In an effort to attract more buyers, Mercedes chose to scrap the top two models from the lineup of its high-end 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class. Part minivan and part sport wagon, the luxurious R-Class boasts car-like handling and a surprisingly spacious interior. Until 2008, it also boasted V-8 power. Now, with two V-8-equipped trims discontinued, the six-passenger R-Class gets its power from gasoline and turbodiesel V-6 engines.
Two trim levels are offered for 2008. A base R350 is motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6 with standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive, while a diesel-powered R320 CDI is equipped with a three-liter, turbo V-6. Aside from the difference in engines, both models come with similar standard and optional features.
Body Styles: crossover
Engines: 3.5-liter V-6, 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6
Transmissions: seven-speed shiftable automatic
Models: Mercedes-Benz R350, Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI
For 2008, the Mercedes-Benz R-Class loses two V-8 trims in the U.S. market, leaving just two engine choices: a gasoline V-6 and a diesel-powered V-6. Features of the now-defunct AMG model come standard on the remaining R350 and R320 CDI trims.
From the outside, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class resembles a cross between a minivan and a wagon. While the crossover’s angled hood and windshield are reminiscent of a van, its flattened roofline and non-sliding doors bring to mind a sporty station wagon. Standard features on both available trims include 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, intermittent rain-sensing windshield wipers, an intermittent rear window wiper, a rear defogger, and cargo tie-downs. Exterior options, which are grouped into a number of packages, include a panoramic sunroof, a power rear liftgate, 19-inch wheels, 20-inch wheels, parking assist sensors, and keyless ignition. The R-Class measures 203.0 inches in length, 65.2 inches in height, and 75.7 inches in width.
The unique shape of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class contributes to a surprisingly spacious cabin that’s classy and comfortable, even in the third row. The R350 and R320 CDI comes standard with leatherette upholstery, alloy and wood interior trim, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, a folding rear seatback, reclining rear seats, a manually-folding third-row seat, one-touch power windows, heated power-adjustable mirrors, remote power locks, retained accessory power, a universal remote transmitter, remote trunk release, three 12-volt power outlets, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with transmission and audio controls, interior air filtration, dual-zone climate control, a compass, a trip computer, an external temperature display, a hands-free phone interface, and an eight-speaker sound system with CD player and MP3 audio input.
By adding various options packages, buyers can upgrade the R-Class with leather upholstery, a seventh seat, heated seats, burled walnut trim, a navigation system, a rear-seat entertainment system, satellite radio, a premium 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system, an iPod interface, Bluetooth, three-zone climate control, and a six-disc CD changer mounted to the glove box.
Front occupants receive 39.8 inches of headroom, 39.8 inches of legroom, and 60.3 inches of shoulder room; second-row passengers are given 40.4 inches of headroom, 36.2 inches of legroom, and 59.6 inches of shoulder room; and third-row passengers get 37.2 inches of headroom, 32.4 inches of legroom, and 59.6 inches of shoulder room. Seating for six is standard; a seventh can be added as an option. At 85 cubic feet of cargo space with seats folded, the R-Class offers slightly less storage than a typical minivan, but significantly more than the average station wagon or crossover SUV.
Performance & Handling
Available power is noticeably limited with the deletion of two V-8 engines for 2008. However, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class still provides capable, if a bit lackluster, performance with its remaining V-6 options. The R350 comes with a 3.5-liter, gasoline V-6 generating 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the R320 CDI is equipped with a three-liter, turbodiesel V6 producing 215 hp and an impressive 398 lb-ft of torque. The gas V-6 is the quicker of the two, with the ability to push the hefty R350 from zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds flat. However, the diesel-powered CDI model enjoys considerably better gas mileage with estimated EPA ratings of 18/24 mpg city/highway. Both engines are paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting ability.
With its well-built and weighty body, the 2008 R-Class provides a quiet and stable ride. While the class-defining vehicle doesn’t offer the sharp handling of an athletic crossover, its standard four-wheel independent suspension and optional air suspension manage to keep body roll in check.
Standard safety features on both 2008 Mercedes-Benz R-Class models include dual front and rear side-mounted airbags, full-length head airbags, stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes with emergency braking assist, front head restraints with whiplash protection, rollover sensors, and tire pressure monitoring.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mercedes-Benz R350: 15/20 mpg city/highway
Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI: 18/24 mpg city/highway
- Unique design
- Luxurious interior
- Car-like handling
- Spacious third row
You Won't Like
- No V-8 options
- Hefty weight
- High price tag
Minivan-wagon combo comes with comfortable cabin and car-like handling.
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