The new Mercedes-Benz V-Class takes people-moving to a new level
Back in September of last year Delivery Magazine caught the first drive of the all-new V-Class in the spectacular countryside of the Alsace region of France, a full 12 months before it arrived on these shores. Now, with the blessing of the Mercedes-Benz car division, V-Class can now be found in the dealership showrooms around the country, albeit separated by intent from being associated with the more light commercial variants of Vito and Valente, with which it shares some commonality of design.
The launch of the V-Class has to a certain degree redefined the whole category of the people-mover and Mum Bus, taking the brand and the buyer into a new level of luxury that wasn’t previously available in this segment.
Undoubtedly, it’s not proper etiquette to suggest the V-Class is an upmarket version of the Valente people-mover. More correctly, it’s better described as an attempt to stretch buyer imagination into how best to move eight people in the level of luxury associated with an E-Class or S-Class sedan, maintaining the upmarket look and feel, without a hint of the utilitarian light commercial.
Dieter Zetsche, Mercedes-Benz chairman and head of the passenger car division, set the official tone when he described the V-Class as being the result of expanding the Mercedes-Benz premium passenger car range with a saloon for up to eight people. He then went and spoilt the analogy slightly by referring to it as an MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle).
The pace of engine development has contributed in no small way to the V-Class, which is able to extract 140 kW and 440 Nm of torque out of a 2.1-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine when the closest version of the previous model carried itself with a 3.0-litre V6. Certainly, there were a few nervous executives (and dealership salesmen) that were concerned performance might not be up to scratch, prior to launch. That might also give a clue as to why the 2.1-litre engine is actually carrying the nomenclature of V250, suggesting larger capacity.
The reality of this concern though is completely unfounded. During Delivery’s drive of the V-Class ahead of the official launch, we headed off at maximum warp speed from France onto the basically unrestricted speed limits of the German autobahn system. Even when pushed it to its limits, the V-Class showed it had the appropriate pedigree, with some clever electronic engine mapping providing an additional 10 kW of power and 40 Nm of torque when needed for maximum acceleration.
With the appropriate peaks of 150 kW and 480 Nm of torque, the 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 9.1 seconds is certainly not shabby chic. What puts this into a new perspective is the adoption of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology to reduce exhaust emissions to Euro 6 standards by incorporating AdBlue/DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid). The BlueTEC system used by Mercedes-Benz produces a fuel economy figure of 6.3 l/100 km (combined), and exhaust emissions of 166 g CO2/km.
In terms of safety, the V-Class has every box ticked. The grouping of Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive incorporating crosswind assist, with attention assist, active parking assist, blind spot assist, lane keeping assist and probably mother-in-law assist is included in the package. Add the very clever and efficient 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission with paddle shifters, behind an engine management and suspension package that provides four selectable modes (economical, comfortable, sport and manual), to alter handling and performance, and there’s every reason you’ll find yourself in your favourite happy place.
The development of a full LED lighting system, including headlamps, was completed in conjunction with leading lighting experts, Hella, and is unique in this vehicle category. Apart from the impressive light performance, the system includes cornering lights.
But it is the interior that is going to impress anyone that climbs aboard, accessing by large electrically-powered sliding side doors to the main passenger compartment.
Lugano leather upholstery is standard across the range, and the interior can be lit having chosen one of the three colours available for ambient lighting. With light camel-coloured leather trim there’s none of the depressing black mausoleum look that so many German vehicles appear to favour.
For Delivery’s taste the infotainment system is overly complicated, requiring quite a high degree of personal tuition before gaining mastery over how to find the right radio station, central mapping system or other music sources. What is amazing, though, is the clarity of the screen display that rivals high quality digital TV.
If you take your music seriously you will appreciate the Burmester® surround sound system with 16 high-performance speakers, including a bass reflex speaker. If you want to talk over the music to the rear-seat occupants, the driver’s voice is amplified via a microphone in the front through to the rear speakers.
As mentioned, although the exterior is always going to be reminiscent of a van, the interior is more akin to a luxury passenger car. The front seats offer four-way lumbar support and active seat ventilation with reversing fans to ensure a consistent relative humidity at the contact area with the leather seat for driver and front passenger. Teamed with the THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control system, there’s every reason to believe you’ll be totally comfortable in all areas and overly pampered in some. Another clever touch is that the ventilation system judges when the vehicle enter a tunnel and stops inhaling air, preventing any excessive pollution and pongs by reverting to recirculated air. The climate control system uses the map information from the navigation system and the GPS location data to close the air recirculation flap automatically when the vehicle enters a tunnel, subsequently re-opening it when the vehicle emerges from the tunnel.
Heaven forbid that the driver might also do mundane tasks such as shopping, but, if that does occur, the tailgate has a separately opening rear window within the upper tailgate frame that can be opened and closed independently of the tailgate.
Opening the rear window gives access to a parcel shelf that houses collapsible storage boxes that flap up to resemble something like a plastic milk crate. These can be used to locate shopping and stop it rolling around the interior, making it easier for your driver to carry the shopping to your housekeeper. Should the tailgate need to be opened or closed, this function is accomplished by pressing the appropriate button.
V-Class is going to emerge as a continuing development programme within the Mercedes-Benz passenger car portfolio. AMG has already developed its own version, and in Europe buyers have the option of an all-wheel-drive 4MATIC.
The Geneva car show highlighted the development of a hybrid version called the Concept V-ision with 333 hp and up to 600 Nm of torque from an electric powerpack linked to the V250 diesel engine. With a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 6.1 seconds and a potential for fuel consumption figures of under 3.0 l/100 km, the top speed is quoted as being 206 km/h.
As the car industry moves more towards blending luxury with increased practicality, multipurpose vehicles with an impeccable pedigree such as the V-Class may just increase their acceptance amongst the prestige car buyer.