Smooth Mover

Mercedes-Benz’s Valente adds the final touch to an impressive line-up for people moving

Up until now, there have been two choices for shifting people around in bulk if you wanted to have a Mercedes-Benz badge on the bonnet. Now, with the introduction of the Valente, there are three.

For people moving at Benz you need to use the “V’” word and remember Vito, Viano and now Valente. It’s the final option needed by Mercedes-Benz to complete its range of people movers, with a mid-range product called Valente that sits nicely in between the more utilitarian passenger moving versions of Vito and the upper level opulence of the Viano.

Whereas the Vito is more recognisably van-like, but fitted with seats and better interior trim, the Viano with its higher-end list of upper level inclusions and leather seat trim offers a more limousine level of specification. Now, with the Valente slotting in between, the buyer gets a higher trim level, misses out on the high-powered V6 diesel, but gets the advantage of the immensely impressive 220 CDI diesel four-cylinder that features in the E-Class.CARS_VANS_Mercedes-Benz-1

Dr. Kolja Rebstock, Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz, Commercial Vehicles, told Delivery Magazine that the Valente was developed following feedback from the customers and dealers to provide a mid-range people mover variant from the upscale Viano.

“Based on the highly regarded Vito and Viano platform, and working closely with my colleague Horst von Sanden from Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, we have created a new vehicle with a new name plate called the Mercedes-Benz Valente.

“We have repositioned the Vito wagon at the new price of $49,990 including GST (a reduction of $3000.00). With the Valente at $54,490.00 and the Viano at $70,946.00, there are three very distinct price points for the range of people movers,” Dr. Rebstock added.

For a one-day drive of the new Valente around the heavily trafficked centre of Melbourne, and then a cruise through to the outer suburbs, I was joined by Diane Tarr, General Manager of the Mercedes-Benz van division.

“We are now in the position that we have a people mover that can satisfy the buyer at any level. There is a crossover of buyer that, up until now, has been looking at a large 4WD to move their family, and, of course, the traditional buyer of a large family sedan. With the right choice of engine and transmissions, we can offer vastly superior performance and fuel economy, making the whole of life cost of owning a Mercedes-Benz a tremendous advantage,” said Diane.

The 220 CDI diesel engine fitted as standard spec in the Valente is a four-cylinder, common-rail fuel-injected unit that gets its performance from having two-stage turbocharging. At 2.2 litres, its maximum power is 120 kW produced at 3,800 rpm, and its peak torque is rated at 360 Nm all the way through from 1,600 to 2,400 rpm. Having inferred that it’s the same engine as the E 220 CDI, the power and torque calibrations are different, being set slightly lower.

CARS_VANS_Mercedes-Benz-6 It’s this wide torque band that makes driving the Valente so appealing. Admittedly, the V6 diesel fitted in the Viano has got the legs on the 220 CDI, but, for the most part, the Valente driver is going to be more than content with performance that flows through from the five-speed automatic transmission.

Whether you are an avid fan of the twin clutch DSG transmissions now fitted in Volkswagen Transporters or not, the fact remains that the full fluid automatic transmission used by Mercedes-Benz throughout its commercial vehicle range is totally superior in shift quality, smoothness and especially in its ability to provide crawl speed performance in heavy traffic.

In the far smoother aerodynamics of the E-Class Mercedes-Benz sedan, this same engine and transmission match can return amazingly good fuel consumption figures of under the 5.0 l/100 km mark. With the higher and wider frontal area of the Valente, and the heavier tare weight, this consumption level is obviously going to suffer, but, to its credit, the combined fuel consumption figure for Valente comes in at 8.2 l/100 km. Exhaust emissions levels are also impressive at a low 216 g/km of CO2.

The big advantage of Valente, over many of its people mover competitors, is the way that it drives and handles on road. With independent suspension all round, using MacPherson struts on the front and coil springs with semi-trailing arms at the rear, the Valente drives and feels like a car. No longer the ever-present compromise to ride and handling presented by a leaf spring at the rear, the independent suspension irons out the bumps and behaves in a very car-like fashion.

