By KBB.com Editors
Is it an SUV? Is it a really large station wagon? Is it, well, a minivan? Though the exterior styling of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz R-Class remains as hard to define today as when it first appeared, this is a vehicle better judged from the inside out. If you find what you desire on the inside, the exterior can be easily justified. Dubbed a "sports tourer," Mercedes believes the R-Class has what upscale families need: Luxury, space, utility and performance. The R-Class includes a seven-speed automatic transmission, an all-wheel-drive option and a choice of gasoline or diesel engines. Other stand-out attributes include its remarkably spacious and feature-rich seating for six people and so much cargo space it bests the huge Cadillac Escalade.You'll Like This Car If...
If your need for utility is equal to your need for luxury and the thought of driving a vehicle that may be perceived (well, perhaps) as a modern day station wagon doesn't bother you, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is a vehicle worthy of consideration.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you don't require spacious seating for at least four people on a regular basis with plenty of additional cargo, the R-Class is too much car for you. It's big!What's New for 2009
The new R320 BlueTEC diesel replaces last year's CDI model and will be available for purchase in all 50 states. Additional changes for 2009 include making the PRE-SAFE preventative occupant safety system and a power sunroof standard on all models. New options include a class II trailer hitch and upgraded audio with available SIRIUS Real-Time Traffic and Voice Control.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 3.5-liter V6 powering the R350 partnered with Mercedes' full-time all-wheel-drive system and seven-speed automatic transmission creates a pleasant, but not spirited driving experience. The R320 BlueTEC actually feels quicker, no surprise given its abundance of low-end torque. We found that even on winding roads, the R-Class smoothly carved through the turns and the seven-speed transmission delivered seamless shifts, always finding just the right gear when needed. Like many Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the R-Class has both Sport and Comfort suspension settings, and we found the Sport setting quite pleasing and agile. Stopping this heavy vehicle is also no problem with its 13.8-inch front brake rotors and standard ABS and Brake Assist features. The R-Class also has an excellent turning ratio, making it even easier to maneuver than many SUVs.Favorite Features
Second-Row "Captain's Chair" Seating
We are quite fond of the second-row seat comfort and space. This is one car that makes the back-seat riders as lucky as those in the front.
It's nearly six feet of glass, making the back-seat passengers feel much less "trapped" than in any other vehicle we know.
The interior of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz R-Class feels more like a family room than a car. Especially when outfitted with the available panoramic sunroof that spans nearly the entire length of the vehicle, the interior space of the R-Class looks and feels downright cavernous. The base vehicle is loaded with eight-way power front seats, bird's-eye maple interior trim and fold-flat second and third-row seats. The R-Class' second row of seats features items usually found only in the first row: Individual seat adjustments, reading lights, armrests, air vents, cup holders, middle console and available iPod integration or dual-screen DVD player.Exterior
The R-Class's windshield and hood are raked steeply, kind of like a minivan. There is method to this van-like madness however – it improves the aerodynamics of this heavy, 4,845-pound vehicle. The profile is long and sloping, with a slightly "chopped-top" retro appearance, somewhat reminiscent of the now-defunct Dodge Magnum wagon. As you see the vehicle coming down the road, you may think it's a minivan or an SUV, but there's one thing of which you will have no doubt: With its prominent grille and nameplate branding you'll know it's a Mercedes-Benz.Notable Standard Equipment
Key standard equipment includes the seven-speed automatic transmission, electronic traction system, 4MATIC all-wheel drive, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, power sunroof, dual-zone climate control and cruise control. For safety, Mercedes-Benz supplies each R-Class trim with anti-lock brakes (ABS), ESP stability control, a rollover sensor, front door-mounted and side-curtain airbags for each of the three rows, seatbelt pretensioners with belt-force limiters, tire-pressure monitoring system and the PRE-SAFE system. Other standard luxury equipment includes eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar support, easy fold-down second- and third-row seats, in-dash six-disc CD changer, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, eight-speaker audio system with auxiliary audio input and a retractable cargo cover.Notable Optional Equipment
Options abound on the R-Class. A Sport Package includes 19-inch wheels and blue-tinted glass. Other options include bi-xenon curve-illuminating headlights, harman/kardon Logic 7 audio system, rear-seat entertainment system with dual eight-inch LCD screens, power panoramic sunroof, power rear-quarter windows, Keyless Go starting system, power liftgate, a power passenger seat with power lumbar, 40 gigabyte hard drive navigation system, multi-contour heated front seats, Distronic radar-based cruise control, rear sunshade, heated second-row seats, auto dimming mirrors, a Class II trailer hitch, wood-and-leather multi-function steering wheel and iPod integration kit.Under the Hood
The R350's V6 is generally adequate but might be less spirited dealing with a loaded vehicle and a steep uphill climb. If you're not deterred by the thought of owning a diesel, the R320 BlueTEC's turbocharged V6 diesel engine provides great acceleration and superior fuel economy.
268 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2400-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:) 15/19
3.0-liter V6 Turbodiesel
210 horsepower @ 3800 rpm
398 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1600-2400
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz R350's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $48,000, while the diesel-powered R320 BlueTEC starts closer to $50,000 and, when fully loaded, tops out around $65,000. Both versions are well-equipped. Fair Purchase Prices that represent prices consumers are actually paying can differ substantially, so click on Fair Purchase Prices to compare. Since there are really no other vehicles in this segment and class, you might want to compare the R-Class price to a large SUV like the Lexus GX 470, which comes with a V8 only and starts around $49,000. As for resale, the R-Class does not hold up as well as its stable mates the M-Class and GL-Class, although the diesel version does do better than its gasoline counterpart.