Mercedes R-class review

Our Rating: 
2006 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Mercedes R-Class can carry seven people in spacious limousine-style luxury

Huge interior, distinctive looks, smooth engines
Wallowy handling, not cheap, fuel economy

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The Mercedes R-Class is a groundbreaking car. It's a luxury people carrier which is the same length as an S-Class, has the space and practicality of an SUV with the premium badge and feel of a Range Rover or BMW X5 – and it was designed to tempt buyers away from all of them. There are five and seven-seat layouts available, while standard and long wheelbases are offered, depending on whether you go for the R300 CDI or R350 CDI.

Our choice: Mercedes R350 L CDI

Engines, performance and drive


Underneath the radical skin of the R-Class lies the chassis from the M-Class off-roader. The R 3000 CDI comes in rear-wheel-drive guise but 4MATIC four-wheel-drive is available on the long-wheelbase R 350L CDI. This gives it a feeling of security, particularly in bad weather, while the R-Class also rides well, especially with the optional air-suspension set-up. It’s certainly more suited to such cruising than cornering, where its weight and girth start to have a negative effect. Even with air suspension switched to Sport mode, the big Merc wallows noticeably around tight bends, making the manufacturer’s claims that it has a sporting estate feel seem unrealistic. The V6 diesels are smooth and refined, too.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


A shake-up of the R-Class range has seen the line-up pared back to just two models, the R300 CDI and R350 L CDI. Both cars get diesel power, and the engines have been updated to improve efficiency, but the R-Class is still quite thirsty, because the engines have to haul the car's bulk around. The smaller 190bhp diesel returns 37.2mpg, while the 265bhp engine delivers 33.2mpg. Add in emissions of 199g/km and 223g/km, and running costs are going to be steep.

Interior, design and technology


What's immediately obvious about the Mercedes R-Class is that it's simply huge. The long-wheelbase version is as long as an S-Class, but the high roofline and one-box shape mean the R-Class looks far bulkier than Merc's limo. Up front is Merc's latest family face, but you couldn't exactly call the R-Class pretty. As for interior quality, everything has the feel and build you would expect from a car in its price range, and there's masses of space, too.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


The R-Class’ finest attribute is its spacious interior. It will comfortably swallow up to seven full-sized adults and some of their possessions – while travel five-up and there’s a gigantic 869-litre boot to load with luggage. And in the long-wheelbase version, that’s stretched to a mammoth 1,048 litres! This is a truly vast machine inside. It’s worth noting, though, that access to the rear is easier in the long-wheelbase version.

Reliability and Safety


So few Mercedes R-Class models are sold that it's hard to paint a picture of how reliable the big people carrier is. You can be sure that servicing, while being expensive, will be done professionally at Mercedes dealers. The R-Class comes with all of the same safety gear you'll find in an S-Class, with a host of airbags, active head restraints, and a hi-tech electronic stability control system all fitted as standard.

Last updated: 5 May, 2012