2012 Mercedes-Benz R-Class Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
The 2012 R-Class may be an SUV, but test drivers say it drives more like a smooth sedan, which is a big plus for this family hauler. The only downside is the relatively poor fuel economy from both engine options. Competitors offer better fuel economy in models with similar-sized engines and all-wheel drive.
- "Heavy and long, the R-class has a comfortable ride, creamy steering, and a solid feel. Both engines feel sprightly, but the turbo-diesel V-6 offers massive torque and superior fuel efficiency.” -- Car and Driver
- “The R350 gas model we also took for a quick spin was slightly faster, but other than maybe that, we can't think of another reason why anyone interested in an R-Class would buy the gas engine over the diesel.” -- Motor Trend
- "Any R-Class is admirably comfortable and rewardingly composed.” -- Consumer Guide
Acceleration and Power
The base R350 comes with a new-for-2012 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, while the R350 BlueTEC comes with a 210-horsepower turbodiesel V6 that makes 400 pound-feet of torque. Both are mated to a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission.
According to the EPA, the gas-powered V6 gets 16/21 mpg city/highway, while the diesel model gets 18/23 mpg city/highway. Neither of these fuel economy numbers is very impressive though, since nearly every competitor gets better gas mileage. For instance, the Volkswagen Touareg TDI with all-wheel drive nets a whopping 19/28 mpg city/highway.
Test drivers say that both engines provide adequate power, but they overwhelmingly recommend the more fuel-efficient diesel model. It doesn’t cost much more than the base model, and its huge amount of torque makes it feel quick off the line. Although reviewers say the gas engine has slightly more power, unless you’re looking for truly hardcore passing power, the diesel is the better choice.
- "Gas customers will be delighted by the extra power from the new V-6. We'd get the diesel for its torque and fuel economy.” -- Car and Driver
- "The diesel engine provides a good jump from a stop and accelerates briskly. The transmission operates smoothly and downshifts reasonably quickly for more passing power.” -- Consumer Guide
- "Uphill grades and small bursts of acceleration are often handled without any downshifting. And, from inside the car at least, the diesel is almost as quiet as the gas engine.” -- Automobile Magazine
- "On the other hand, the diesel offered great off-the-line punch, which is always appreciated. The seven-speed transmission offered seamless shifts and quickly goes down the gears when needed.” -- AutoWeek
- "Over a mix of hilly country roads and Manhattan urban jungle, the diesel proved a capable powerplant to propel the two-and-a-half ton R-Class. It did struggle a bit at times under hard acceleration up to its 4500 rpm redline -- especially with the default efficiency mode engaged.” -- Motor Trend
Handling and Braking
Most reviewers say the Mercedes R-Class has car-like handling, which is high praise for a seven-seat SUV. Some test drivers complain about steering that’s on the numb side, but most say it’s not a major issue. Though the R-Class’ standard all-wheel drive system can’t handle real off-roading, reviewers say it provides plenty of grip in inclement weather.
- "R-Class acts more like a station wagon than an SUV. The steering is impressively linear and accurate, though some drivers may prefer a weightier feel. R-Class corners with impressive grip and balance with no excess body lean. Stopping control is strong.” -- Consumer Guide
- "When turning the attractive, four-spoke wheel at speed, the vehicle's rack and pinion, hydraulic power assist steering conspired to produce a decent, though slightly numb feel that took some effort to get back to on-center at times. The brake pedal was nicely modulated and its 13.0-inch discs with ABS slowed down the R-Class with no drama.” -- Motor Trend
- "Likewise, the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system seems to do its job without any untoward clunky noises or wobbles from the steering wheel. While we didn't really get to play with the system in anything slipperier than New Jersey potholes, we're guessing it could hold its own in rain and snow.” -- Autoblog
- "We found the hydraulic-assisted, rack and pinion steering to give very good road feel, especially given the vehicle's bulk.” -- Left Lane News