By on March 18, 2012

Mercedes-Benz will no longer sell the R-Class crossover (minivan? SUV? wagon? we’re not sure) in the United States as of the 2013 model year. Slow sales meant it was hard to justify continuing sales of the car in America, but the R-Class will live on elsewhere.

The Alabama-built R-Class will stay in production, as demand in markets like Mexico, China and Canada is still strong. This will be the second funky two-box Benz that stays exclusive to Canada, with the B-Class being the first. The R350 Bluetec remains a popular option in the Great White North, particularly with the “soccer mom” crowd in affluent areas. The R-Class will remain in production until 2015.

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41 Comments on “Mercedes-Benz R-Class Discontinued In United States...”

  • avatar
    Sam P

    It is always interesting to see how smaller automobile markets (Canada for example) get more variety of models than the US market.

    Thanks US regulatory burdens, I guess.

    • 0 avatar

      Our small market and near identical regulations also keep us shut out from some choice cars; the Mitsubishi Evo 8 and 9 for example (it didn’t meet our stricter bumper laws and the market was deemed too small to make it worthwhile). One VW exec told me that the Polo wouldn’t come here because our laws meant it was too expensive to homologate, but Australia, with a similar population and looser regulations, would get it since it could be imported from elsewhere with minimal cost.

      On the other hand, we like wagons and diesels here. The R350 Bluetec is commonly bought here by those who would probably buy an ML or GL in the USA.

      • 0 avatar

        That said, in our market, it’s almost impossible to not think of the R-Class as anything by a mom-mobile for Asians with more money than aesthetic taste. Shame about the Polo, though.

        • 0 avatar

          It seems to transcend ethnic boundaries…I can think of several, shall we say, “communities” (a great CBC-esque euphemism) that like the R350. It’s easy for elderly relatives to get in and out of, the third row seems to be practical for little kids, you can take it skiing or snowboarding, and it’s more car like than the ML. Or at least that’s what some owners tell me.

      • 0 avatar


        If you meant similar in terms of income and socioeconomics, ignore the following, if you mean a similar population size, in fact, our population is roughly 310 million; Australia has barely 20 million–less than at least 3-4 of our states (California, New York, Texas, probably Florida). Although Australia is not much smaller than the lower 48, most of it is desert.

      • 0 avatar

        @ David

        I believe he was comparing Australia and Canada (which do indeed have similar populations.)

        Now Sam, I am given the impression that the regulatory burdens between the US and Canada are fairly similar.

        Canada has a couple of advantages for automakers, one of which is a smaller highly concentrated dealer network. Introducing a car there and training dealers is so much easier there than in the US. That makes it easier to cater to smaller niches.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not selling well in the US. It isn’t worth trying to keep it in stock if nobody wants it.

      The US would have more of this sort of variety if car prices were higher; the manufacturers could make up for low volumes with higher margins. But we pay less for cars than just about everyone else, which prompts manufacturers to make up for it with volume.

      • 0 avatar

        How much of the higher prices elsewhere actually go to the manufacturer. European prices usually include a large percentage VAT that goes to the government and not the manufacturer.

      • 0 avatar

        “How much of the higher prices elsewhere actually go to the manufacturer.”

        Not all of it, as VAT and fees are included in the equivalent of MSRP. But a fair chunk of it is going to the manufacturer.

        As an example, the MSRP of a 2.0 liter manual transmission GTI is $23,995 in the US, vs. £25,320 in the UK. The UK price includes 20% VAT and some fees, but it still nets out to a bit less than £21,000, or about $33,000.

        The MSRP for a base R-class in the US is $52,690. In Canada, it’s $57,400. (I’ll assume that they’re similarly equipped, although I didn’t check.) Like the US, Canada doesn’t include taxes in quoted prices, and at the moment, the exchange rate is about at parity. If Canadians keep buying them at twice the rate per capita and are willing to pay another 3-4 grand a unit for the privilege, then it may be worth building it for them.

      • 0 avatar

        Of course if they raised the price they’d sell more. Funny they didn’t think of that, rather than ban the bananavan.

  • avatar

    I guess this means the Lincoln MKT will have the luxury not-quite-a-minivan-SUV-or-wagon market all to itself.

