Mercedes-Benz launches the V-Class People Mover
What’s got three body lengths, two wheelbases, provides a choice of engines, can carry up to eight people and yet still whizz into underground car parks without leaving a dent on the roof or losing the antenna? The answer is the Mercedes-Benz V-Class.
The German manufacturer has been experiencing considerable success with the Australian-developed Valente and has now moved a whole step further into safe, spacious and comfortable people moving. Already released in the European market, Australians will have to wait until later this year to take advantage of the new levels of safety and convenience this model brings to the marketplace. In doing so, the V-Series replaces the Viano, Valente and the recently discontinued R-Class.
Sharing a common overall height of 1.88 metres, the V-Class starts off with its completely new body design on a wheelbase of 3200 mm and an overall length of 4895 mm. Next up, and the model line stays with the same wheelbase but extends the overall length to 5140 mm, thanks to increased rear overhang. Finally, for those for whom length is everything, the V-Class extra-long comes in with a wheelbase of 3430 mm and an overall length of 5370 mm.
After gaining up to a five-star rating with Vito and Viano, Mercedes-Benz has focused intently on protecting the passenger compartment during an accident. Large deformation zones at the front and rear absorb the impact forces of a collision over a large area, so that the passenger cell, made of high-strength steel alloys, remains intact.
The substructure consists of a frame with four longitudinal members and four cross members, which in a crash effectively ensure the distribution of the impact forces. The construction also underscores the excellent torsional rigidity of the new V-Class.
When it comes to pedestrian protection, it might come as some consolation for the person spread-eagled over the bonnet that, owing to the larger deformation space between the bonnet and the components underneath, the loads that possibly will occur in an accident are reduced.
Excess weight requires more fuel to move about, so, to cut vehicle weight, all doors and the tailgate are designed as lightweight steel components with a monocoque design. Pinpoint reinforcements help improve the crash safety of the MPV in spite of the weight-optimised construction.
With six standard-fitted airbags for driver and front passenger, the new V-Class offers a more comprehensive array of passive safety features than the previous model. The airbags, which can deploy very rapidly in the event of an accident, include:
- two adaptive airbags for the driver and front passenger that can be triggered in two different stages depending on the severity of impact,
- two thorax/pelvis sidebags in the front-seat backrests, and
- two window airbags for the driver and front passenger.
As an optional extra, larger window airbags are available which extend over three seat rows from A-pillar to D-pillar. Driver and front-passenger seats are additionally fitted with a height-adjustable 3-point safety belt, belt tensioner and belt-force limiter, as well as seat-belt reminder and 4-way head restraint. The rear seats also afford a high level of safety. All rear seats have integrated 3-point safety belts with belt-force limiter and 4-way head restraints.
We are now seeing a flow through of safety features from the passenger car range, and V-Class is the first of the Benz MPV models to include PRE-SAFE® Occupant protection as an option. When an accident threatens, it initiates protective measures so that the belts and airbags can develop the best possible protective effect during the collision. A comparable technology is not offered by any other manufacture in this vehicle segment.
PRE-SAFE® is linked to Brake Assist and the Electronic Stability Program ESP®, enabling sensors that detect potentially critical driving situations and send the relevant information to the electronic control units.
And there’s more. The information provided by the short-range radar sensors of the optional DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control system in conjunction with COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST uses electric motors to add extra tension to the front seat belts 200 milliseconds before an unavoidable collision, thus reducing the forces exerted on the driver and front passenger during the crash.
Preventive occupant protection is activated in the event of emergency braking or high lateral acceleration – heavy understeer or oversteer, for example, or fast, sudden movements of the steering wheel by the driver. The powered front driver’s seat is also moved backwards or forwards to find the optimal position to provide added safety levels from an accident standpoint. The cushion angle and backrest inclination are also optimised.
If the good fairy is watching over you and helps the V-Series to avoid an actual impact, then all the safety systems mentioned above relax and reset themselves.
