By on January 15, 2010

Better? (courtesy: Auto Motor und Sport print edition)

Mercedes sold only 2,825 R Class “Grand Sport Tourer” models in the US last year, confirming once and for all that the eigenwillig CUV is a bonafide flop in this country. So much so that a GL-inspired restyling is already under development, possibly with a GL-inspired name as well: GLR.

Fixing the R’s gastropod styling won’t hurt, but the heavier association with Mercedes’ far more popular SUVs is probably just as important from a sales perspective. Mercedes once believed that the R-Class would birth an entirely new segment of “Grand Sport Tourer” vehicles. Instead it just proved that CUVs are the methadone of SUV addiction. In case enough consumers feel like going cold turkey, Mercedes’ new E-class wagon (on sale in the US eventually) has nearly 69 cubic feet of storage with the bench folded flat (headed to America later this year).  [via Auto Motor und Sport print edition]

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35 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Mercedes R Class, Hold The Horror Edition...”

  • avatar

    My local Benz store runs one of these as their go-fer. Even the driver calls it a minivan. Personally, what doomed it from the start was the low-rent interior plastics (USA-sourced, evidently) and the myriad squeaks, buzzes and rattles from that same cheesy interior. When the postmortem is performed (in Stuttgart, no doubt) it will be the concept that gets the blame and not the execution. Heaven save us from the marketing departments.

    • 0 avatar

      what doomed it from the start was the low-rent interior plastics (USA-sourced, evidently) and the myriad squeaks, buzzes and rattles from that same cheesy interior.
      So, is the deplorable bottom basement reliability of most M-B models “USA sourced” as well? Heaven save us from closed minds.

  • avatar

    Isn’t that a Chrysler Pacifica?

    • 0 avatar

      A Pacifica is many times more beautiful and coherent (from a designing pov).

    • 0 avatar

      The Pacifica and R class hit the show circuit about the same time but it took Mercedes a couple years longer to bring the R Class to market.  By the time R class did hit the market, styling similarities made some customers think the R class was related to the Pacifica.  In truth the vehicles were based upon very different platforms with no intermingling at all.  The Pacifica was based upon the Chrysler Mini-vans and the R class on the ML.  I would argue that the Pacifica was the better turned out of the two.  The Pacifica was one of Chrysler’s better interior efforts, whereas the R class seemed very downscale for Mercedes, though not as bad as a first gen ML.  The Pacifica was never the sales success that Chrysler had hoped for but at 50-70,000 units per year, it sold considerably better than the R class.

  • avatar

    I honestly like the R-class despite its HUMPBACK WHALE looks and its on-stilts handling.
    But, I think MB might as well let this one go if its selling poorly. I think they’ll pick up where this car left off with the new E-wagon. That E class is fantastic for what you get.

  • avatar

    One of our dealership’s customers had bought one of these new in 2007 at a MB dealership, total paid was just over $80,000 CAD. He sadly passed away two months later and his family tried to sell the car back to MB. They would not even offer $50,000. We ended up selling the unit for the family, at a major loss. I guess Mercedes was right not to take it back… they knew they’d be stuck with it too. Aren’t these just fancy Pacificas? Because that would explain a lot.

  • avatar

    Beat me to it, dswilly.

  • avatar

    The R-Class and Pacifica are completely different vehicles. The R-Class was based (loosley) on the E-Class platform. The Pacifica was based on Chrysler’s (previous generation) minivan platform.

    Yes, they are the same “type” of vehicle, but had no relation what-so-ever in componentry. Even the electrical architecture was completely different.

    At least Chrysler did the right thing and killed that car off. I can’t believe that Mercedes, on the other hand, would keep trying to upgrade and unsuccessful vehicle.

  • avatar

    Good info Autojunkie…
    I think that they are failing because of the obvious minivan looks.

  • avatar

    The ML and the GL have very similar interiors to the R class which are also plasticky and cheap, so I don’t think that was it. It was the looks that killed it, its hideous.

  • avatar

    The one saving grace (or silver lining?) is that the R-Class usually sells for about the same price as an E-class wagon. So you really get a lot more car for the money if it meets your needs.

    I’m lukewarm on the styling, but the overall concept seemed like almost exactly what the US needed. But we’re just too style-driven, sadly.

  • avatar

    Not just the ugliness killed the R. Who is this thing marketed to? The rear doors are about 4 feet long. How is anyone supposed to open these wings in a crowded parking lot? Minivans have sliding doors for a reason….

  • avatar

    Are these things even remotely reliable?  I mean M-B reliable, not Honda-Toyota reliable.  What about buying 0ne used after massive depreciation?

  • avatar

    Strangely, my wife likes it. It is pretty much the only non-car she likes.
    The only thing preventing us from buying one is lack of manual transmission.

