Since it’s inception, the popularity of the full-size Mercedes-Benz R-Class has suffered due to the inability of customers to define it. It looks like a minivan, rides like a car, and works like an SUV. So, what is it?

Well, clearly for 2011, Mercedes wanted to make the crossover utility appeal more obvious, so an exterior update was called for.

But, it all starts, and pretty much ends, with a front end that is more robust, now closely favoring the latest ML-Class utility.

Rear changes are much more subtle. But, the whimsical C-shaped reverse lamps are now gone.

“What impresses me the most about the new second gen R-Class are the taller grille and day time running lights.  Together they add a more proud and distinctive Mercedes look.” – Ben Davis

The R’s interior is mostly carryover, and to us, starting to look a bit dated. But, switchgear is still easy to navigate, and the seating position is remains excellent.

Depending on the configuration of the second row, the R-Class seats six or seven, or has room for 85 cubic feet of cargo. Slightly more than the Audi Q7, but less than the Buick Enclave.

For 2011, the V8 R500 is long gone, leaving just the 268-horsepower R350 and 210-horsepower R350 BlueTEC diesel. Both shifting through a seven-speed automatic with standard all-wheel drive.

With 400 foot-pound feet of torque, the diesel made mincemeat of stoplight acceleration on our New York preview drive. Highway ride is luxurious, and the diesel’s 24 MPG Highway economy commendable.

Steering remains SUV heavy, and the R-Class feels every inch as big as it is. Still, the bustling streets of the Big Apple were the perfect place for us to appreciate the R’s new optional blind spot assist. It’s a must.

Arriving in August, the 2011 R350 crossover utility starts just over $51,000, with the BlueTec adding only $1500 more.


"The Vue Two-Mode Hybrid proves that power and efficiency can coexist, and in a modern crossover you can have them both without skimping on any ability." – Ben Davis


  • 268-horsepower R350:
  • 210-horsepower R350 BlueTEC diesel:
  • Starts just over $51,000: