The MPV from Mercedes has been rechristened as the V-Class, just taking the bit most families would need from an SUV in the real world. Is this right for your family? A long drive with some driving around cones is just as good a way to find out, as any other.
I have been inside a Mercedes van before, many times, in many places around the world. The journey always started at the airport and it had a wonderful way of reassuring you of the quality you can expect on your stay, even before you stepped into the lobby and discovered your room. The three-pointed star has set standards for the hotel it serves, in a way. The only place I have not been in the transporter is its driver’s seat; and definitely not turning the steering feverishly trying to get around cones. But that was till the V-class launch day!
Ironically, V doesn’t stand for Viano; nor does it stand for a ‘van’. Because, Mercedes prefers to call the V-class a Multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) and its occupants ‘family’, rather than passengers. That pretty much sums up the shift – from the commercial division to the passenger cars division, where the V-class leaves the lobby for the porch. Mercedes, worldwide, has suddenly decided it is the perfect solution for large families that like to do things together.
THE SPECS: 2.0L Turbocharged petrol, 211 Hp and 350 Nm, 7-speed automatic 7G-TRONIC PLUS, Fuel consumption combined: 6.1-5.7 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined: 159-149 g/km (Mercedes figures)
THE PRICE: AED 183,608 to AED 275,430
STANDARD EQUIPMENT: Crosswind Assist, which helps the driver to stabilise the V-Class in strong, gusting crosswinds, and good old ATTENTION ASSIST that invites you for a cup of coffee when you seem to be dosing off. All seats are fitted with a three-point seat belt as standard.
OPTIONAL: 360° camera, DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control with COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist, the LED Intelligent Light System, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Active Parking Assist and PRE-SAFE® system.
How has Mercedes equipped the V-Class for homecoming?
At first glance, this is the Viano but the cabin ergonomics have been redefined, and the waistline has been lowered. The single most important parameter that families shopping for a car insist on is safety, followed by comfort. Mercedes has boosted the safety spec of this vehicle, while a plethora of driver assistance features have also been added to make the handling of this car a breeze for all those in the family, irrespective of gender, age or experience.
The very same practicality that prepared the Viano to be a hospitality favourite – namely space and storage – allows the V-Class to serve as a ‘family transporter for an active lifestyle’. There is no need for carrier rungs in the rear – just pack your cycles and camping equipment – and just drive off! The Mercedes V-Class make it easier for moms to do the school run or the market hop. The large glass in the rear can be opened separately to pick or drop something into the rear without having to open the boot wide. The inside material on the dash and trims suggest value rather than luxury, in a Mercedes kind of way – the only thing I didn’t like was the flimsy speaker covers.
Now, depending on how tall you are, you could play ‘knock-knees’ with your co-passenger in the seat facing you. But the long wheel base version should take care of this problem once and for all. The only pronounced difference in our test models from the usual family cars was the rows that faced each other – not a great idea if you have motion sickness. But then, the V-class offers enough seating configurations to choose from!
The air-conditioning system has been customised for the Middle East with a higher cooling capacity compressor, a larger evaporator and fans that turn faster! The thermotronic automatic climate control controls temperature, airflow and air distribution in three zones – two in front and one in the rear.
On testing grounds
Gathered in the massive parking lot next to The Sevens Rugby stadium, we were urged to test the mettle of the Mercedes V-class by braking and swerving hard to feel the reliability and composed face of ABS and the reliable steadiness stemming from a lower profile of the vehicle. The ‘slalom’ was a little dragging but as the MPV did not veer away from its intended course as it careened its way through pylons, we were forced to see some merit in Mercedes’s insistence on sporty testing.
The next test was rather interesting. The motoring journalists were asked to attempt ‘blind parking’ inside a blackened out Mercedes V-Class where the only view of the outside world was through what they call a 360º parking camera, which also offered multiple viewing angles. Come to think of it there is not as much drama as they made out to be there, even though some other cameras with multiple views offer a wider angle.
If this was all about parking assistance, the next step was about parking without any assistance, from the driver that is! The V-Class is specked in the Executive variant with a capable valet that can back up into the parking spot, without upsetting anything, and stopping for obstacles on its own.
Now, the testing steps seemed to get scarier till we were in for the ultimate, where their expert made it to look like we were about to crash into the lead car to the accompaniment of excited and frightened screams from the front seat. And lo! The car slowed down, flashed hazard lamps and carried on! Yet another safety feature is the Pre-Safe crash assistance: windows open to release the pressure that builds up at the time of a collision, to avoid it being absorbed by passengers. (No test of that one please, thank you!)
Attending to kids has been found to be taking 20% of drive time and this is 12 times more dangerous than attending a telephone call – discovered an Australian survey. So, the Mercedes MPV has a family address system that uses the car’s speakers – it can double up as a tour guide PA system for those hotels that still want a V-Type as their airport pick up carriage. The Exclusive also features a Bürmester 15 speaker 640 W system.
On the drive back to Dubai, I got my share of long stretches, roundabouts and slow traffic. The turbo-charged four-pot, which drives all Mercedes models with a 250 badge, actually gives out 10 Nm extra torque when compared with the previous 3.5 L V6. As far as the drive goes, this really doesn’t change much – except when you, if you, notice what I call the ‘turbo-squeeze’ as the car picks up power. The V-Class console even has an AGILITY SELECT function, which allows the driver to select one of four driving modes: economical, comfortable, sporty and manual. Mercedes is underlining the shift to the pride of individual ownership by introducing an AMG package in this MPV segment. The return drive was quiet and composed enough for a family transporter, great for long drives!
The Variants and Price
Yes, there are two lengths – V Class Long that is 5140 mm and Extra Long that is 5370 mm. The exclusive variant is only available in the long, not the longer, variant. The new MPV is available as Standard, Avantgarde and Exclusive, priced from USD 49,990 (AED 183,608) to USD 74,990 (AED 275,430). The V-Class AVANTGARDE includes the option of an Exterior Sports package and an Interior Design package, and a range of other extras like wood trim, fridge and iPad – wheels, panoramic sunroof etc.
So, what will fill the gap for the Viano? The Vito will take care of that for the Commercial division with specs and arrangements, and not to mention the price, suitable for hotels or hospitality. Meanwhile, V stand for family – oh, it’s that German thing about pronouncing the V!