  • avatar

    Yes it flopped in the US. But the reason may not be obvious. They have one as the shuttle at my local Benz dealer. Have ridden in it numerous times. The dissonance I experienced each time was the tacky cheapness of the entire interior and the myriad buzzes, squeaks and rattles of same. It had a big three-point star on the front, true, but otherwise had nothing of what one expects from a Mercedes.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I had been considering picking up one of these as a CPO, but as I recall there were a number of expensive issues (such as crankshaft position sensors failing) that made it one of the least reliable Mercs on the market (and that must be saying something!).

    It really is bloody stupid that a number of major regulatory regimes can’t get together and decide on a common high-safety standard (that unions the safety regs of all parties and chooses the most stringent in each category) that would be optional for automakers to build to, but in doing so, would only require a single homologation.

    • 0 avatar

      With common drive trains between all model lines, there are very little R-class specific issues. Even most chassis components are shared between the 164 chassis GL and ML. That’s not saying that I like the R.

      Crank position sensors fail mostly on the older cars with the 5-speed transmissions. It is not an expensive part to fix, and I believe you should be able to leave the dealer at under $300 parts and labor.

      One item I would avoid in any Mercedes, (or any other make) is the panoramic sun roof. Everyone uses the same wabasto design and it is mechanically complex and fails very easily.

  • avatar

    Always seemed quite popular here in lower Fairfield County CT. Of course station wagons are also popular around here.

    Lousy reputation for reliability certainly did not help the cause for the R.

  • avatar

    Good riddance to the Mercedes Minivan. The B-class I understood, but the R-class marketing tried to deny that the car really was a minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      True story: at a trust-fund babies’ dinner (who had all married amongst themselves!) at a very chi chi Italian restaurant, a couple had just purchased one of these things. The others were discussing whether it was ethical of them to have done se because it looked like it was an SUV. Was it an SUV? That was the crux of the issue for them.

      At the time, this group of about 10 couples had decided SUVs we unethical/ungreen, etc. Fun fact, some of them had private jets/large motor yachts.

  • avatar

    Differing safety, bumper, and emissions standards from country to country provide a measure of protection for domestic automakers, making the threshold for importing a vehicle to a country higher.

    Even with the chicken tax, labor costs in Thailand are probably low enough to land competitively-priced pickups into the U.S. market. The same may go for exporting Camry/Fusion sized sedans from the U.S. or Mexico to Europe.

    Bureaucracy makes it difficult to justify unless a company is pretty sure it can sell 50,000 a year.

    • 0 avatar

      “Even with the chicken tax, labor costs in Thailand are probably low enough to land competitively-priced pickups into the U.S. market.”

      The chicken tax is a non-issue. It is easily avoided. Shipping a pickup truck without the bed installed should be sufficient for getting around it.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    I test drove one of these in late 2007 and while I liked it for its size and versatility – I was not crazy about the red LED interior and especially the M-B Canada warranty that was limited to items lubricated by oil or grease.

    I choose a more reliable Northstar powered Cadillac that was backed by a bumper to bumper warranty from GM Canada.

  • avatar

    The oel burner does have its attraction, since it almost double the mileage, no tune ups , not sure if crank pos sensors are in these dsls?

  • avatar

    Great concept done poorly.

    Just head over to MBUSA and take a look at the interior. The new Chrysler Town & Country has a nicer interior. Why would I want to buy this thing?

  • avatar

    When this thing was launched, the frumpiness really made it a tough sell. The mild update helped. But you only have one opportunity to make a first impression. The damage was done.

  • avatar

    Non-minivan people with money would opt for the ML and GL (and Q7, X5, RX, MDX, etc). Minivan people with money—they’re more pragmatic to fault—just get Oddy Tourings and Sienna XLE Limiteds.

    With sliding doors and a dealership experience not equal to financial rape, this might have worked, but even in Canada I don’t see them as often as I see the ML and GL.

  • avatar

    When I was at a Mercedes dealer, I took a look at these even though I didn’t like the minivan exterior and wasn’t really interested. I was REALLY impressed though with the rear legroom, it was almost like a limousine.

    I don’t know why car makers struggle with rear legroom. I would MUCH rather have a car with room to clear your knees but a “Mustang-sized” trunk, that’s an easy tradeoff. Even cars considered to be full sized sedans have rear seats that seem to only be meant for small children. Does a rear seat that can comfortably sit 2 adults mean you have to buy a $100k flagship sedan?

