The 2011 Mercedes-Benz R350 is pretty dreamy. It’s a minivan, but not really a minivan. It’s a family hauler to be sure, but it’s also swanky. It’s utilitarian, but can spoil you like a luxury car should. It’s brilliant, mostly. The front end has been redesigned and looks less like a Tylenol caplet than before. It’s got a more squared off nose and looks very sharp and modern.
What the R350 has going for it is that it can carry a ton of people in comfort and style. My test car had a capacity for 6 people, but there is an option for 7 people, which swaps out the center row’s captains’ chairs for a bench. Either way, the R350 has four sets of latch connectors, which is impressive. The ingress and egress is pretty great considering there is no sliding door. But lack of a sliding door also means that there are huge rear doors that open extra wide, so watch where you park if your passengers can’t open a door without causing injury to adjacent vehicles.
But I know that it’s really hard to have your cake and eat it too. Yes, it would be interesting to see if Mercedes-Benz can incorporate a sliding door (make that a power sliding door, please) into the R350. But then it would be more obvious that what I was driving is a minivan, something some people are loath to admit. If there were a sliding door, it would certainly earn this vehicle the top prize for most luxurious, accommodating family vehicle in the world (if such a prize existed).
The kids would agree. The second row captain’s chairs gave each of them their own personal space. The entertainment system gave them their own screens and wireless headsets with which to watch their movie. The kids loved this feature, and I even indulged us all in an updated version of a drive-in movie one evening in an attempt at nostalgia. I can assure you that everyone had a ball.
The dual moonroofs ensured even the third row felt light and open. The light tan seats contrasting with the black dash, console, doors and carpet kept things on the light side as well. Plenty of compartments, cubbies, and cupholders made us happy, as did the heated front seats.
Yeah, you get it. It was nice. But what about the drive? Well, the drive makes the R350 a bit more like a minivan. However, given that the R350 is 203 inches long, that’s no surprise. The V6 was plenty powerful but felt a little laggy. The steering and braking were fine, and I did feel that I had to overcome a mental hurdle to park the R350. I thought it would be really tricky because it was so long. However, it entered and exited parking spots with grace and ease.
The major frustration of the R350 is likely the arrangement of the cruise control stalk, turn signal stalk, and the gear shifter, all of which are on the steering column. But they’re on there weirdly. The turn signal is at about 7 o’clock and hidden behind the steering wheel. The cruise control stalk is at about 10 o’clock and is in perfect view, which means that whenever you want to signal, you wind up turning on the cruise control. This will take some time to retrain yourself, so be sure you have that kind of energy in your life.
Overall, the R350 was a joy to drive and recreate in. But at an MSRP of $67,455 it should. At this price, just about every conceivable bell and whistle is included, like that panoramic moonroof, entertainment system, premium stereo system, Parktronic, blind spot monitoring system, and 20” wheels, and more.
The R350 starts at $50,240 so you can cut back on those features if you don’t have the kind of pocket change required for an R350 equipped like my tester. Either way, if you have a large family, desire for something more upscale than a minivan, and some money….
on our TFLcar recommendation scale of:
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it or
– Forget it
Growing up in Colorado Sara Lacey was always kind to her cars. These days however, she spends her time punishing automobiles with the help of her children. Reviewing cars from the unique perspective of a woman and mom, Sara also writes for MotherProof.com and Cars.com. In addition, she sits on the board of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press Association.