Pub, Club or Sightseeing trip? | Van Review

Luxury travel with your designated driver and seven mates – words and images by Ed. Higginson

When it comes to luxury vehicles, Mercedes-Benz usually leads the way and if you need the capacity for eight people, then the Mercedes-Benz V-Class is a great place to start.

The updated V-Class hit Australian showrooms in late 2019 when Mercedes-Benz gave the class leading people mover a new look inside and out, plus new power and a few additional safety features.

When Delivery Magazine was asked to take one for a week’s test drive, it fortunately coincided with a trip I had planned from Melbourne via Adelaide to Broken Hill, on towards Newcastle and then back to Melbourne within the week, totalling 4500 km. Maybe not what they expected for a quick review, but a trip that gave me a whole new appreciation for luxury travel.

Firstly, we need to point out the obvious that the V-Class is based on the Mercedes-Benz Vito van. There are many great features of Mercedes-Benz van range and the V-Class takes it to a new level, making it a completely different vehicle to drive.

There are three variants on offer, being the Standard, the Avantgarde and then the option to add the AMG Line package, which luckily was the version we were presented with at Mercedes-Benz head office in Melbourne. In a beautiful black colour, with the AMG touches, it really did look like a luxury limousine.

The Standard V-Class gets the 2.1-litre four-cylinder V220 diesel producing 163 hp (120 kW) of power and 380 Nm of torque through the seven-speed 7G-Tronic + transmission. For the Avantgarde model, the same engine gets a slightly better tune in the bigger V250 diesel to produce 190 hp (140 kW) of power and 440 Nm of torque, again through the same 7G-Tronic +  transmission. For the Australian market the AMG Line matches the same driveline specs’ as the Avantgarde.

Externally, the facelifted V-Class features a new bumper with air intakes and a diamond-styled radiator grille, whilst the AMG spec’ also features a sporty new diamond grille with chrome pins. These chrome touches then also embellish other areas for that touch of class we expect from Mercedes-Benz.

The AMG styling flows longitudinally down the AMG side sill panels, then at the rear it comes together with a sporty rump, featuring an AMG spoiler lip and AMG diffuser-look rear bumper.

For the interior, the AMG Line adds sports pedals with brushed aluminium and black rubber studding. The air vents are finished in silver detailing, cross struts in silver chrome, carbon-fibre styled dash, and black headlining along with many other beautifully-crafted touches.

After being handed the keys, I took some time to load up my kit for the week and familiarise myself with all the features.

Starting at the rear, the V-Class boot lifts upwards electronically but with it being so large you do have to park with a generous half-metre gap at the rear, which can be a challenge when the van is already 5.14 metres long.

The benefit of having this extra length is that the rear compartment behind the third row of seats has plenty of room. Mercedes-Benz has also cleverly doubled the space with a solid parcel shelf so you can double stack suitcases easily or fold it up to accommodate tall items.

A button on the base of the rear door will then effect closure, however you need to be able to reach to the height of 1.88 metres when the tailgate is raised, so not one for the kids to close.

Jumping in through the side sliding door is also easy as both are powered electrically. Activation is via the external handle, an internal button for the rear passengers, or even from a button on the dash in case the chauffeur doesn’t feel like getting out in the rain! Surprisingly, this was one of the features that you really appreciate, especially when it makes it so much easier for passengers to climb in and out when parked in tight spaces.

In the main cabin, the V-Class offers up to eight configurations with six, seven or eight seats,  depending on your requirements. There’s also a host of additional extras from which to choose, such as reclining seats, coolers, extra compartments and much more.

Sitting in the super-comfortable driver’s seat, the V-Class has a typical Mercedes-Benz luxury cockpit with sweeping dash, chrome touches mixed with carbon-fibre patterns, all containing that feel of German engineering DNA.

The V-Class gets the familiar Mercedes-Benz entertainment system, which you navigate through their standard raised chrome mouse. If you have driven Mercedes-Benz before it is an easy system to operate but can take a while for beginners to understand all its little nuances. That said, it isn’t as easy to use or link up to your phone as Apple CarPlay, especially when you are trying to use the satellite-navigation functions.

The transmission controls are on a stalk behind the steering wheel, also a typical Mercedes-Benz feature, which is easy to operate when you get used to it. It’s location does take away some of the space for other controls, so the cruise control stalk gets hidden by the steering wheel, which again makes it harder to use then it should.

Interestingly, the V-Class gets paddle shifts, which does seem a waste for a diesel with 140 kW of power when shifting 3.1-tonne of weight. The AMG Line may help you feel sporty – but we all know the V-Class isn’t and doesn’t need to be – while transporting passengers in a high degree of luxury should not involve white-knuckle rides while hanging onto grab handles.

The V-Class may look large from the outside, especially at 5.14 metres long and 1.88 metres high, but when you’re behind the wheel it feels like any other large car. In fact, with the higher seating position and large windows it doesn’t feel as daunting to drive as some might  expect.

When manoeuvring in carparks, the Parking Package adds a 360-degree camera system. This is fantastic and does an excellent job of removing all the blind spots, so you can park with ease.

This leads nicely into all the additional safety features that Mercedes-Benz has packed into the updated V-Class, all part of a package called Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive. These features include active-brake assist, lane tracking, attention assist, driving assistance, blind-spot assist, lane keeping, LED intelligent lighting system and Distance Pilot Distronic.

We can’t go into detail on each of these, but after a long week of driving I found them to be a genuine help rather than being annoying distractions as found with some other systems.

Over the course of the week, in city, highway and along country roads there was a lot to love about the V-Class.

Australia has grown to love the 4×4, but if you have six or more large kids to move around and are lucky enough to be looking above $80,000, then the V-Class may have the edge. The V220d starts at $79,600 and the V250d Avantgarde at $93,800, but prices quickly rise with the optional extras and AMG Line package.

Handling and braking is much better than you’d expect with a vehicle of this size, which helped when I had to avoid some of the wildlife near Broken Hill.

The Mercedes-Benz 2.1-litre engine is also a great unit, returning 8 litres per 100 kms over the 4500 km trip. This was impressive, considering the roads and the size and weight of the vehicle. In fact, about the only addition for the spec’ that’s still lacking would be my wish for a one of Mercedes-Benz sports engines under the bonnet for that real AMG experience.

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