Rapid Progress

The Vito 122 is the GT version of the courier van set. Chris Mullett runs a rapid ring around Melbourne

The latest Vito range is proof indeed that if a manufacturer persists with the research and development of its products, eventually there’s every possibility it will be right for the market. And that’s where Mercedes-Benz sits today with its current Vito range.

Giving credit where it’s due, with the introduction of the new engines and transmissions fitted in the Vito range, since February this year, the Vito is the best it’s ever been. The gearing is right for the best fuel economy, aligned with performance and driving pleasure, and the engine range is now ideally suited to providing each driver with choice. Go for the most frugal or aim higher and add extra performance. What is so frustrating, though, is how long it’s taken the German manufacturer to actually get it right.

The new four-cylinder CDI diesel engine is already to Euro 5 emissions standards, offering a reduction in fuel consumption over the previous engine range and a lowering of emissions levels by up to 15 percent. Choose between 70 kW, 100 kW and 120 kW of power and you’ll probably find an ideal solution for whatever you plan to do with your Vito.

But, what if you want additional power? Well, thanks to the V6 CDI six-cylinder engine provided in the Vito 122, it’s available.

Unlike many of the newly released European vans that are front wheel drive, the Vito retains rear wheel drive, and, with the 122 CDI, the V6 engine offers a power output of 165kW.Mercedes-Benz_Vito_4

You’ll notice the latest 2011 versions of the Vito immediately, because all of them now sport daytime running lamps, in response to the latest European legislation. This initiative is well proven as a life saver, and certainly as a means to reduce daytime accidents by increasing awareness of vehicles on the road. Considering that most of Europe tends to drive either metallic silver or black vehicles, both of which blend with the road surface colour, adding a bit of extra light on the front end, as pioneered by Volvo, has the potential to work wonders for reducing the accident rate.

The 122 CDI smacks of being the van for the man (or woman) who wants the lot. Apart from having the greatest power and torque outputs of any domestic one tonne van, it comes with an options list that suggests the product planner was allowed to delve into the car parts basket.

The new generation Vito 122 CDI, for example, can offer you Bi-Xenon headlamps, cornering lamps that shine into the inside of the bend, a headlamp cleaning system and fog lamps.

The V6 engine is currently the only six-cylinder available, in a van, on our market. Running its common-rail fuel injection system at 1,600-bar pressure, and with piezo injectors using an eight-hole injector pattern, the engine complies with Euro 5 emissions legislation and runs with four chain-driven overhead camshafts to service a V-angle of 72 degrees.

The maximum power output of 165 kW comes through at 3,800 rpm, and the 440 Nm of torque remains constant from 1,400 rpm through to 2,800 rpm. The tailpipe emissions level is 226 g/km of CO2, and the combined fuel economy figure is 8.6 l/100 km, surprisingly efficient for this level of power and torque output.

You don’t even get the option of changing gear with a manual transmission, as the 122 CDI is purely automatic, thanks to a full fluid, five-speed design rather than the current crop of automated manual transmissions.

The BlueEFFICIENCY name tag that comes with the latest Vito range actually encompasses a wide range of design features that collectively contribute to the improved economy and lower emissions.

It’s all thanks to computing power and the latest control systems that govern, not only the engine parameters, but also battery management, an ECO minded power steering pump and a controlled fuel pump. The ASSYST service computer also adjusts the recommended service intervals and extends the oil drain requirements to producMercedes-Benz_Vito_5e an average distance advisory that equates to 23,000 km or 12 months. Drive around the city every day and it might suggest shorter drain intervals, head into the country every day and you might get longer drain intervals.

The 2011 model year changes are significant, with a complete redesign of the suspension, spring struts and towers, support bearings and the transverse links including the anti-roll bar and bearings. The rear suspension remains an independent set-up with semi-trailing arms, the spring ratings have been reconfigured, there are auxiliary spring and damper changes, and new bearings for the control arms.

Stopping the Vito, in as short as possible braking distances, results from disc brakes all round, electronic brake force distribution and brake force assistance to maximise pressure application without wheel locking. They’ve even thought of how best to prevent the following vehicle front from joining with the rear end of yours when you complete an emergency stop, by pulsing the brake warning lights when under maximum braking effort.

Safety plays a pivotal role with the Vito, and as well as the now recognised standard of driver and passenger airbags, there are height adjustable, three-point seat belts, belt tensioners, belt force limiters, and two-way head restraints. Also included are the regular Mercedes-Benz car safety features of electronic stability programme and traction control. If you are in the habit of towing a trailer, the Vito also includes trailer stability assist, which aims to prevent any risk of trailer swing or a jackknife event occurring.

In terms of overall dimensions, the 112 CDI is based on the long wheelbase Vito, giving a total overall length of 5,238 mm. Internally, the cargo area is 2,697 x 1,630 x 1,411 mm (length x width x height), giving 6.2 cubic metres of load space. It turns within 12.5 metres, comes with a sliding side load door on both sides, and a tailgate or barn door at the rear. Maximum payload is 1,030 kg and the floor load height is 560mm.

Choosing the 112CDi brings with it an option of two versions. The first is a standard van with front seating for either one or two passengers, and, secondly, there’s what Mercedes-Benz calls a Crew Cab, with a second row of seats included in the centre of the van.

The fact that the Vito 112 CDI runs on 225/55R17 aspect tyres with 7J rims give a bit of a clue as to why it handles better than the average delivery van, and even a quick look at the power and torque figures indicate that this is one rapid little cargo shifter. Usually, vans run on 65 aspect ratio tyres on 6.5-inch rims, and, consequently, may wallow a bit in the corners. No such problem with the 112 CDI, which hangs on like a limpet, and accelerates and stops better than many sedans. The five-speed automatic is also one of the smoothest shifters currently available in any light commercial.Mercedes-Benz_Vito_2

Remember here, though, that you are buying a premium product in a market that moves from ultra basic to highly opulent, as in the case of the 112. It’s for this reason the pricing structure is around $58,990 for the Crew Cab and $55,990 for the van.

As well as the standard features already mentioned, the 112 CDI adds air conditioning, power front windows, hill start, cruise control and selectable upper speed limiting, a leather covered steering wheel, MP3/WMA compatibility with the CD/AM/FM unit, and Bluetooth hands-free technology.

If this selection doesn’t satisfy your tastes then you can option up further with a dusk and rain sensor for lights and wipers, wooden flooring insert, cargo area bulkheads, thorax airbags for driver and front single passenger, and front and rear park assist. Whatever way you look at it, the 112 CDI really is the Mercedes-Benz of the van market, a fact endorsed by it winning the 2011 Delivery Magazine Van of the Year Award. In most spec offerings it achieves a four-star ANCAP rating, but with specific orders, usually more applicable to the Viano spec, it can achieve a five-star rating.

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