Though Mercedes describes the 2010 Mercedes-Benz R-Class as a "crossover," the company's definition of that term would seem to be a bit different than everyone else's. The R-Class is more part minivan, part station wagon and part luxury crossover. Even so, for those looking for a large luxury-badged family vehicle that's capable of seating six people in comfort, this Mercedes could fill the bill.
At 203 inches long, the R-Class extends past regular crossovers like the Audi Q7 or BMW X5. All that length pays dividends inside. Both second- and third-row passengers have more than adequate room to stretch out. There's also an optional seventh seat, though adults will really only find it comfortable on short trips. As for power, Mercedes used to offer V8 power in the R-Class, but currently there are just two V6s. The clean-diesel V6 is our preferred choice thanks to its superior power and fuel economy.
Overall, the big, comfortable and luxurious 2010 R-Class is a legitimate choice for family transport. Yet we think most people would be happier with other choices. The related Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT might not be as prestigious, but both offer a powerful turbocharged engine and the Flex has more third-row seat room. Other choices include Mercedes' own G-Class or even a top minivan like the Honda Odyssey. But if you absolutely must have a three-pointed star on your hood and no-compromises luxury in your cabin, the R-Class will certainly serve you well.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is a minivan-like vehicle with conventional rear doors that seats six people standard with a seven-passenger stand-alone option. There are two available models that correspond to engine choice -- R350 4Matic and R350 Bluetec -- but both offer virtually identical equipment.
Standard items include 19-inch wheels, tinted rear glass, automatic wipers, automatic headlights, foglamps, a sunroof, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power driver seat (includes lumbar adjustment), MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery, Bluetooth, the COMAND electronics interface, and an eight-speaker stereo with auxiliary audio jack and six-CD/DVD changer.
The Premium I package adds a power liftgate, power-folding exterior mirrors, auto-dimming driver and interior mirrors, a rearview camera, a power steering column, driver memory functions, a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic updates, HD radio, satellite radio, iPod interface and digital music storage. The Premium II package gets you everything from Premium I plus keyless ignition/entry and a Harman Kardon premium surround-sound system.
Stand-alone options include a second-row bench seat, parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, three-zone climate control and a rear entertainment system. Leather upholstery is not available on the R-Class. The R350 4Matic can be equipped with a Sport Appearance package that includes 20-inch AMG wheels, dark tinted taillamps and blue-tinted front glass.
Powertrains and Performance:
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz R350 4Matic features a 3.5-liter V6 good for 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic is standard and 4Matic indicates it has all-wheel drive. Mercedes estimates a 0-60 time of 8.0 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined -- a bit less than comparable crossovers.
The 2010 R350 Bluetec features a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that utilizes Mercedes-Benz's Bluetec clean-diesel technology. It produces 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The seven-speed auto and 4Matic all-wheel drive are standard as well. Mercedes estimates a 0-60 time of 8.2 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is a much better 18/24/20 mpg.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz R-Class comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, active front head restraints, front- and second-row side airbags and side curtain airbags for all three rows. Mercedes' new "mbrace" emergency telematics system (it replaces TeleAid) is also standard. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the R-Class achieved the highest rating of "Good" for frontal-offset and side crash protection.
Interior Design and Special Features:
The R-Class' cabin certainly warrants its Mercedes badge, with high-quality construction and materials. However, the cabin controls are dominated by Benz's previous-generation COMAND electronics interface, which features a less convenient four-way directional button pad (like a video game controller) rather than the new multipurpose knob found in the newer GLK-Class and others.
There are other downsides. The sliding doors of a minivan may not be cool, but the R-Class' elongated rear doors can be cumbersome in parking lots. And while the six-person configuration offers plenty of room for all, the optional seven-passenger bench encroaches upon third-row knee room and its middle position is too narrow for adult frames. With the second- and third-row seats folded forward, the R-Class can hold 85 cubic feet of cargo -- less than a minivan for sure, but on par with most other luxury crossovers.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is big and feels it. But its ride quality is comfortable and its high-speed stability is exemplary. Throw in appropriately subdued noise levels and you've got all the ingredients of a world-class long-distance cruiser. However, maneuvering on tight streets and parking can be a chore because of its size, so the optional parking sensors and rearview camera are certainly recommended. As for engine choice, we'd go with the Bluetec since its diesel engine is stronger at low speeds around town and returns much better fuel economy.