  • avatar

    This is not a bad car. It would sell if they restyled the price, at least by half.

    • 0 avatar

      A lot of people are commenting negatively on it’s looks. Personally, this is my favorite non-sedan MB, I turn my head every time I see one. The dealbreaker for me is using rear swing doors instead of a minivan-like sliding door. Otherwise, I’d pick this over a GL or ML.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    We own one and I can definitely say after 3 years that the R500 is the minivan for folks who don’t want to admit they need a minivan.  My wife (after not getting the CLK500 when we found out she was preggers with number 3) now admits that a minivan makes a lot more sense even though it does drive a lot better than our Chrysler.
    The fact that they depreciate like a stone only adds insult to injury; if you buy one plan on driving it forever or write it off for zero — they make the depreciation of a 4 year old 760Li look like nothing….

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    “Instead it just proved that CUVs are the methadone of SUV addiction”
    Great line!

    I give props to MB for trying something new but I guess you win some you lose some.  For those that are not afraid to buy a station wagon, they’ll shop for … a station wagon.

  • avatar

    If you could live with the looks and drove it until the wheels fell off, I think driving an R class might make sense
    Like buying an Aztek for cheap

  • avatar

    Uggh, the only thing missing from this car is Captain Ahab on the roof.

  • avatar

    Dammit, I like the R class! Granted I wouldn’t pay that kind of money and I’ve never driven one.

  • avatar

    I liked this car.  I still do, actually, as does my wife.  It drives well, it’s comfortable, easy to get around in (a huge advantage over the GL and ML, by the way) and doesn’t come off as pretentious as a GL, ML or E.
    The problem is that, aside from the R63, the Sienna XLE AWD Limited is a better vehicle in just about every way: it’s even more spacious, gets about the same mileage, rides better, is even easier to get around in**, yet is more reliable and costs less.  If you’re looking for what is truly a nice minivan, you have to think really hard about the value it offers.  And that’s the problem this car has: unlike the ML and GL, which get by on how they look, the R is the left-brain choice.  Left-brainers are already forsaking ego, so what would be the point in this car?  Again, unless you must have the R63, it’s a born loser in the market: the Sienna is better, holistically.
    Had Mercedes equipped it with sliding doors and a smaller diesel (eg, smaller than the R320 CDI’s) it might have stood a chance as the green choice for affluent families.  Instead, it was a product in search of a market.
    **I harp on this because it’s important if you have young children.  A minivan lets you easily move from the front to the rear seats to, eg, breastfeed a baby, or sort out a domestic dispute, all without having to exit the vehicle, which is nice when cars are whizzing by at 120km/h and/or it’s -30C.

  • avatar

    I don’t get the hate for the R-class.  As far as low-rent interior plastics, please, let me look at your beloved Lexus and I will find plenty of cost-cutting.
    I think their main mistake was not putting in a sliding door. While luxury minivans may be a niche, it is still a niche that is not filled by any product (and no, upper trim Sienna does not count).

  • avatar

    I liked the R-Class looks wise but yeah I’m never gonna pay 80 grand for one, 40 to 50 grand new, maybe.  Too bad for Mercedes that the only way I’ll ever drive one is say 5 years from now getting it off the used market.

  • avatar

    A complete flop?  Hey that sounds like my Youtube channel!  In the age of mainstream pop and general misogyny having a channel full of strange remixes and feminism is almost guaranteed to sit on the sidelines.  Maybe it’ll be a “future classic.”
    Oh and Mercedes you should probably stick to the expensive executive sedan.  Probably.
    Oh and here’s my unpopular Youtube channel!

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    I’m used to big vehicles having driven B body Chevrolets for the past 20+ years and a Tahoe for the past 10. So when it came to buy a new car I test drove a R 320 CDI extensively. Decent vehicle, a tad on the large size but extremely maneouverable for both my wife and I. I much preferred the feeling of driving the E 320 Blutec.  I found the red LEDs and climate controls of both to be something right out of the ’70s. In the end I was frightened away from M-B because their warranty only covers items lubricated by grease or oil, the dealership labour rate is $200/hour, reliability seemed iffy and M-B offered no incentives.  Who knows, maybe M-B will get my business next time.

  • avatar

    My wife drives a 2008 R-320 CDI 4 MATIC and I drive a 2005 CL55 AMG.  We have 4 children and live in a rural area so we do mostly highway driving.  We have no issues with parking due to the admittedly large rear doors, because of the rural area.  I only drive the car when we all go somewhere as a family, but everytime I drive it, I find myself thinking how much I love it.  It is very comfortable and an extremely good driver.  I have gotten as high as 34.5 mpg on a trip and when the roads are icy, there is incredible confidence from the 4-MATIC driveline.  I prefer a powerful car and the diesel does not disappoint.  The torque allows the heavy car to accelerate briskly with all of the family and our gear on board.  The chassis is taut, but compliant.

