2011 Mercedes-Benz R350 BlueTec 4Matic Review and Test Drive

By Jonathan Spira on 1 December 2011
  • Share

The Mercedes-Benz R350 BlueTec is a true puzzle and, in many respects, defies categorization. It’s a crossover, but a very large one. It’s a minivan – at least it’s large enough to be one. It’s a six-passenger wagon – but one that can be configured for seven passengers… Well, you get the picture.

The R-Klasse has received an extensive refresh for 2011, bringing it in line with the new design language in the Mercedes M-Class and GL-Class which, incidentally, are both offered with diesel powerplants. The new, more angled grill and redesigned headlamps give the front a more assertive looking face. The side profile is sleeker than before and emphasizes a coupe-like line (think CLS) at the very rear. The rear, which sports new LED taillights and a new bumper with integrated exhausts, completes the picture.

THE ENGINE

The R350 BlueTec shares the time-tested BlueTec 3.0-liter diesel engine with AdBlue DEF (diesel exhaust fluid, also known as urea) injection found in the E350 BlueTec and the S350 BlueTec. The V-6 produces 210 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque. By contrast, the petrol variant, a 3.5-liter V-6, produces 268 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque.

Both R350s come with Mercedes-Benz’ 4Matic four-wheel drive system and a seven-speed automatic transmission. Steering-wheel paddles and the column-mounted shifter that is Mercedes standard fare are present here as well. Drivers can select the standard shift program or an energy saving option.

The EPA rates the oilburner at 18 mpg (13 l/100 km) in city driving and 24 mpg (9.8 l/100 km) on the highway. By contrast, the gasser is rated at 14 mpg (16.8 l/100 km) and 19 mpg (12.4 l/100 km).

The diesel accelerates nicely from a stoplight but it won’t break any records. Once on the highway, however, it truly is in its element and six (or seven) people can ramble down the Autobahn at decent speeds while still getting decent fuel economy.

INTERIOR

Inside the roomy cabin, little has changed since the R’s launch in 2005. The instrument cluster is all new (dials now have white needles and the overall user interface it better) but that’s about it. The fit and finish is excellent and the materials used are top notch.

The key to the R’s interior is its inherent versatility. In U.S. models, the six-seat configuration is standard; seven is optional. In European markets, the five-seat model is standard, even in the long-wheelbase version that is not available in the U.S., and there’s an optional four-seat configuration as well.

Once inside, there’s more than enough room in the front two rows and the third row had a surprising amount of room as well.

As many as three child safety seats can be installed in the rear of the R-Class and the third row folds down when not in use, providing significantly more storage space. With 85 cubic feet of luggage space, the R-Class is the most spacious Benz on the boulevard today.

The panorama roof makes the interior seem even more spacious than it is and the roof simply looks great on the outside.

The optional harman/kardon Logic7 sound system does an impressive job of filling the cabin and the optional rear entertainment package features two 8” displays mounted on the backs of the front seats that connect to wireless headsets and a DVD player, all controlled by a remote. Here Mercedes needs to do a far better job in terms of integrating the displays into the interior because the current system stands out like a sore thumb.

My only other complaint about the interior is the lack of an armrest-mounted cockpit controller or pointing device for the Comand system. While the car comes with the latest Comand software, the car’s equivalent of a mouse is the same one that was available in 2005 at the launch and was also found in the prior-generation M-Class (it’s still what buyers get in the GL- and G-Class but it should have been updated with the mid-life refresh). It’s much harder to navigate around the Comand system’s many functions while the armrest-mounted controller, now on the new M-Class and also in most Mercedes models makes using Comand while driving a breeze.

Click here to continue to Page 2 – Driving the Mercedes-Benz R350 BlueTec

Pages: 1 2