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  • Smooth drivetrain; rides well; seven seats now standard; plenty of space for people and cargo
  • Interior design looks a generation behind other current Mercedes models; not that exciting to drive; polarising styling

7 / 10

2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review

Another successor to the Mercedes-Benz R-Class looks in doubt with the current model being discontinued in the crucial US market, and the range in Australia has been simplified to just two models in recent times.

Pricing starts at $94,400 for a model that isn’t easy to categorise.

Unlike the hordes of high-riding 4WD ‘trucks’ that litter our suburban roads without ever venturing across so much as a dirt driveway, the R-Class is a cut or two above that lot. This is the proper definition of a “Sports Utility Vehicle”; with loads of space, superb quality and comfort, and one of the best rides in the people-moving business.

If you’re not towing a boat or horse float, and you aren’t driving around Australia in the wet season, I question the need to haul around a 4X4 gargantuan off-roader to and from the shopping mall each day. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Of course, if you’re worried about how you might fare driving up to the snowfields from Sydney or Melbourne, don’t be; the R300 CDI is equipped with the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system as part of the model’s extensive standard equipment inventory.

Mercedes-Benz launched significant update of the R-Class in Australia in late 2010, and while it looked similar to the previous model, from the A-pillar forward it was all new.

2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review

No longer are there infinite variations of the same model on offer. This time around, the choice is easy, as long as it’s an R 300 CDI in short wheel base form. A long wheel base version will follow in 2011, for those families or businesses that need even more room.

It might not be the most powerful engine in the Benz line-up, but believe me, armed with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine producing 140kW and 440Nm of torque, there’s plenty on tap whenever you need it. Smooth as silk, too, with the 7G-TRONIC 7-speed auto transmission putting the power down, effortlessly.

That said, as smooth and as refined as this powertrain surely is though, you can still hear a faint sound of diesel clatter under initial load. It’s not something you’re aware of after a while, though, as there is lot of insulation under the bonnet and through the firewall for minimising noise inside the R-Class cabin.

At almost five metres long and near enough to two metres wide, this is a substantial vehicle. Open the tailgate and there’s a massive expanse of loading space back there, especially when both second and third row seats are folded flat.

You see, that’s the big advantage of the R-Class. Seven seats as standard, and that still leaves more than enough space for the weekly grocery shop.

Fold the two individual seats that make up the third row seating, and you could probably get two racing bikes back there as well as a heap of other gear. Lower both rear seat rows, and you could move house.

2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review

If however, you don’t want the seven seats, you can opt for a four, or six-seat configuration, where each passenger gets their own seat along with plenty more luggage room and individual space.

Styling wise, its coupe-like lines makes the R-Class look sportier than most of the conventional SUVs roaming our streets. The front end is more pronounced than the previous model, more aggressive and appealing too with the compulsory (at least stylistically) LED daytime driving lights and a deeper front grille space.

Ingress and egress is also a lot easier than in the fleet of high-riding luxury SUVs, which means it’s less tiring for older folks when climbing in and out the car frequently. It’s also a breeze with kids too, especially if you’ve got toddlers in baby seats or boosters.

You’ll also notice a few changes at the rear of the R-Class, in the form of a new bumper design, LED taillights with fibre optic technology, and a rear diffuser with integrated exhaust tips. From some angles, it looks more like a crossover estate than a bona fide SUV Tourer.

I particularly like the 21-inch AMG alloys fitted to this test car, but no need to mourn over the standard fit 20-inch 5-spoke wheels, as they set the car off nicely.

Inside, it’s all Mercedes-Benz luxury and feel, although, the car we are test driving is fitted with the optional AMG Sports Package, which features some very tasty sports seats in black Nappa (soft as) leather, in addition to an AMG sports steering wheel with shift paddles, and the brilliant AIRMATIC air suspension system, with adaptive damping.

2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review

It feels special sitting inside the R-Class cabin, every bit as lush as the high-end cars in the Mercedes-Benz fleet.

There’s an exhaustive list of standard fit creature comforts too including COMAND APS (HDD SatNav, reversing camera, 4GB HDD music register with SD card slot and LINGUATRONIC voice control system) and THERMATIC automatic climate control to name but a few of these.

For iPhone/iPod users not only is there the UCI Media interface connection, but you also get USB and auxiliary ports, including the cables.

Safety is always high on the agenda at Mercedes-Benz, always has been, and the R 300 CDI gets the full suite of active and passive safety gear. Apart from permanent all-wheel drive and Acceleration Skid Control (ASR), the Electronic Traction System comes with automatic brake control for negotiating steep descents, and the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) includes Trailer Stability Assist.