    I did not like the appearance when I first laid eyes on an R-class, but somehow the car’s inner beauty (all of the wonderful traits I have found I love), have shown through and I now look at the car through different eyes.  I actually think it is a very pretty automobile.  I acknowledge that I would like more luggage space with a car full of kids and that it is expensive when purchased brand new from a dealer, but maybe that is another reason I love ours.  I bought a Certified Pre Owned 2008 model in 2008 with only 4,000 miles on the odometer and registered only by the dealer with a 100,000 mile warranty for half the sticker price.  I have not needed the warranty for anything yet, but have 3 more years and 83,000 more miles before I need to worry about that.  The last service was about $350 and is not due for another 8,000 miles.

    I have owned over 40 cars and trucks and my CL55 is my favorite, but the R320 is definitely right behind it and when I consider its intended purpose, it is the best car I have owned (including a Honda Odyssey, which was a clsoe 2nd).

  • avatar

    I have an 2007 with 65K on the clock and it rocks. Recently got over 29MPG with average speed of 79. Solid as a rock.

  • avatar
    320 CDI

    usafrhino captured it very well.

    Late reply just in case someone is googling this car with the mind of buying one, hear is another positive opinion from someone who actually owns one. I have a 2007 R320 Diesel with 61000 trouble free miles. Everyone in my family is tall, every seat in this car a 6′ plus guy will be very comfortable. Our Tahoe is gone….this is the replacement and a vast improvement! I don’t need to tow anything over 2K anymore and this does a fine job of it. With all the seats full and completely loaded down and towing the trailer I just drove from Southern California to Michigan and back, averaged 78 miles an hour for the trip getting 27 MPG. I was not sore, tired or cramped. I could talk to everyone in the car to include the 3rd row at the same level of voice as being in the house. 4 of our friends who went with me are going out to buy this car, one picks theirs up at the end of the week. There is no better road tripper then this ride!

    This is my daily driver into San Diego, I get 30 MPG too and from work. I have no issue getting it around town, handles great and I have had no problem with the extra large back doors except in very tiny spaces. The doors have two open positions, all the way out at almost a 90 degree and at 45 degree. Both allow for easy entry/loading. I have found most time, not always, I prefer the doors to sliders, not sure why but I do. They seem more safe, secure, substantial and easier to me. I am sure they reduce the noise as my wife’s Sienna was much louder when sitting by the slider.

    I like the fit and finish, no issues with it and I am not sure why all the comments on it. I have been in nicer rides and I have been in many more that were much worse, all for near the same amount.
    This Wagon/Minivan/Private Jet handles the elements very well and I have had mine off road with no issues but wouldn’t recommend it as it is a lot of car to clean. The 4Matic is great. I would only get it with the Diesel or V8 as the gas V6 has a hard time with this big of a car.

    If you have the need for a large vehicle and not a truck or SUV on a truck frame in my mind this is a great choice. Save your money and get a used one!

  • avatar

    Yea, what a great car.  Had electrical problems since the beginning of purchasing my 06 certified pre-owned.  The car finally bursted into flames at the back computer, in my driveway last night, with the CAR OFF.  Thank god the sound of the fire breaking the windows woke up my child.  I think I would have lost my house if we didn’t act fast.  I wonder of the dealership believes me now that the car had problems…

    • 0 avatar
      320 CDI

      Damn sorry about your luck. Thankfully your family is safe. Who figured out it was the computer? Or was that where the problem was from the get go? What kind of problems where you having? Got any pictures?

  • avatar

    Most of the above comments from people who dislike the R Class vehicle are from 2010 and they were convinced that MB would discontinue the vehicle because of poor sales. Today is April 10, 2012 and I see that you can still buy one from Mercedes. I bought one of these, a used 2008 (CDI) several months ago and am liking it more and more as I drive it. I always ask other owners of the same car how they like it, and most of the time they are as enthusiastic owners.
    It took me a while to get used to it. It’s my first Mercedes, but I’m slowly coming around. The diesel is awesome. I was worried at first that it wouldn’t measure up to my previous Town and Country 3.8 V6. That is a very strong engine. The diesel is more than a match. Better gas mileage to boot. It just feels so damned strong. It just pulls and pulls and pulls.
    I know that the styling is not for everyone, but you either like it or hate it. There seems to be no in between. My wife and sister love it. Some of my customers said it is the ugliest car on the road. Another customer who also owns a Ford dealership said “Oh yeah! thats the one that looks like a hearse”. My employees say they like it. Maybe they are only saying that to keep me buttered up. The important thing is that so far, I’m liking it.

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