Owner Review: When luxury meets practicality - My Mercedes-Benz R-Class

Owner Review · Aug 6, 2020 06:00 PM

** This article is the personal experience of a 2008 Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI 4Matic owner and does not necessarily reflect the views of WapCar.

Facebook: David Chan Chong

Owner Review: When luxury meets practicality - My Mercedes-Benz R-Class 01

Owner Review: When luxury meets practicality - My Mercedes-Benz R-Class 02

Background Story

Before I go on about my car, a little background about myself. I am a car buff albeit self –proclaimed. Been part of various forums and even helped relatives and friends make car choices whilst in my teens. I have always liked the left field choice in my cars even when it comes from a mainstay car make. Why follow the crowd when one can stands out is what drives most of my car choice in life. Perhaps I got this from my dad who driven some alternate choice in cars during my childhood. Two cars from that childhood always stood out – Mercedes-Benz W123 and W124 E Class of which my dad had. Someday I would have a Mercedes-Benz too as I told myself back then. This was realised when I moved overseas after coming back to Malaysia for work for a decade after graduation overseas.

Car Selection Process

Whilst in Malaysia, I had a 1996 Toyota AE111 Corolla 1.6 SE-G with ABS as my daily ride. Followed by a 2000 Nissan Sentra 1.8 GXE and replaced by 2005 Nissan X-Trail 2.5. Nissan was the default choice when partner was working for Tan Chong. Logical, right when the cars came with staff discount. Then about 10 years ago, made the fateful decision to move overseas for better opportunities and education for the offspring. My first car was 2002 Volvo XC70 followed by 2014 Hyundai DM Santa Fe Highlander. For a while I had a 2000 Honda Accord V6L as well. Following the sale of the Hyundai, I was looking at another 7 seater. Looked at BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML/GLE and GL/GLS. Left field choice included Lexus RX, Infiniti Q70s, Range Rover, Land Rover Discovery, Volvo XC60 and XC90. I did look at new offerings but it would be another Korean or Japanese car if the size is right. Euro cars would be smaller or worse. So looking at few years old premium car offer a better bang for the buck as they say. The Mercedes-Benz R Class never enter my mind but a search using the 7 seater criteria at a car website throws up a few Mercedes-Benz R Class for sale. So it piqued my interest and did some research on it.

Owner Review: When luxury meets practicality - My Mercedes-Benz R-Class 01

The Mercedes-Benz W/V251 R-Class

So I keep tab on one particular R-Class and when I was ready, the owner has dropped the price several times. It was a 2008 R320 CDI L 4Matic and it only did less than 8,000km per year at the hands of the first owner. The Mercedes-Benz R-Class was assembled at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama alongside the GLC, ML/GLE-Class and GL/GLS-Class. This tailgated car combining elements of an estate, SUV and MPV and was given the name the R-Class Grand Sport Tourer.

The Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI L 4Matic has a turbo diesel engine hence the CDI designation. Here it is the excellent 3.0L V6 engine driving primarily the rear but can send power to the fronts if needed. It was rated at 224hp at 3,800rpm with 510Nm of torque available between 1,600-2,800rpm. The car can keep up with most sedans with a sub 8.7s 0-100km/h time. The transmission is the excellent 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic with Direct Select steering column mounted selector feeding power through the 4Matic four-wheel drive transmission. It even has paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for manual control of the gears.

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The excellent condition of the car with all black leather and special order metallic black paint – chromite black looks good. The colour is indeed special as on closer inspection under certain lights, the colour appears to be dark blue. The owner would have paid $20k in the options list alone when I checked out the options in this car. That was the equivalent of a new Toyota Corolla or a near new Toyota Camry for comparison.

I am pleased with the car and the family agree too. The car feels solid and the doors all closed with the familiar “thunk”. The leather was hardly worn and the quality is excellent. Seems the all-leather interior is the top option as compared to the cloth/synthetic (Artico) leather and Artico leather interior that were available. The front seats including headrests were electrically adjustable with 3 memory settings with side mirrors and steering setting for the driver. That means the steering is electrically adjustable which one can only find in luxury cars. The mirrors are electro chromatic which means it can darken the dazzle of the headlights at night. It was a surprise to see even the side mirrors are such equipped. Space is not an issue here as this is the long wheel base version (V251) which was 235mm longer than the regular wheelbase version (W251). This car is longer than even the long-wheelbase S-Class. The length was 5173mm and it was the roomiest car Mercedes had built.