Supposing the good fairy is a bit slack on the day, if a crash does occur despite all countermeasures, and the belt tensioners and the airbags are triggered, the airbag control unit sends a corresponding message to the CAN data bus of the V-Class. The connected control units then autonomously carry out a series of measures designed to protect the occupants and, if possible, assist rescuers. The measures include:
- conspicuous illumination of the vehicle with activation of the hazard warning lamps and the interior emergency illumination to make it easier to find the vehicle,
- emergency door unlocking to provide the possibility of escaping from the vehicle,
- lowering of the side windows to allow the airbag gases to escape,
- shutdown of the auxiliary heater and fuel pump to reduce the danger of a fire,
- switching off the interior blower, and
- activating the air recirculation function so that smoke possibly developing in the engine compartment will not be blown into the interior.
If all these functions have triggered, there’s no doubting the driver and passengers are going to want to exit the vehicle, and, frankly, we would expect them all to be a little shell-shocked by the experience.
With the two equipment lines, V-Class and V-Class AVANTGARDE, and an Exterior Sports package and an Interior Design package for each line, the new MPV can be individualised to suit any taste and requirement. As a result, it meets a wide variety of customer needs and is just as attractive for families as it is for people who need a variable and spacious interior for their leisure and sports activities. In addition, it is ideally suited as a luxurious VIP or hotel shuttle.
Other highlights include the free-standing central display, the multifunction steering wheel with 12 function keys and DIRECT SELECT selector lever (plus steering-wheel shift paddles with automatic transmission) as well as the innovative touchpad, which allows all telematics functions by means of gestures or by entering letters and characters like on a smartphone.
The touchpad is available in conjunction with Audio 20 CD or COMAND Online. The latest generation of COMAND Online combines all audio, telephone and navigation functions and additionally offers an internet browser, the LINGUATRONIC voice control system, and transmission of traffic data in real time. The optional Burmester® surround sound system with 16 speakers and a bass reflex speaker delivers the perfect listening experience.
The Mercedes-Benz MPV is the only vehicle in the segment to offer optional 4-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. Hopefully, the seat technology does not extend to the level provided by a typical Japanese toilet seat with bidet function.
Also unique in this class of vehicles is the enhanced THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control system, which is available as an optional extra to replace the standard-fit TEMPMATIC system. It has various ventilation modes to offer individual climate control. The FOCUS, MEDIUM and DIFFUSE climate modes have distinct settings for air volume and distribution. In addition, the THERMOTRONIC system features automatic pre-entry climate control at the touch of a button on the vehicle key, an integral demisting sensor and distribution of cooled air to the driver and front passenger sides, the intensity of which is automatically controlled by the position of the sun.
As standard, the MPV is equipped with four individual luxury seats with armrests in two seat rows. They can be folded forward intuitively to afford fast and easy access to the rear. An optional folding table can be installed between the individual seats in the first row.
As an alternative to the individual seats, a two-passenger bench seat with two-piece, individually folding backrest, or a three-passenger bench seat with two-piece seat cushion and three-piece backrest is available for both rear rows.
The outer right-hand seat of the three-seater bench can be folded forward or taken out separately. The entire bench can be folded up to create space for large items of luggage, such as sports equipment or newly purchased furniture.
If you like your V-Series so much that you want to sleep with it, there’s good news. For overnight accommodation the rearmost row also can be equipped with a three-passenger bench seat as a comfort berth. Drawers are located underneath the berth, which can also be used as a second loading level. Cargo also can be stowed under all other bench seats. Moreover, all bench seats and the individual seats are fitted with integrated three-point safety belts. All seats have a quick release removal system to expand the loading area for cargo.
One feature we haven’t seen before on a van or people mover is the separately opening rear windscreen attached to the upper tailgate frame. It can be opened and closed independently of the tailgate. This makes loading and unloading easier in two respects: on the one hand, it allows a second loading level; on the other – particularly in tight parking spaces – there is no need to open the large tailgate.
A total of eleven innovative driver assistance systems ensure a high level of driving comfort and an exemplary level of safety. They are based on modern radar, camera and ultrasound sensors, which were introduced in the new E-Class and S-Class under the name “Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive”.