Also worthy of mention is NECK-PRO active head restraints for the front seats and the PRE-SAFE accident anticipatory occupant protection system with eight airbags.

Seemingly insignificant to most drivers, but vitally important, is the brake pad wear indicator, which could save you the cost of a set of rotors, and a tyre pressure loss warning system, which is extremely useful with low profile tyres.

2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review

The ride quality at high speed on some decent stretches of less than average quality roads is superb. There are bumps down here in rural Victoria that should be driven at well under the 100km/h speed limit in most vehicles, but the R-Class is tracking as straight as a dye, while at the same time, offering a magic carpet ride.

I’m surprised at how high you sit in the R-Class, given its car like appearance and ride height. From behind the wheel, there’s commanding view of the road, but at the same time, the car’s handling and dynamics is more in keeping with a sporty sedan than a large SUV weighing 2100 kilograms.

Mercedes-Benz has built over 11 million automatic transmissions in the last 40 years, so you can believe me when I tell you that this 7G-TRONIC is about as good as it gets. Gearshifts up or down the 7-speed range are barely perceptible, while ratios are well spaced and allow for rapid acceleration at any point on the rev range.

High praise for the very direct hydraulic rack and pinion steering too, as we took the car down some steep twisty sections of road, and the big R-Class felt like a much smaller vehicle. The steering weight through the tiller is near perfect for this style of car and there’s little or no body roll, even in the tighter bends.

Published fuel consumption figures are 9.3L/100km combined with CO2 emissions at 246g/km, which for a vehicle of this size and weight is commendable.

2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review

At $92,200 the Mercedes-Benz R-Class offers a lot of car for the money, especially when compared with similar priced and specced SUVs from the likes of Audi, BMW, Lexus and Land Rover. Even more appealing is the level of standard kit on board, which means you won’t go wanting for anything you would expect in a car in this class.

Standard equipment highlights for MY2010 R 300 CDI SWB:
• 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive
• 20-inch 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels
• Automatically dimming interior and driver’s side exterior mirrors
• Bi-Xenon headlamps (darkened) with LED daytime driving lights
• Blue-tinted thermal insulation glass all round
• Burr Walnut wood trim elements
• Chrome-look beltline trim strips, rub strip with chrome insert
• COMAND APS including Reversing Camera
• Dark tinted glass for rear windows back from B-pillar
• EASY-PACK tailgate
• Electrically folding exterior mirrors
• Electric rear vent windows for 3rd row seats
• Electronic Traction System incl. automatic brake control for downhill gradients
• Metallic paint

R 300 CDI 4MATIC Technical features
Engine and performance
Cylinder arrangement/number V6
Displacement (cc) 2987
Rated output (kW at rpm) 140/4000
Rated torque (Nm at rpm) 440/1400 – 2800
Compression ratio 17.7:1
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s) 9.8
Maximum speed (km/h) 210

2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review

Power transmission
Drive system Permanent all-wheel drive
Transmission 7G-TRONIC
Ratios 4.38/2.86/1.92/1.37/1.00/0.82/0.73
Rev 3.42
Final drive ratio 2.33

Fuel, emissions & insurance category
Tank capacity/incl. reserve (l): 80/13.0
Fuel consumption urban (l/100 km): 12.2
Fuel consumption extra-urban (l/100 km): 7.6
Fuel consumption combined (l/100 km): 9.3
CO2 emissions combined (g/km): 246
Cd value: 0.31
Emissions class: Euro 4

Suspension & steering
Front axle: Double wishbone
Rear axle: Multi-link
Springs front: Coil springs, single-tube gas-pressure
Springs rear: Airspring, single tube gas pressure
Tyres/wheels: front 265/45 R 20
Tyres/wheels: rear 265/45 R 20
Steering: Rack-and-pinion steering, hydraulic
Front brakes: Disc brakes, internally ventilated
Rear brakes: Disc brakes

Dimensions and weights
Kerb weight/payload (kg): 2100/780
Permissible gross vehicle weight (kg): 2880
Maximum roof load (kg): 100
Luggage capacity (VDA) min/max (l): 550/1950
Perm. trailer load unbraked/braked (kg): 750/2100
Perm. drawbar load (kg): 85
Turning circle (m) 11.8
Overall length (mm): 4922
Overall width (mm): 1922
Overall height at kerb weight (mm): 1674
Track, front (mm): 1661
Track, rear (mm): 1651
Wheelbase (mm): 2980

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2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review
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17 Responses to “2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Review”

  1. Really does look awesome for a van.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. The Mercedes-Benz R-Class and Toyota’s prestigious Tarago are arguably the most attractive designs in the minivan segment.

