Mercedes’ take on the MPV wasn’t a big success in six-seat form, so they’ve had a second look at the package. Ian Robertson investigates
Luxury is what Mercedes-Benz is all about and its large people carrier, the R-Class, has that in spades. Using the M-Class off-roaders platform, and built in the same Alabama factory in the good ‘ole US of A, the facelifted R-Class offers more for your money. It combines four-wheel-drive, a long wheelbase and seven seats instead of the six that were standard on the old version. Except the model tested here doesn’t have any of that. This entry level R 280 CDI SE comes equipped with five seats, uses the standard shorter wheelbase and is driven by the rear wheels only. While that recipe doesn’t sound a particularly appealing one, in reality it is a nice, comfortable package, albeit lacking the added practicality of the seven seats.
You may be thinking that the R 280 CDI would be equipped with a 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine, and normally that would be the case, but these days, you can’t trust the badges on BMWs or Mercs in the same way that you could in the past. Both the R 280 and R 320 CDI feature a 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine – in this instance, producing 190bhp. On the road, the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel hussles the car along quite quickly, achieving 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds. This is no mean feat considering the Merc weighs over two tonnes, but while straight line performance is good, it loses out through the bends, where it tends to wallow.
The engine is refined and is mated to the new 7G-tronic automatic gearbox, operated by column shift. This feels strange to start with, but doesn’t take long before it feels like a very natural place to have the selector. As with most of the Mercedes-Benz range, invariably the features that you want most will be resigned to the options list, and this R-Class is no exception. Even so, the R 280 CDI SE comes equipped with cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels, electric heated and folding door mirrors, four electric windows, automatic headlights and wipers, Isofix child seat fixing points and a multifunction leather steering wheel. Our test car was also fitted with leather upholstery and a hands-free kit for a mobile phone.
There’s no doubt that the R-Class is a capable car, that ferries passengers in comfort, but it’s hard to see who will actually put their hands in their pockets and buy one. It lacks the selling features of pricier models with the shorter wheelbase, rear wheel drive, and only having five seats. It’s also pretty expensive, with no other five-seat rivals available at a similarly high price.
ON SALE: Now RANGE STARTS AT: £36,825 for R 280 cdi se (5-seat)
- Price: £36,825
- Engine: 2987cc, 6 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 7-speed automatic
- Max Power: 190bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 325lb ft at 1,400 – 2,800rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 2,100kg
- Combined Consumption: 31.4mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 238g/km (G)
- 0-62mph: 19.7secs
- Max speed: 130mph
- Insurance group: 18
Good straight line performance, quality feel, refinement
Wallowy handling, pricey, an answer to a question that wasn’t necessarily asked