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TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Mercedes-Benz R-Class in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's crossover experts researched available road tests on the new Mercedes-Benz R-Class to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.
Since the introduction of the R-Class in 2006, Mercedes-Benz has sternly referred to the vehicle as a Sport Tourer SUV. The reasoning behind this description is that the R-Class shares many components with the M-Class SUV, and it’s manufactured at the same facility as the M- and GL-Class SUVs. But no matter how you refer to the R-Class, one thing’s certain: It is a vehicle that transports its passengers to and fro better than any other in its segment.
Joining the gasoline-powered R350 for 2009 is the new R320 model featuring the German manufacturer’s BlueTEC clean diesel engine. The BlueTEC engine, in conjunction with the new AdBlue exhaust treatment system, meets emission standards in all 50 states. The BlueTEC engine also gets a remarkable 20 to 30 percent better fuel economy than its gas-powered counterpart and, with 398 pound-feet of torque, creates enough pulling power that Mercedes made optional a 3,500-pound Class II trailer hitch. The turbocharged 3.0-liter direct-injected diesel produces 215 horsepower, while the 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 kicks up 268 horsepower. A seven-speed automatic transmission with TouchShift capability backs both engines.
The 2009 R320 BlueTEC diesel can run upward of 500 miles on a tank, securely devouring the 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 2009 Mercedes-Benz R-Class roofline, while practical, isn't beautiful. The low, aerodynamic nose is also graceless and too much like lesser minivans, while the Mercedes-Benz grille is forced to fit between large headlight units.
The good news is that when you're behind the wheel or inside, you can't look at the exterior. Inside, the R-Class is supremely comfortable. Full-size seats are arranged in a 2+2+2 fashion. Huge rear doors and simple-to-operate second-row seats allow easy access to the third row. However, because of their length, those rear doors are also difficult to open in crowded parking lots, even in generous spaces.
PRE-SAFE, a safety system that anticipates collisions before they happen, is now a standard feature on R-Class models. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are included, as is stability control. Side-curtain airbags are included and span all three seating rows; a rollover sensor can also deploy the seatbelt tensioners and the curtain airbags if the vehicle senses that a rollover is about to occur.
The 2009 R-Class is, of course, very well equipped for its price. The base rear-wheel-drive R350 is the most affordable R-Class, starting in the low-$40,000 range.
Both 2009 R-Class models receive redesigned instrument clusters with a new-for-2009 COMAND system featuring a large 6.5-inch display screen, a standard in-dash, six-disc CD/DVD changer, and a Bluetooth interface.