Dec 30, 2008

2009 Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI

This diesel R-class makes a lot of sense, but the EPA numbers seem very low. I had to go to to verify that they were correct. I easily saw 30+ mpg indicated on my commute home and an average of 24 mpg after a lot of spirited driving and running around town. The new EPA ratings seem to be giving diesel vehicles the short end of the stick.

If those fuel economy numbers don't scare you off, the R-class makes for a very comfortable ride that will move four large adults many miles in comfort and luxury. The second row has tons of legroom, and there's more than enough cargo room for four adults to go on a weekend outing with the third row of seats stowed away. Mix in the typical Mercedes interior, refinement, and luxury touches and it's amazing that you don't see more of these on the road.

I know the styling isn't for everyone, and a vehicle that functions like a cross between a minivan and a station wagon is pretty much doomed in the U.S., but I really enjoyed my evening with the R-class.

I know shoppers may be concerned about the cost and availability of AdBlue (let alone its source), but there's a bigger concern: oil. With a little more than 6000 miles on the clock, I was startled by a "check oil soon" message on my way home. Sure enough, the dipstick read nearly two quarts low. Yikes!

Scary that may be, but just you try to figure out what blend of petroleum to pump through the 3.0-liter V-6's crankcase. Although Mercedes sees fit to provide all sorts of specifications within the owners' manual, it manages to skip over the issue of oil specifications. Don't look for an underhood label-the only one there refers to reading the owners' manual to find the proper grade.

The manual instead tells me to hit up the website, where - following a good hour of searching - I still couldn't find the oil specs. To Rotella T or not to Rotella T - that is the question!

I drove the R320 Bluetec nearly 200 miles over the weekend and got an indicated 23 mpg, which I think is very impressive considering that the vehicle is even heavier than my right foot. There's plenty of passing torque, and the seven-speed gearbox helps make the most of it. True, there is some lag off the line, but this is barely noticeable unless your goal is a drag-racing launch.

Inside, the R-class has a comfortable, luxurious interior with beautiful wood, although some of the black door panels have a somewhat cheap feel to them. There's a strange glitch with this vehicle's navigation system, however: it couldn't locate a certain section of Ann Arbor - twice - but on one occasion (strangely between the two others) in the same neighborhood, the dash-mounted atlas happily displayed all of the nearby roads. I'm not quite sure what's up with that.

The exterior of the R-class is not pretty, to my mind. It looks fairly similar to the insectlike Buick Enclave from the front, in fact. But I drove the long Benz a lot in downtown Detroit on Sunday, and I actually saw three other R-classes, including one with big rims, so it's nice to see that some owners are proud of their M-B R. It'd take a lot of convincing to get me to purchase a minivan-like Mercedes without the convenience of sliding doors, though. Based on the R's sales numbers, a lot of people feel that way.

2009 Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI

Base Price (with destination): $50,025
Price as tested: $62,865

-Barolo Red Paint - $720
-Tele Aid - $650
-Panorama Sunroof - $1050
-Rear Seat Entertainment - $1850
-Heated Front Seats - $720
-P02 Package - $7,850

Fuel Economy: 18 / 24 / 20 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 3.0L DOHC 24V Turbocharged V6
HP: 210 hp @ 3800 RPM
Torque: 398 lb-ft @ 1600-2400 RPM

Transmission: 7-speed Automatic

Weight: 5092 lb

Wheel/Tire Info:
19" aluminum wheels(size)
255/50 R 19 All-Season (run flat) tires

P02 Package:
- Power Passenger Seat w/ Memory
- Autodimming Mirror
- Power Dr. Seat & Steering Col. w/ Memory
- Rear Side Window Blinds
- Telescoping Steering Column
- Power Folding Mirrors
- 3-Zone Climate Control
- Climate Control / Rear Compartment