    I think that’s a big reason Americans drifted to SUVs in general.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      The last SUV I owned (1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee) had shit for rear legroom. Before I got the Volt I had considered the R-class and the Ford Flex, but for my actual use case (commuter + occasional long trip) the Volt made more sense.

      I consider 40+ inches of rear legroom (or 84+ combined front/rear) to be good-to-excellent, and I don’t know many SUVs that can promise that.. Last car I checked that could was the Flex.

      (but then, my most recent car has shit for rear legroom, but I don’t have many passengers these days, and if I ever replace the SDL it’d be with a vehicle with superior rear legroom, and a Flex diesel or plugin would be ideal)

  • avatar

    I look at the damn thing and I see a xler pacifica

  • avatar

    Why do American buyers hate wagons so much?

    • 0 avatar

      We don’t. CAFE made trucks outside the CAFE regs, so instead of selling us wagons, Detroit sold us gussied up trucks instead. The requirement, if I recall, was that the floor be flat-so a Prowler is a “truck” too.

      Went to Europe and saw dozens of neat wagons. Here, you get a choice of expensive Germans, with limited choices, due to the necessity of certification of power trains with bodies. I’ve no idea why a 3 liter turbo in a wagon would be different than a sedan, but that’s why BMW won’t sell the bigger engines in a wagon…it’s not worth certification.

      Likewise the death of the manual in the US. It’s not worth re certification for the five percent take rate. At this point we should just have one set of emissions and crash regs, but US makers won’t adopt the expensive euro crash regs, and Euro emphasizes carbon, and the US oxides of Nitrogen….a religious issue.

  • avatar

    The interior of the R-class was awful, but does anyone remember the first gen ML? That was complete trash on the inside, and people still at them up. It wasn’t the interior that doomed this car, it was the looks. The first Mercedes SUV with a proper interior is the newest ML.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    It failed because its hard to be a snob in a minivan.

  • avatar

    The R-Class suffered monstrous depreciation and unpopularity. I remember seeing R63 AMGs going for half as much as other AMG cars with the same engine, assuming you could find one for sale.

  • avatar

    Wasn’t this the vehicle the Pacifica was based on? There are a few of these around where I live – I saw one yesterday. I imagine it costs a pretty penny to clothe and feed one.

  • avatar

    At the point when my V70 was dying and my family was growing, I was seriously considering a CPO R-class. I test drove it and all seemed to be in good order, but was enterly underwhelmed with the driving experience and interior. Getting the thing to move at what I would consider a well-motivated pace required an unreasonably heavy foot. The interior was absolutely nothing special at all–made me wonder what made a Benz so special. However, I was a bit blinded by the idea of owning a Benz as the snob appeal was high. My wife was entirely lukewarm on the entire thing; she was unimpressed with the interior and also noted that there was no navigation and no satellite radio which were important to her. Regardless, I was set to purchase and when I went in to talk about price, they had all the papers lined up with the full asking price as if I would just pay it without the expectation of negotiating. When I said that I wan’t going to pay full asking price, the sales manager genuinely got angry with me. I walked, and he attempted to hold my deposit out of spite. Thankfully because I’d put it on a credit card and signed no agreement to purchase, I was able to wrestle it back.
    So while I always thought the R-class was an interesting looking choice, my experience was pretty rotten.
    Ended up buying a CX-9 instead for about the same price, a year newer and fully loaded. It may not be a Benz, but from what I’ve experienced, I don’t think I’m missing much.

  • avatar

    R Class sales in Canada:

    2009: 308
    2010: 408
    2011: 515
    2012 ytd Feb: 65

  • avatar

    The R-Class: It may be ugly, but at least it’s expensive.

  • avatar

    Good riddance to perhaps the ugliest vehicle in existence

  • avatar

    As Pete D. says ‘an answer to a question nobody asked’. Good riddance.

  • avatar

    Yes, the R350 is unpopular. I bought one in 2005 and replaced it with another in 2011.

    It was ugly looking, but fantastic. Smooth, fast, comfortable, reliable, roomiest back seat, useable third row.

    I would buy another in the future, but sadly, it may not be available.

    I hope in 5 years, I can find a suitable replacement.

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