At 5.14m in length and just under 2m in height, there’s no mistaking Mercedes’ new V-Class for what it is. A bus. MPV then. And these types of cars come with a number of inherent traits that put it on the back foot in many areas of traditional motoring talking points. They’re cumbersome to drive, difficult to park, heavy, fuel sapping and their designs “uninspired”.
The V-Class though, it must be said, is the best version of an inspired bus design there is. Mercedes-Benz has managed to wield a very glitzy and modern front end that immediately catches your eye and keeps it lingering there long enough to convince you that this is quite a good-looking thing indeed.
Practicality of space
Apart from all the other negative attributes, of course, buses have a number of their own unique talking points that no SUV can match. Best of these is a practicality that is bred by the space within.
For families of five or more, here’s an option with 1 030 litres of space in the boot and clever packaging that allows for convenient packing of items, whether from a quick dash to the shops or for the bigger items like bags, bikes and boards.
Modular seating means a number of seat configurations and space-requiring or space-saving options too – but take my word for it, modifying the cabin configuration isn’t an easy feat. It takes muscles and time — simple in theory, but quite a physical process.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of space in the cabin. It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting – the seats are comfortable with ample head room and legroom. The middle row in particular is where you would place the tallest and most fussy passengers. If they don’t find it comfortable there, then nothing short of a first-class cabin aboard a luxury train will do.
My test unit was fitted with folding tables in between the seats that rise out of their holders to reveal practical and well-thought space where one can do business work on a laptop, or eat one’s lunch – either way, it highlights the versatility of such a vehicle and it just works.
Practical and luxurious for business or pleasure
The V-Class is a smart play of practicality and luxury at the same time, something that Merc is probably best suited to do in this segment. They’ve thrown in some lux items, such as driving assistance systems, 360 cameras and a useful voice amplification system that beams one’s voice through to the rear speakers so the kids (or guests) can hear you all the way in the back.
It’s been built with the aim of being practical – and therefore quite resilient to the kicks and scrapes of children and surfboards for example – but also luxurious so as to appease a more discerning passenger and owner. This is not easy to do of course, and yet Merc has applied its considerable weight to finding a good balance.
People-Carriers are inherently bigger and therefore heavier. They need drivetrains that are resilient and powerful yet also perform efficiently. The V250d is equipped with Merc’s tried-and-trusted 2,1-litre, 4-cylinder, turbo-diesel mill that is couple to a 7-speed 7G-Tronic automatic transmission.
The combination is adequately powerful to haul the car 3-ton MPV in great comfort with smooth gear changes and a fair store of power where that becomes necessary. 140kW of power and 440Nm of torque is available and at your disposal and the urge is quite impressive for something so large. Not that it matters, but 0-100km/h is dispatched in 9.1 seconds.
Mercedes-Benz claims consumption figures of 6 litre/100km on the combined driving cycle (urban and extra-urban), but I couldn’t quite match that with a 7.8 litre/100km figure. This cycle was achieved over a 600km road trip with around 85% highway and main route driving with six passengers on board and a brimming luggage compartment.
On the open road, it is a very comfortable, luxurious driving experience. It does comfort-cruising very well but this experience is disturbed in part by what can be a loud engine noise when you need to accelerate quite urgently.
It sheds light on what is a slightly older and less refined mill despite Merc’s efforts in deadening the sound. There is a newer engine available in overseas markets, but Mercedes-Benz SA has opted not to introduce that at this stage and so this V-250d remains the flagship in the range for now.
A final word
The Mercedes Benz V-Class is the most expensive vehicle of its kind. It’s impressively capable in the important areas, it looks fantastic and it drives with the poise and comfort of a Mercedes luxury product. It does however, feel like it could be better.
While it is loaded with technology and convenience features, its infotainment system is a generation behind without the latest apps and tech of some of the brand’s newer products.
Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is sorely missing as are the absence of enough USB ports for rear passengers. Its engine too feels older than it should be – less refined and quite rough around the edges at times.
At R1 292 474, expectations of more are justified. It’s a lot of car and admirably packaged for hauling families or VIPs in practical comfort and luxury. Good job at perception – could be better on the substance though.
SPECIFICATIONS2143cc, 4-cylinder, turbo diesel, RWD, 140kW, 440Nm, 7-Speed Auto6.0l/100km0-100km/h: 9.1 secondsTop Speed: 200km/h3100kgHelp support journalists, the guardians of independent journalism, through our student media initiative that gives a voice to students and their generation! Find out more…Tags: Mercedes-BenzSouth AfricaV-Class