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The Options

The Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI L 4Matic came with the optional COMAND APS system that incorporated navigation, telephone and CD/DVD drive. It has a 6 disc changer built-in the glove box where there was an iPod connector lived as well. It even has a rearview camera built-in using the 6.5 inch colour display. The optional excellent Harman/Kardon LOGIC7 premium surround sound system with eleven speakers (instead of the standard eight) and a subwoofer did the sound duty.

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Optional Harman/Kardon LOGIC7 premium surround sound system with eleven speakers

The car has the panoramic glass roof fitted instead of the standard sunroof. This allows more light in and even the rear passengers can get to enjoy the extra visibility. Wheels are the excellent 19-inch 5-spoke alloy that is part of the sports package. The car was fitted with full AMG body kit just like the R63 AMG that includes sports pedals and darker rear lights. It has lighting package that illuminates the entire car interior. The headlights were bi-xenon units with washer function and active curve illumination.

The excellent multi zone THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control was specified. The rear section has its own automatic climate control selection with dual zone for the front section. The 2nd row alone has air vents on the pillar and centre console. Now everyone can set his/her own temperature setting. The EASY-PACK tailgate option meant the tailgate is powered. The car has front and rear PARKTRONIC sensors with displays to aid parking.

The Drive

Driving the big R-Class is easy. The ride is plush and never harsh. The 19-inch wheel strikes the best balance between handling and comfort. The bigger 21-inch AMG wheels were too firm and the tyres would be more expensive for not much extra gain over the 19-inch. Power is smooth and the enormous torque made light work of hauling the car. The steering is accurate and well weighted. I was surprised how easy it is to manoeuvre the car through the bends. NVH is excellent and the diesel clatter is well muted except when driven hard. Even then the twin exhaust pipes let out a rather sporty growl that encouraged spirit driving.

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The Maintenance

The car has been reliable since day one. Maintenance is easy with annual service or 15,000km interval. The car was well looked after by Mercedes specialist. Wear and tear items that have been replaced including brake rotors and pads, shocks, brake sensors and odd gaskets here and there. The centre dash would tell the driver any problem that may arise including blown bulbs. It is smart enough to even tell you which bulb needs replacing. Parts are pricey but then again it was a 6 figure car when new. No one expect a Mercedes to have the same servicing costs of a Japanese or Korean car.

The Negatives

The gearbox is excellent though at times it can be seen hunting for the right gear during spirited driving. The paddle-shift can overcome this. The feel of the R-Class can be heavy as it is over two tonnes even with the excellent engine. The engine can feel a bit lethargic if the boost is off but the turbo can spools up pretty quick. The main infotainment unit has a colour display but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto function which is expected for its age. The telephone system is set up for a now discontinued model so it remained unused. The navigation is dated with the map last updated in 2014. The cold start will hear the usual diesel clatter but these quieten down when the engine has warmed up. The fuel economy is good but it is still quite an expensive car to maintain. Some of the trim pieces are fragile and easily broken. Scratches on the steering wheel buttons are rife but thank goodness these are not a problem on mine.

The Plan

After treating the engine to a costly repair on the seals and gaskets, the plan is to keep the car for a few more years at least. Now the engine has been rendered good, it may be treated to an upgrade by the renowned Mercedes tuner, Kleemann. My Mercedes specialist is the official Kleemann agent in the country. It will be different from the AMG performance models or even the Brabus one.

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  • Distinct exterior design
  • Rare model even when new
  • Solid build inside & outside
  • Great fit & finish
  • Top specification models have gadgets that are ahead of its time.
  • Lots of options fitted
  • Good Handling
  • Great Ride
  • Good NVH quality
  • Very reliable
  • Easy maintenance
  • Large Boot with the third row folded
  • Large space
  • Rear automatic climate control with air vents.
  • Good multi zone automatic climate control system


  • 7 speed torque converter auto can be caught out except with paddle shift
  • Engine noise when cold
  • Middle seat in second row too small
  • Obsolete built-in infotainment system
  • Switches easily scratched
  • Too many switches
  • Expensive parts
  • Too many options required to spec up the car

Overall Rating: 4/5

Performance: 4/5

Handling: 4/5

Quality & Features: 4/5

Space: 5/5

Ride Comfort: 4/5

Fuel Economy: 3/5

Price & Cost: 3/5

Owner Review


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