The aim here is to make even the worst driver less of a threat to himself or herself, or other road users.
The standard equipment includes Crosswind Assist, which stabilizes the V-Class in strong gusts of crosswind, and Attention Assist, which can warn of inattention and fatigue. Optionally available is Active Park Assist. It makes parking the new MPV as easy and convenient as parking a compact car.
Also optionally available are the 360-degree camera, Distronic Plus proximity control in conjunction with Collision Prevention Assist, Traffic Sign Assist with wrong-way warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist, the LED Intelligent Light System and Adaptive Highbeam Assist. Add to that the PRE-SAFE system covered already in this text and one might expect that a driver that still manages to have an accident should have their licence automatically cancelled, as they undoubtedly are an idiot and have already demonstrated they are unsafe in any situation.
As far as engine selection goes, there is a cross over here of technology from the A-Class to the S-Class in the form of the now commonly used 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine with two-stage turbocharging. This engine has been further enhanced specifically for the MPV and is available in three power output levels.
The V 200 generates 100 kW (136 hp) and a maximum torque of 330 Newton metres, and the V 220 CDI produces 120 kW (163 hp) and 380 Newton metres. This is an increase of 20 Newton metres in each case over the predecessor – but with fuel consumption down by around two litres per 100 km. With fuel consumption of just 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres and CO2 emissions of 149 grams per kilometre, the V 220 CDI occupies an absolute leading position in the segment.
The top-of-the-line V 250 BlueTEC engine has a power output of 140 kW (190 hp) and peak torque of 440 Newton metres, plus as much pulling power and agility as the previous three-litre V6 turbodiesel engine. At the same time, the new top-of-the-range model offers very smooth running characteristics, and interior noise has been reduced significantly – thanks, among other things, to comprehensive insulation – compared with the preceding six-cylinder model.
Fuel consumption is also considerably lower, and at 6.0 litres/100 km the four-cylinder turbodiesel runs on 28 percent less fuel than the previous six-cylinder, while offering identical performance.
Thanks to BlueTEC, the top-of-the-range model is also the first vehicle in the segment to comply with the Euro VI emissions standard. The V 250 BlueTEC is equipped as standard with the 7G-TRONIC PLUS transmission with DIRECT SELECT lever and DIRECT SELECT shift paddles. This exceptional automatic transmission is available as an optional extra for the V 200 CDI and V 220 CDI models.
The V-Class is the only vehicle in its segment to offer the AGILITY SELECT function in conjunction with the automatic transmission. At the push of a button the driver can select from 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 10 kW and 40 Newton metres becomes available in acceleration phases (“over-torque”). As a result, the V 250 BlueTEC, for example, develops 150 kW and maximum torque of a full 480 Newton metres.
Ground-breaking and unrivalled features in this category of vehicles are also the AGILITY CONTROL suspension with selective adjustment of the damping system to the road conditions, and the latest generation of ADAPTIVE ESP®, featuring many assistance functions for optimum driving safety. The light and precise electromechanical power steering likewise contributes greatly to the well-balanced driving comfort in the new V-Class.
Mercedes-Benz is reinventing itself as the maker of sportier vehicles, rather than models for portly septuagenarians. However, when people movers start running on 19-inch rims with ultra-low profile tyres, we struggle to find the balance of fine tuning the suspension and handling while destroying the ride comfort.
Yes, if you want a fire-breathing SLS AMG with a 6.3-litre V8 engine that produces 435 kW (591 hp), revs to 6,800 rpm and pumps out a torque rating of 650 Nm at 4,750 rpm, then so be it. But this is a people mover where eight passengers are going to be pinned into their seats by the adaptive belts with an ECM that by now should be convinced there’s a maniac at the wheel. The electronic management system and safety pre-selects will probably be direct-dialling the local hospital, convinced that the worst case scenario is only a corner or two away.
Delivery awaits its first drive of the V-Series with enthusiasm; tempered only by the fear the vehicle may be considerably more intelligent than the driver.