Living la vida luxury in the V-Class
Recently updated Mercedes V250d is a high-class people carrier
Luxury MPVs are a fairly rare breed in a world where growing families are increasingly migrating to SUVs, but Mercedes-Benz soldiers on in this segment with its V-Class bus.
And to no surprise, as the premium people carrier still makes good business sense for Mercedes-Benz Vans. While the double-cab bakkie experiment fell flat with the shortlived X-Class, Merc’s business-class minibus sells decent numbers in SA where it outperforms its closest competitor, the VW Caravelle, by three to one.
The current V-Class was launched in 2015 and last year received a midlife facelift and safety upgrades.
Among these were a minor external makeover which includes a new diamond structure in the front grille. There are also new interior trim options, while the rear seats can be ordered with massage and ventilation functions for a more premium travel experience.
Safety’s been beefed up with the introduction of Active Brake Assist which intervenes to prevent hitting pedestrians and obstacles should the driver not react in time.
Highbeam Assist Plus is another new safety feature, which deactivates some of the headlight LEDs to prevent blinding other drivers while illuminating the remaining areas of the road.
Crosswind Assist helps the driver keep this big boy in its lane at speeds faster than 80km/h, and automatically corrects the vehicle’s course when buffeted by strong winds.
As before the V-Class comes in standard and Avantegarde model lines, with an AMG Line package also on offer to glam-up the styling.
Supplying the power is the trusted 2.1l four-cylinder turbo diesel which comes in three different outputs: the 100kW/330Nm version powers the V200d model, the V220d gets 120kW/380Nm, and the range-topping V250d has the full-fat 140kW/440Nm on command.
On test here is the most powerful version, a very likeable bus that musters good gusto with soft-spoken refinement. At sea level the V250d felt impressively perky and built power from low engine revs without any hesitation, and it’s also an effortless cruiser with quick overtaking prowess.
The 9.8l/100km fuel economy was good too for such a hefalump, although this will no doubt rise with a full load; we had only two people aboard.
It’s a mostly refined experience with a soft-spoken engine and well-suppressed wind noise, although the test vehicle had a rattle in the rear that we couldn’t identify — possibly one of the seats.
The latest upgrade to the V-Class doesn’t include the MBUX multimedia system which employs a large digital touchscreen and “Hey Mercedes” voice control.
The test car’s instrument panel still comprised old-school analogue gauges, with the infotainment controlled by a knob and a touchpad. The infotainment’s still a relatively intuitive system once you get the hang of it — even though some features are hidden quite deep down the digital rabbit hole — but there are dedicated buttons to quick access some of the main items.
The V250d is an ideal vehicle for a family road trip, although circumstances didn’t allow that and had us testing the bus primarily in the urban jungle.
The vehicle doesn’t feel overwhelmingly large when driven in the city and has a lightness of step that makes it feel less bus-like. It also handles quite cleanly without excessive body roll.
But at 5,140mm long and 1,880mm high this Benz behemoth does require special care when parking, which is a tricky exercise even with its proximity alerts and reversing camera. To make this easier, Active Parking Assist can be ordered as an optional feature to automatically steer the car into bays.
The boot is huge, and impressively managed to accommodate a bicycle box without having to adjust any seating arrangements. For even larger loads the rear seats can be slid forward on rails, although this isn’t a very user-friendly exercise and requires two people to accomplish.
The middle seating row can be set to face the back too.
The main appeal of the V-Class is its ability to schlep large numbers of people in comfort. To this end it has three rows of seats available in six, seven or eight-seater configurations and there’s plenty of head- and legroom to go around whichever spec you choose.
Passengers enjoy luxury accommodation in leather seats, all of which have adjustable backrests to suit personal comfort requirements.
To paraphrase Ricky Martin, the V-Class is living la vida luxury. It’s a VIP experience that hits the mark for comfy family road trips or as a luxury business shuttle.
Type: Four-cylinder diesel turbo
Type: Seven-speed automatic
Type: Rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 206km/h
0-100km/h: 9.6 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 6.5l/100km (claimed); 9.8l / 100km (as tested)
ABS brakes, stability control, six airbags, hill-start assist, front and rear climate control, remote central locking, cruise control, infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and navigation, electric folding mirrors, LED adaptive headlights, active parking assist, automatic wipers, towbar, 235/55 R17 tyres, tyre pressure monitor, seven seats.
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R21,929 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
VW Caravelle 2.0 BiTDI Highline, 132kW/400Nm — R1,024,100
Space, practicality, luxury
Can be tricky to park
A luxury family road-tripper and VIP shuttle
****Value For Money