Avg. Price Paid:$13,754 - $18,265
Original MSRP: $42,100 - $45,600
MPG: 15 City / 20 Hwy
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2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class was new.

Many critics praise the R-Class for its car-like performance. "Each of the four models accelerate, corner and ride like big luxury sedans," says New Car Test Drive.

USA Today feels "The R is more car than truck underneath, so it rides smoothly and handles well. Mercedes calls it a sports tourer, not an SUV, to emphasize its genteel attributes."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class offers two engine options -- one for each of its two trims. The base model R350 has a 3.5-liter V6 delivering 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, while the R320 CDI has a 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine that makes 215 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. The Detroit News says "[F]rom a powertrain standpoint, the R-Class is world-class." The 2008 base R350 model with two-wheel drive delivers an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 15 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway and takes premium unleaded gasoline. The 4WD diesel-powered R320 CDI nets 18/24 city/highway.

Most auto writers highly regard the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R's V6. Automobile Magazine reports that the V6 provides "respectable acceleration and passing power." U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman says that the engine "moves a fairly big car with urgency," calling it "more than adequate" and "light and responsive."

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with electronically controlled shifting. "The smooth engines are hooked to the world's first production seven-speed automatic transmission, instead of the usual four-, five- or still fairly rare six-speed automatics," says MSN. Car and Driver says the transmission is "smooth enough in its gear changes, and it skips directly to the ratio it wants at any given time, so there's never a sense of shuttling through a seven-pack of speeds."

Handling and Braking

Most auto reviewers find that the R-Class handles with confidence for a car of its size. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman says that "the R's athletic agility allowed me to dart through that Manhattan traffic as if I were a bike messenger." Despite a 40.7-ft.turning circle and tires that "favor comfort over absolute grip," says Automobile Magazine, "the R-Class maneuvers well and feels exceptionally positive and self-assured through corners."

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is fitted with four-wheel independent suspension, with double wishbone in the front and four-arm multilink in the rear. "With the standard suspension," says Edmunds "body motion is well-controlled." Car and Driver similarly reports "The suspension has a deliberate, sure-footed feel."

All models are available with an optional 353 Air Suspension Package, with an ADS-Adaptive Damping System and Air Suspension, that auto writers praise. Edmunds says this optional air system ensures "just the right damping for all situations," with "three distinct firmness settings." The Boston Globe explains "Normal is benign and good for cruising. Comfort softens the ride and, while it makes it a bit tippier in corners, absorbs bumps. Sport stiffens the ride, holds it upright in corners, reveals bumps with a bit more thump, and is perfect if you're going to drive aggressively."

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class is fitted with dual-circuit power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes with a standard Antilock Braking System, Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution, which auto reviewers say deliver sure stops. "There's more than enough braking capability to stop the hefty R-Class right now, and the pedal feel is very good compared to some other Mercedes models," says New Car Test Drive.

All-Wheel Drive

The R350 comes standard with two-wheel drive, but it optional with 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive with 50/50 front/rear torque split. The R320 CDI comes standard with all-wheel drive. "The all-wheel-drive system works in the background whether you're on pavement, dirt, snow or ice, and keeps the car planted and pointed properly," says New Car Test Drive. "It's engineered in such a way as to keep entry and exit height nice and low, not like a typical SUV, and it adds an element of confidence and security in sloppy conditions."

Performance Options


The 2008 Mercedes-Benz R350 has a standard DOHC V6 engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission with electronically controlled shifting. Two-wheel drive is standard and 4MATIC permanent four-wheel drive is optional.

R320 CDI

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI comes with a DOHC V6 engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission with electronically controlled shifting. 4MATIC permanent four-wheel drive is standard.

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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