarConnection.com that there might not be a better way to move six people from point A to point B than the 2008 R-Class.
Comfortable, full-size seats are arranged in a 2+2+2 fashion. Huge rear doors and simple-to-operate second-row seats make access to the third row easy. However, because of their length, those rear doors are also difficult to open in crowded parking lots.
If you own a 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class, you won't have any trouble finding your car in said parking lot. However, you may have a hard time looking at it. Its roofline, while practical, isn't beautiful. The low, aerodynamic nose is also graceless, and the Mercedes-Benz grille is forced to fit between large headlight units.
The good news is that when you're behind the wheel, you can't look at the exterior. Driving the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is a sedate, calm, and quiet pleasure. The 2008 R320 diesel is a long-distance marathoner: It can run upward of 500 miles on a tank, securely devouring interstate at impressive rates in virtually any weather. (Should you encounter many inches of snow, the air suspension is capable of lifting the body to provide additional ground clearance.) The R-Class doesn't like to be rushed, though. Its 5,000-pound curb weight and slow steering don't encourage hooliganistic driving.
The expensive V-8-powered R63 AMG and R500 models have been dropped for 2008. Sales efforts now focus on reasonably priced V-6-powered gasoline and diesel 2008 R-Class models. The base rear-wheel-drive R350 is the most affordable R-Class, starting in the low-$40,000 range.
A new seven-speed automatic transmission with TouchShift capability backs both engines. The 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 produces 268 horsepower, while the turbocharged 3.0-liter direct-injected diesel produces better performance from its 215 horsepower. The diesel difference is the engine's torque, which is a V-8-like 398 pound-feet.
As one would expect from a Mercedes-Benz, the 2008 R-Class is very well equipped. Beyond expected convenience, leather-covered everything, and luxury features (check out the available gigantic sunroof), four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are included, as is stability control. Side-curtain airbags are included and span all three seating rows—and a rollover sensor can deploy the seatbelt tensioners and the curtain airbags if the vehicle senses that a rollover is about to occur.
Another alternative is the Cadillac Escalade. While flashier than the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class, these vehicles run close to parallel in terms of luxury. The Escalade's passenger accommodations are also top-flight, but now that all R-Class models are V-6 powered, the Escalade easily outmuscles the Benz.