IN VITO VERITAS

The background of the new Mercedes-Benz Vito outlined after it debuts in Berlin

The light commercial segment is hotting up with new products, the latest of which is the replacement of the Mercedes-Benz Vito with a totally new mid-sized van range called, unsurprisingly, Vito.

With gross vehicle weights that range from 2.5 to 3.2 tonnes, the Vito line-up includes the basic mid-sized panel van, the Vito Mixto (which has nothing to do with a sick rabbit), and the Vito Tourer.

Starting with the base van, Vito comes in three lengths and with three different drive systems. A payload of up to 1,369 kg takes it to the top of the class for load carrying in this segment, up to where the Mixto takes over as a crew van with an interior fit out for personnel happy to sit in the back.

Moving into the dedicated people mover category comes Vito Tourer, with three versions available, starting with the Vito Tourer BASE, moving through the Vito Tourer PRO and then onto the premium Vito Tourer SELECT.Mercedes-Benz_Vito_2

It’s not going to be easy when it comes to selecting the perfect solution for commercial vehicle cargo carrying, as Mercedes-Benz had opted to offer a choice of both front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive products, all within the same range.

According to media information issued by the manufacturer, those carrying lighter cargo will be able to opt for front-wheel-drive, while those tackling the harder jobs will be staying with rear-wheel-drive. This variance of drive line may be fine in a perfect, organised world, but where it fits for operators carrying a combination of light and heavy loads is at best a compromise and at worst an annoyance.

There is of course a solution, and for those not sure whether to go for front or rear-wheel-drive to get the best from their vehicle, the alternative is to choose all-wheel-drive. The Vito 4×4 may well be the perfect compromise; notwithstanding it will be more expensive to service, maintain and operate.

At the light end of the Vito range the front-wheel-drive has a four-cylinder, 1.6-litre, turbocharged and intercooled diesel available in two power and torque ratings. The Vito 109 CDI offers 65 kW and the Vito 111 CDI provides 84 kW, neither of which in the opinion of Delivery Magazine will appeal to the Australian buyer.

Given that Australian buyers like to have a higher power and toque range than that offered by the front-wheel-drive 109 CDI and 111 CDI, in our market we will be looking at the next level up, comprising three different power and torque versions of a 2.15-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled diesel.

Mercedes-Benz_Vito_1Moving to 2.15 litres brings the buyer back into the world of rear-wheel-drive, and here you’ll find the 114 CDI (100 kW), the 116 CDI (120 kW) and the 119 BlueTec (140 kW).

Before getting enthusiastic about the 119 CDI and contemplating having 140 kW of power on tap, this engine will in our view be confined to the European market as it conforms to Euro 6 emissions legislation, and the BlueTec nomenclature designates it probably uses AdBlue (DEF).

Despite rhetoric about wanting to reduce carbon emissions, none of the automakers are keen to move ahead of Australian legislation requirements. A move that undoubtedly follows the diminishing examples of environmental consciousness portrayed by the federal and state governments.

Mercedes-Benz made available its 7G-TRONIC PLUS torque converter automatic transmission on the Sprinter late last year, a move that, together with improved safety features, qualified the Sprinter as the Delivery Magazine Van of the Year for 2013 and 2014.

The good news here is that this spectacular transmission is available optionally on the Vito 114 and 116. On the European market is becomes a standard fitment on the 119 BlueTec and 4×4.

Vehicle makers are introducing fuel economy gains by reducing power requirements on the engine, such as incorporating electro-mechanical steering systems that do away with the need for hydraulic pumps driven via a belt off the crankshaft pulley.

Some engine designs have gone further towards reducing what is called parasitic power loss by using variable-rate water pumps, plus electric fuel pumps and oil pumps. At times of light load there’s no need to pump water around an engine in the same quantity and with the same force as when driving at high speed on a hot day. The same applies to oil pressure supplies.

Using SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) for the BlueTec engine means injecting AdBlue of DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) as a catalyst to reduce emissions. Replacing the previous EGR (Exhaust Gas Recycling) induction designs means lowering the overall temperature of the engine, improving cooling and again reducing stress levels. All these gains add up when it comes to extending service intervals, and for the new 2.15-litre diesels the regular maintenance schedules are now extended out to 40,000 km intervals or two years.Mercedes-Benz_Vito_4

There’s a choice of suspension rate between the various vans, with those carrying passengers optioning up with softer springs and different damper control settings. ADAPTIVE ESP is standard throughout the model range.

The base van includes SRS airbags for the driver and passenger and Attention Assist, the Mercedes-Benz solution to combatting driver fatigue. Crosswind Assist is included as standard in this package, and on the German domestic market the buyer also gets tyre pressure monitoring. Those willing to pay more, get more, in the form of Active Parking Assist, Blind Spot Warning Assist, and Lane Keeping Assist.

The Vito has also made the move away from incandescent globes, with filaments to the latest, more intelligent systems incorporating LED technology for indicators, daytime running lamps and headlamp low-beam activation. The headlamps on main beam also have some tricky operating parameters that enable them to adjust their focal length dependent on the type of road travelled.

Like most of the population these days, the Vito is expanding in size. Each of the three versions is 140 mm longer than the previous model, but with an overall height maximum of 1,910 mm all of them fit under the standard 2.0-metre car park roof height guide.

Despite the enthusiasm of the German manufacturer to promote the front-wheel-drive aspect of Vito to its home market, Delivery Magazine is of the opinion this version will probably not make it to the Australian market unless the company tries to interest buyers in the small van category to step up in size, if not in carrying capacity.

In making the decision not to import the Citan small van that features a shared platform with the Renault Kangoo, Mercedes-Benz reduced its competiveness in the entire light commercial vehicle segment. If that’s the case, stand by for some creative advertising as the company tries to prove that larger and lighter means a better option to smaller, more nimble and easier to park alternatives.

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