Weighing in at 2,155 kg, the Valente can tow a braked trailer up to a maximum of 2,000 kg, and, being typically Mercedes-Benz in its approach to vehicle safety, it does so with a full electronic trailer stability included in the vehicle safety package. This system prevents the onset of trailer swing and keeps the correct balance happening to mitigate the risk of the trailer getting out of line and affecting the handling of the towing vehicle.

With access into the passenger compartment through sliding side doors on each side, the total number of seats available is eight, including the driver.

Thanks to some clever tracking systems used to mount the seats in the floor, it’s possible to move the centre and rear rows forwards and backwards to alter legroom and luggage space accordingly. It’s also possible to reverse the centre row so that passengers face each other. Individual seats can also flop forwards to reduce seat numbers but increase luggage space, or be removed completely.

The Viano, with its upper level spec and higher performance engine, comes with powered sliding doors. For Valente, you get to open the doors manually, but, that said, the pressure required to operate the slide system is extremely light.

At the rear, you get a top-hinged tailgate that at least provides some degree of protection from the flooding rains we’ve been experiencing recently when you try to load in the weekly shopping to the luggage area.CARS_VANS_Mercedes-Benz-7

Another factor we liked with the Valente is that the product planning team, led by Dianne Tarr, didn’t go the route of fitting larger diameter rims with lower profile tyres just for the sake of increasing visual appeal. In Valente, we have sensible 225/55R17 sized tyres on 7.0Jx17 inch alloy rims, and the spare tyre is a full-sized version and not a space saver.

The list of standard inclusions is extensive, offering the buyer Thermotronic dual-zone air conditioning, light and rain sensors to operate headlamps and wipers automatically, and Bluetooth connectivity and controls on a multi-function steering wheel. Parking in confined spaces is made easier thanks to Parktronic beepers front and rear, the rear-vision mirror dims automatically and the rear and side windows carry a darker tint for improved privacy. LED daytime running lamps at the front improve the awareness of your Valente by other road users.

Vehicle functionality is impressive, and, with the MB cruise control and upper speed limiter operated by a steering column stalk, there’s no reason why the drive should ever fall foul of a highway radar unit. Called Speedtronic, it’s the easiest cruise control system on the market to use effectively, where each strong flick will reduce speed by ten km/h, as the vehicle brakes automatically to match the new speed setting. Flick the same lever gently and you’ll increase or decrease speed in increments of one km/h.

By optioning up with one or more of four additional packages, it’s possible to add a variety of extra features that take the Valente closer to the spec of the Viano, with the exclusion of the V6 diesel engine.

We’ll start with the Comand APS Satellite Navigation Pack. Priced at $4,490, this package includes the obvious Sat/Nav system complete with 6.5-inch colour screen, and adds a reverse camera image projection, speed-sensitive volume control for the audio system, and the Linguatronic function that means you can talk to your Valente and it will do things for you – something to which the kids don’t necessarily respond.

For $2,490, you can add the powered, electrically operated sliding side doors feature from the upper-level Viano, and we’ve got to say that once you’ve used it you’ll appreciate the spend. You can open and close the doors remotely from the key fob, or by push button on the dash or the door B pillar. And, in case the safety conscious amongst us are wondering whether you can close the door onto somebody, it comes with a pressure monitoring system that stops the door closure if it detects any interference.

Night vision can be improved for a further $1,590 by adding Bi-Xenon headlamps, and, for an additional $590.00, there’s a security system with greater functionality to decreased paranoia for anyone worried about vehicle theft.

After having driven the Valente, and recently the Viano, Delivery Magazine’s view is that either of these vehicle options are the pick of the people mover segment at the present time. Five-star ANCAP safety crash protection is something that all vehicle buyers should consider, and it’s available with Mercedes-Benz.

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