One thing Mercedes' V-Class MPV certainly isn't short of is space. As a people mover in the truest sense, it's only real competition comes from other large, van-based MPVs - or public transport. If you want to take up to eight people and their luggage in a vehicle that makes a very high quality statement, then it's a difficult option to ignore. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes-Benz V-Class is one of the very biggest and plushest MPVs you can buy and represents a decent step forward from the Viano model it replaced. Yes, it has commercial roots, but they're very well disguised, with both interior and exterior styling and finish having progressed considerably since the last time the Stuttgart brand brought us a model of this type. If you want to carry seven or eight people and all their luggage - and do so with a bit of class, then this vehicle's worth a look.
There aren't many alternatives open to you if a really sizeable People Carrier is needed for up to eight people. And if that MPV must make a really sizeable statement of quality, the options reduce to just one: this Mercedes V-Class. Like its direct competitors, Hyundai's i800 and Volkswagen's Caravelle, the only way that this V-Class can offer up to eight seats and appreciably more space than is already available from cheaper Ford Galaxy or Volkswagen Sharan-class large People Carriers is to be van-based. In this case, on a Mercedes Vito. That might not be the biggest van that Stuttgart makes but it's quite large enough to create in the V-Class a very large MPV indeed. And a more sophisticated one these days that boasts sharper looks and more frugal engines that promise lower running costs. So how does it all stack up? Let's find out.
When it comes to engines, Mercedes has sensibly stuck to tried and tested turbodiesel technology and mated this with its usual 7G-TRONIC PLUS 7-speed auto transmission. The V220d entry-level model is powered by a four-cylinder 2.1-litre engine which ought to be enough for most as it generates 163PS and some 380Nm of torque, good for 62mph in 11.8s en route to 121mph. Should you want to go a stage further, you'll need the V250d which makes 190PS and a massive 440Nm, improving those figures to 9.1s and 129mph. That's about as much speed and pulling power as the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine used in the Viano model that this car was developed to replace. Interior noise has been reduced significantly - thanks to improved cabin insulation - and the paddleshift auto 'box gives buyers access to Mercedes' AGILITY SELECT system. Although this set-up sounds suspension-related, it's not. Press a button and you'll be able to choose between four driving modes: economical, comfortable, sporty and manual. Engine, accelerator and transmission response are then adapted accordingly. If the driver activates the modes 'Sport', 'Comfort' or 'Manual', an additional output of 13PS and 40Nm becomes available in acceleration phases. In this over-torque mode, the V250d can develop 205PS and 480Nm of torque. Mercedes hasn't overlooked the handling though. The AGILITY CONTROL suspension features adjustable dampers and the latest generation of ESP stability control features many assistance functions. The electromechanical power steering has been geared to take the effort out of manoeuvring such a big vehicle in heavy traffic.
Design and Build
Like its predecessor the Viano, this V-Class is based on a van, Mercedes' Vito LCV model, though that said, it's a lot more car-like these days. While a commercial vehicle with windows can only be styled so far, you have to say that this latest V isn't a bad looking thing for a big box. The headlights are fashionably smeared back, the grille looks agreeably assertive and even the slab sides have had some swage lines and shape built into them. You don't buy a V-Class for its sexy styling though. You buy it for its space and solidity. There's a choice of two body lengths, 'Long' and 'Extra Long': we'd suggest you go large, not least because you have to have the 'Extra Long' version to be able to seat up to eight people rather than merely seven folk. Whatever variant you go for, you'll be impressed by the way that Mercedes has clearly worked at improving the look and feel of the cabin, with fine Nappa leather finishes available and a simple but extremely elegant dashboard that has more than a hint of S-Class about it. In this regard at least, it's like no van you've ever seen before. As standard, you get four individual luxury seats with armrests in two seat rows. As an alternative to the individual seats, two or three-passenger bench seats are offered. Cargo can be stowed under all other bench seats. Very little effort is required to move the individual seats and benches fore and aft or to position them in the quick release seat rails. There's also a standard separately opening rear windscreen which is handy in tight parking spaces. You can also spend a little extra and go for the powered EASY-PACK tailgate which can be opened, closed and stopped in any position electrically. If you're not too tall, I'd recommend ticking this box as the tailgate is quite a reach when open.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £42,000 and there's a choice of two bodystyles ('Long' and 'Extra Long') and two trim levels ('SE' and 'Sport'). There are two diesel engine options too (there are no petrol variants this time round), buyers choosing between 163PS and 190PS versions of the brand's 2.1-litre turbo unit. Either way, you have to have a 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic gearbox. Mercedes has provided this V-class with a whole host of safety and driver assist systems, although the majority are offered as options. A total of eleven driver assistance systems are available, based on radar, camera and ultrasound sensors, which were introduced in the E-Class and S-Class under the name "Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive". The standard equipment includes Crosswind Assist, which stabilises the V-Class in strong gusts of crosswind, and ATTENTION ASSIST, which can warn of inattention and fatigue. Optionally available is Active Park Assist, which takes the guesswork out of parking the V-Class. Also optionally available are the 360-degree camera, Distronic Plus proximity control in conjunction with Collision PreventionAssist, Traffic Sign Assist with wrong-way warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist, the LED Intelligent Light System and Adaptive Highbeam Assist. Most of these assistance systems are available in this MPV segment for the first time. The Pre-Safe system familiar from the passenger car models is available as an optional extra. When an accident threatens, it initiates protective measures to ensure that the belts and airbags offer optimum protection during a collision. Standard equipment includes an Audio 20 stereo with USB in and a free-standing seven-inch central display, plus a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with 12 function keys.
Cost of Ownership
The running costs of the V-Class are bound to come under close scrutiny. Many will be run as company vehicles and so-so economy, emissions and depreciation just don't cut it with corporate clients. The V220d doesn't disappoint, registering combined cycle fuel consumption of 45.6 mpg and CO2 emissions of 163g/km, making it a leading contender amongst the really big MPVs. The V250d isn't that far off either, with fuel consumption of 44.8mpg and 166g/km of CO2. Thanks to BlueTEC engineering, this V-Class is the first vehicle in the segment to comply with the tough Euro6 emissions standard. Residual values ought to stand up well, as this car pioneers a rare market niche, namely one for a full-sized van-based MPV that feels anything but van-like. So you get loads of space but a properly club-class feel. That sort of formula sounds as if it will have legs and the efficiency measures future proof it to a reasonable degree.
It initially seems a bit curious that Mercedes decided to ditch the Viano brand and revive the V-Class badge because the old first generation turn-of-the-century V-Class model was never any great shakes. Still, if you can shake that sense of association, then you'll probably love the MK2 model version of this huge, classy MPV. It's an impressive thing. Gone are the acres of grey plastic dashboard, pogo stick ride quality and bland crew bus styling. This thing has class inside and out and moves the game forward in several areas. Both the V220d and the V250d show their class in unexpected ways and purloin bits from some of Mercedes' most impressive passenger cars to great effect. The electrical system and the steering are based on the C-Class, while the COMAND infotainment set-up is basically the one you'll find in an E-Class. Since the old seven-seat R-Class model was pensioned off, Mercedes has been needing something to step into the breach. Few would have nominated this V-Class for that role but it's surprisingly appealing. Go on: go large.