Used buyer's guide: Mercedes R-Class

The R-Class MPV is a steal second-hand, but it is expensive to run

The R-Class was conceived with the US market in mind, so it was inevitable that something would get lost in translation to Europe. Yet despite the fact it proved such a slow seller, the R-Class is still well worth a closer look if you’re after a spacious estate or people carrier that’s unusual, luxurious, fast and refined – and which also offers seating for up to seven.

Crossovers that combine elements from different types of cars are nothing new, but the Mercedes R-Class took this concept to extremes.

In fact, with MPV seating capacity, 4x4 capability, estate practicality and limousine-like luxury, it’s no wonder Mercedes had big hopes for this model.

But high purchase prices, awkward styling and the car’s size put buyers off, guaranteeing greater exclusivity than Mercedes would have liked. Now, you can buy one for less than £10,000.

So, while running costs are high, if you’re after a spacious, versatile and posh people carrier, there’s nothing else quite like it.

History

The R-Class arrived in the UK in spring 2006. Buyers could choose one of two petrol models – the 272bhp V6 R350 or the 306bhp V8 R500 – plus an R320 CDI with a 224bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel.

Within a few months, the crazy 507bhp R63 AMG had arrived. There was also a more sensible R280 CDI (190bhp V6 diesel) and a more powerful 388bhp V8 for the R500. By summer 2009, the R280 CDI had become the R300 CDI, and in September 2010 the R-Class was facelifted, getting a new nose and extra equipment.

From this point on, engine options were pared back to only the R300 CDI and new 265bhp R350 CDI V6 turbodiesels.

Alternatives

Upmarket people carriers are rare, but posh estates and SUVs are plentiful. If you must have at least six seats, your best bet is to opt for a 4x4 like the seven-seat Land Rover Discovery.

The BMW X5 can also seat seven – although the third-row seats are cramped – plus, it’s superb to drive and well built. The Audi Q7 and Mercedes GL are beautifully built seven-seat SUVs, too. They’re no longer than an R-Class, but they’re even thirstier, thanks to raised ride heights and bluff noses.

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