Is space the ultimate luxury? Mercedes certainly thinks so, and wanted the new Mercedes V-Class to offer more room than any MPV in the segment. Previously known as the Viano, the name change signifies the new car’s move away from its commercial roots, as it now slots it into the line-up alongside the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class.
The brand claims the V-Class will is the most efficient, refined and safest car in its class, so despite being as long as a stretched S-Class, and able to carry up to eight people at a time, the 250 BlueTec we tested produces just 157g/km of CO2 and returns close to 50mpg. That’s a huge 28 per cent improvement over the thirsty old 3.0-litre V6 CDI – despite a similar power output and a brisk 0-62mph sprint time of just 9.1 seconds.
The familiar 2.1-litre diesel unit is paired with the 7G-tronic automatic gearbox as standard in this model – but both are starting to feel a little past their best. It has plenty of low down grunt (up to 480Nm of torque is available on overboost) but work it too hard and the engine quickly starts to sound gruff and strained as you accelerate.
Equipped with ‘Agility Select’ the V-Class offers four driving modes: Eco, Manual, Comfort and Sport. Flicking between the settings alters the steering, throttle and amount of power available, but we found the ‘Eco’ mode far too sluggish on the motorway, and ‘Sport’ mode too eager to kick-down and hold onto lower gears.
Most V-Class buyers are likely to leave their car in ‘Comfort’ mode – which suits its character and helps you to appreciate the excellent cruising refinement and supple ride. Every V-Class comes with adaptive dampers that constantly adjust to the road surface to iron out the bumps – and unlike the Volkswagen Caravelle it glides over crests and potholes with remarkable composure for a two-tonne car.
The new variable electric power steering system is light at low speeds for easier parking and tricky town maneuvers, but weights up at speed to help the V-Class feel stable and secure even at speeds over 100mph on the Autobahn. It still suffers a little wobble in crosswinds – a trait of most high-sided vehicles.
Mercedes has tried to import the impeccable interior quality and hi-tech gadgets from the new C-Class, with a tablet-style central display, an intuitive touchpad controller and a smart two-piece floating dashboard design. It certainly looks the part, but just like the A-Class the attractive design is mixed with some fairly below average plastics and rather flimsy build quality further back in the cabin.
Although the V-Class is not due on sale in the UK until January 2015, buyers will have the option of two different lengths, and three individual seat combinations. As standard the car comes with four individual leather ‘arm-chair’ style seats in the back, with the no cost option to switch to a two or three seat bench instead.
The seats slide forward and back on fixed rails so you can trade legroom for boot space, and there are some clever features that help make it as flexible as possible. The glass rear hatch opens separately from the rest of the boot so you don’t have to spend ages finding a parking space big enough to swing open the huge tailgate, and the sturdy parcel shelf comes with two collapsible shopping baskets to hold loose items firmly in place. It also comes with the full suite of Mercedes safety systems – which goes some way to justifying a starting price that is expected to be close to £40,000 – about £2,000 more than the equivalent VW Caravelle.