      The Tarago also has the invaluable benefit of Toyota quality and engineering, whilst only offering negligible less luxury than the more expensive R-Class.

      • There are 2 reasons why.
        1. You love Mercs
        2. You want a Turbo Diesel (despite being an ordinary one).

  2. What would be really cool is if you could press a button at low speeds which would lift the car up to give it a high ground clearance, like a VW toureg. In this instance the car could negotiate difficult terrain or water crossings. It is a 4×4 after all but the clearance and entry/departure angles smother any off-road ability.

  3. Its really more people mover like a Honda Odyssey than a SUV with its 20 inch wheels.

    Also looks like it has a useless Kluger style centre mid row seat.

  4. Hmmmm, this or a BMW 520d wagon for the same price. What a tough decision. [end sarcasm]

  5. What I dont like about these or the new M-class is where the transmission selector is.
    You get somebody who is not used to the car and has been brought up on having the indicator stalk on the right side of the wheel jump in one of these and the next thing they have selected a different gear instead of harmlessly turning on the wipers (as is the normal mistake made when crossing between the two)
    A bad design fault methinks.

    • I’m pretty sure that buyers of the R-Class and M-Class aren’t too worried about the positioning of the drive selector on the stalk. Not only does it free up room in the centre console, but it’s dead easy to use.

      I’m also pretty certain that buyers of the Rolls Royce Ghost (and there’s a wait list) don’t mind the stalk drive selector either, and it’s been that way for as long as I’ve been alive.

      Any other issues?

      • You Recon?
        My mate borrowed my 7 seater Territory Ghia and gave me his ML350 for a week. I could not get used to the transmission stalk and the stupid foot operated park brake with it’s stupid release. The indicator was not a problem as I am used to left or right indicator stalks. In the whole week I turned off the car without selecting park nearly every time. These Merc’s have a nice interior but not worth twice my Territories. Not only that I felt had a target on my back the whole week with people trying to cut me off all week

        • Are you seriously comparing a Territory (good car) with a Mercedes-Benz R-Class?

          Shall we start with the standard spec equipment list, before we move on to the engineering and technology in that vehicle?

    • Igomi Watabi says:

      It utterly sh!ts me when people go on about “wrong-sided” indicator stalks. It’s just not an issue. I’ve owned 7 cars with indicator on the right and 4 with it on the left and it has NEVER been an issue. If you haven’t learnt within a couple of days, perhaps you need to consider your fitness to drive.

      And I would really hope that any car manufacturer would produce a gear selector that owuld need more than the sort of push one would put on an indicator to change gears. The HZ Kingy I learnt to drive in took a reasonable amount of effort to put into Drive.

  6. The Tarago is ugly.
    Furthermore, Toyota’s engineering and quality benefit is questionable. In light of the numerous quality problems world wide, the Tarago’s crash rating and the Tarago’s overall lack of handling finesse.

  7. Is this a detuned variant of the 3.0 V6 TD used in the 300C? I quite like the R?

  8. Mercedes-Benz have sold over 110,000 R-Class vehicles over the last few years. Not bad when you consider the 16 plus classes and number of variants in each class, which customers can choose from.

  9. I can’t help but notice those CR-V like C-pillars. They block more visibility than necessary I think. Is it just some design gimmick or related to safety?

  10. Andrew Paul Burger says:

    You’ll find it’s “straight as a die”, not “dye”. Learn to spell, to stop looking stupid!

Mercedes-Benz R Specs

Car Details
280 CDI (RWD)
251 MY08
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$38,390 - $43,630
Dealer Retail
$38,020 - $45,210
Dealer Trade
$29,500 - $34,900
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
440Nm @  1400rpm
Max. Power
140kW @  4000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
8.9L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:2100  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
255/55 R18
Rear Tyres
255/55 R18
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
Double wishbone, Upper Control Arms, Air Springs
Rear Suspension
4 links, Upper Control Arms, Air Springs
Standard Features
Automatic Air Con / Climate Control, Power front seats, Rear seat enhancement pack
Control & Handling
Auto Stability Control, 18 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program
Cruise Control, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Parking Distance Control, Power Steering
CD with 6 CD Stacker, Radio CD with 8 Speakers
Power Mirrors
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, PreSafe, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Xenon Headlights
Service Interval
12 months /  25,000 kms
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Under Rear Seat
Country of Origin
United States Of America