The Mercedes R Class has a bit of an identity crisis. It can’t decide if it’s more of a minivan or a station wagon or a crossover vehicle. It has the overall look of a minivan, though it has regular doors in the rear, rather than the sliders that would be more common in a minivan. Still, Mercedes calls it a crossover. While not as roomy as a minivan, it can still carry 6 or 7 passengers all the while eschewing the standard stigma of what is a minivan. The R class rides on the same platform as the M and GL classes, but has a larger wheelbase than either of them.

The R class comes in two trim levels, the R350 bluetec and the R350. Both come with all-wheel drive and a 7 speed automatic transmission. They both carry 6 people, but can carry 7 with the applicable option. The R350 Bluetec is powered by a 210 Hp 3.0 Liter V-6 Turbo Diesel. The R350 is propelled by a 3.6 liter, 268 HP V-6. The R series can tow 5200 lbs.

Bodystyles: Minivan
Engines: 3.0L V-6, 3.5L V-6
Transmissions: 7-speed automatic
Models: R350 4Matic, R350 BlueTEC 4Matic

The 2011 model year brings a restyle that gives the R-Class more crossover-like looks. There’s a more rugged-looking grille, restyled hood, fenders, side mirrors, new headlights, and LED taillights. Inside, there is new wood trim, new seat stitching, a 3-D instrument cluster, and “saddle” head restraints. Daytime running lights and blind spot assist are now available. The five-spoke 19-inch wheels are a new design.

One look at the R-Class, and the first thought is “minivan.” That aside, this is probably the coolest-looking minivan on the market, with sleek lines and modern Mercedes styling. It’s half an inch longer than a Town & Country.

There is no other minivan cabin as attractive or as luxurious as the R-Class. Bird’s eye maple and leather, and the availability of heated seats and steering wheel, rear-seat entertainment, and a panorama sunroof add even more panache.

Mercedes estimates that with the 3.5-liter equipped model will move to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, with the diesel getting there about a half second later. While the diesel’s a bit slower, its big torque number makes it feel quicker than it is, and it’s much more fuel efficient than the base model. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the driving dynamics of a Mercedes sedan, and the suspension is soft. There also isn’t enough steering feel.

Driver and front passenger front airbags are standard, along with second- and third-row side impact airbags and three-row window curtain bags. Traction control, stability control, rollover sensor, and ABS with brake assist are all standard.

R350 4Matic: 15 mpg city/19 mpg highway
R350 BlueTEC 4Matic: 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway

  • Sleek styling
  • Beautiful cabin
  • Fuel-sipping, quiet diesel
  • Space for 85 cubic feet of gear
  • Too heavy for gas V-6
  • Priciest minivan ever
  • No optional V-8

The upscale minivan

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  • Toyota Sienna
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Chrysler Town & Country

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