Seven-seat crossover vehicles are an eclectic bunch. Clearly the Mercedes-Benz R-Class has shown you can have looks and practicality…let’s just say some others in the segment prioritize functionality over appearance.
Sure it doesn’t have the glamour of the S-Class or the glitz of the SLS, but for families, the Mercedes-Benz R-Class is the aspirational leader of the crossover segment…just as Mercedes-Benz vehicles should always be.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Overview
Mercedes-Benz R-Class is the prestige/luxury seven-seat ‘crossover’ against which all others are measured. It combines coupe-like styling with real interior practicality and that hallmark Mercedes-Benz luxury and quality.
For 2011 some significant changes to the R-Class lineup: the new range is exclusively powered by the excellent 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel and is all-wheel-drive. In the superseded lineup, the entry-level R280 CDI was rear-wheel-drive and the petrol engine choice included both V6 and V8.
Car Showroom tested both the standard R300 CDI ($92,200) and another fitted with the comprehensive AMG Sports Package ($99,200) which includes adjustable air suspension. By any measure the Mercedes-Benz R-Class is a polished performer – ideal for families.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Engine
In refining the engine lineup for the 2011 R-Class, Mercedes-Benz Australia simply looked at which of the current models were selling and the message was clear – a diesel-only strategy moving forward was the answer. There simply wasn’t much demand for petrol-engined R-Class models.
So it’s the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel with 140kW of power and 440Nm of torque. Drive is to all four wheels via Mercedes-Benz’ 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system.
While not crushingly powerful, this is a nicely balanced package with excellent throttle response and torque across all engine speeds.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Interior
The combination of beautiful materials, excellent design and clever details – plus the hallmark Mercedes-Benz quality wherever you look – make the R-Class one of the automotive interiors of our time.
Climb inside and the first impressions are the beautiful ARTICO man-made leather (Nappa leather in the AMG optional kit) and soft-touch dashboard etc. Electric seat adjustment for the front seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel delivers a perfect driving position – it’s almost sporty and masks the sheer size of the R-Class (overall length 4922mm, kerb weight 2100kgs).
In front are the usual, classic-looking Mercedes-Benz instruments and to the left, high on the center dashboard is the satellite navigation/audio screen. The R-Class uses the steering column-mounted finger-touch gear-selector, which frees the center console design to do a better job of storage etc.
Audio is the ‘Benz COMAND APS system for CDs or DVDs with six-disc storage, a 4GB memory and LINGUATRONIC voice-control.
Second row passengers (three-person capacity) have good legroom and the high-mounted seat affords excellent visibility, while the third row (for two people) is typical Mercedes-Benz engineering in its simple operations for storage and folding. Third row passengers enjoy their own air-conditioning vents.
Even with the third seat in place, there is good luggage space, but fold everything and the Mercedes-Benz R-Class can handle an enormous 1950 litres of cargo.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Exterior & Styling
Hard to illustrate in photographs, but the totally revised front end styling of the latest 2011 Mercedes-Benz R-Class has delivered a much more muscly/performance car look. This comes from a new bonnet with a sharper front edge and pronounced contours, front fenders, grille, fascia, headlights and bumpers.
Bi-xenon headlights with a chrome insert and LED Daytime Running Lights also look the part.
At the rear are new bumpers, more contours, LED/fibre optic taillights and more horizontal structures.
Of course, it is the coupe-like lines of the side windows, which have always distinguished the Mercedes-Benz R-Class from other seven seaters, and naturally these have not changed.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class On The Road
At launch, Mercedes-Benz only had short wheelbase versions of the R-Class and we started the day at the top with an R 300 CDI with the $7,000 AMG Sports Package. Included in the extra AMG kit were the AMG steering wheel with shift paddles, sports seats in Nappa leather plus Nappa leather interior trim and 21-inch alloy wheels with AIRMATIC adjustable suspension.
We hustled the AMG R-Class on some back roads from Melbourne Airport down to the Surf Coast and were astounded by its levels of grip and poise on some slippery twisty stuff. And on a high-speed straight section, a couple of bad bumps would have seen some comparable vehicles off the road, but the air suspension of the R-Class kept us safe.
And the standard R 300CDI was just as impressive with the strong performance of the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel providing handy response and refined operation at all speeds.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Challenges
We know the customers have spoken and there has been little interest in the petrol versions of the R-Class, but us and our children will mourn the loss of the V8-petrol R500 – now that was a wagon that kept the family and their petrol-head dad very happy.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Verdict
Brilliant – absolutely brilliant. Until we saw this new model it wouldn’t have occurred to us that there was much wrong with the looks of the superseded Mercedes-Benz R –Class, but the new one is a knockout.
The AMG-equipped R-Class was one of the best drives we’ve had all year.
Performance, luxury and practicality? Yes, you can have it all in the Mercedes-Benz R-Class.
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Competition
There is no comparable seven-seater to match the level of luxury equipment, sophistication and price tag of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class. If you can’t stretch to the $90-odd-thousand of the R-Class, both the Chrysler Grand Voyager and Audi Q7 are excellent vehicles (but clearly not in the rarified air of the R-Class).
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Likes:
Great looks; stunning interior; thoughtful practicality for families; handy diesel; brilliant driving dynamics
Mercedes-Benz R-Class Dislikes:
We would still like a petrol version