A, B, C, E, G, S … V? The Mercedes-Benz alphabet has claimed another letter, with the new Mercedes-Benz V-Class bringing all the luxury bits and bobs we’ve come to appreciate from the passenger car range and packing them in to a van.
That’s right, this is a commercial van turned into a luxury truckster. It’s the first time the company has been so bold as to label it a something-Class, as previously it was known as the Viano.
So has it got the class to live up to the “-Class” suffix? Yes. Totally. 100 per cent. It even has a price tag to fit.
The V-Class – which, in this sole specification is known as the V250 BlueTEC Avantgarde – is priced at $85,500 plus on-road costs.
But the V250 has plenty of kit to offset that asking price in order to make it justifiable to hire car fleet buyers and the few private shoppers who might consider this practical, utili-luxury bus over a near-priced premium SUV.
The goodies list includes an extremely good 15-speaker Burmester sound system, an 8.0-inch media screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, dual USB ports and an SD card slot up front, an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot, voice control, satellite navigation with 3D illustration, and ambient lighting with three different colours and five brightness levels.
Read the full pricing and specification story here.
Inside is leather trim throughout, a stylish “wave” design plastic finish on the dash and doors, and parts borrowed from the C-Class and E-Class to make the cabin feel properly special.
The finishes are excellent, with quality materials up front and in the rear, and the vision from the driver’s seat is very good for the most part, though the rear head restraints can eat in to rear-view mirror vision. Thankfully there’s a surround-view camera system as standard that makes parking manoeuvres a cinch.
All V250 models come with seven seats as standard, with two buckets up front, a pair of middle-row captain’s chairs, and a third-row bench seat. Buyers can specify it as a six-seater (2+2+2) or eight-seater (2+3+3) if required.
Because people-movers deal first and foremost in flexibility, the cockpit of the V-Class is predictably practical. But there are a few tricks that you need to know to get the most out of the seating.
The second row can be turned 180 degrees to make for a ‘meeting room’ style seating space, though you’d want to be close with your clients if that’s what you’re using the space for, because you’ll be, er, close to your clients. With five on board you will touch knees and feet, and it is fair to say that this is not the most comfortable rear-seat configuration.
With all seats facing forward it’s a more natural space, though that does make ingress and egress to the third row more troublesome.
The five individual rear seats are on rails and runners to ensure that adequate legroom can be had for all occupants, while headroom is good unless you’re excessively tall. Shoulder-space for third-row occupants is fine.
You can remove the seats, but as we found, that’s a two-person job, and an awkward one at that. Then there’s the matter of storing the seats once they’re out. Still, it’s nice to know that you can use it as a van if you need to – just watch that plush carpet and those nicely textured plastics when loading things in and out.
Ventilation is important for rear-seat occupants in a van like this, and there are vents for all three rows of seats. Further to that, the Benz bus uses a smart ventilation system that monitors the satellite navigation mapping to detect when you’re in a tunnel, and it will close the air recirculation flap to avoid smog intrusion. Nice.
The fact that there’s still a decent cargo hold (1030 litres with the seats in place; 4630L with seats out) with a standard-fit shelving system for the cargo area means loading in half-a-dozen suitcases is entirely manageable. And if you need to quickly access the luggage hold you can lift the rear glass, too.
As for the drive experience, the V250 feels more like a passenger mover than a parcel carrier.
The brilliant V6 diesel engine of the previous model is no more, but the V250’s 2.1-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel has identical torque to that model (440Nm, now at 1400-2400rpm where previously it hit between 1600-2400rpm) but less power (140kW at 3800rpm, previously 165kW at 3800rpm).
There’s a touch of cold-start rattliness to this engine, but once warm it is refined and punchy, with a terrific amount of early-rev shove. Progress from a standing start is swift, too, thanks to the twin turbochargers that work together to ensure linear power delivery.
The rear-drive van makes use of a seven-speed automatic gearbox, and claimed consumption is rated at 6.3 litres per 100km, but during our time in the V250 we saw no lower than 7.3L/100km, and that was with the majority of our time being spent on the highway with two occupants on board.
That is where this vehicle shines, by the way. It rides beautifully and is quiet up front, though in the rear there is some tyre roar over rougher surfaces. Its suspension soaks up bumps and lumps with ease, and there’s a great level of stability to the vehicle at high speeds, even in gusty winds – which is rare for a slab-sided van, though the V-Class has a clever electronic stability control system that includes cross-wind assist which counters gusts of winds by braking wheels to make it easier to steer against the wind.
There’s also highway-friendly goodies such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance with active steering intervention, and blind-spot monitoring. The V-Class gets six airbags (dual front, front side and full-length curtains).
Around town the V250 is still comfortable for the most part, but the suspension – while generally effective at absorbing bumps – can be noisy, and sharp edges at low speeds can be felt in the cockpit.
The steering is light and quick to react, too, which makes for easy urban driving, and the mirrors allow you to make sure you’re not going to bash into parking pylons or the like. On the whole, though, it never feels cumbersome to drive.
While the V250 may appeal more to fleet buyers than private shoppers, Mercedes-Benz offers a capped-price service program. Maintenance is due every 12 months or 25,000km (which will appeal to hire car drivers), and over five years the cost works out at $4980 for the Silver Service plan (not including brakes and wiper blades, but including oil, filters, spark plugs, coolant and wheel balancing/rotation). So, just like the car, keeping it on the road is an expensive exercise.
The Mercedes-Benz V250 BlueTEC Avantgarde is the best luxury people-mover you can buy right now. It is comfortable, luxurious, it feels like a Mercedes-Benz not a van, and – aside from the price tag – there’s not much to dislike about it.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitios