YOU’LL COMMONLY SEE IT PULLED UP OUTSIDE THE BETTER HOTELS, IN CONVOY TO THE CASINO OR DEPOSITING CELEBS ON THE RED CARPET – THAT’S THE MERCEDES-BENZ V 250.
It also has the honour of being the priciest people carrier in the land at $85,500 (+orc).
Based on the Vito commercial van, the V 250 carries one of the best badges in the game and offers loads of space and upmarket 'passenger car' luxuries and technologies.
But is that enough to win the hearts and wallets of families now that there is a plethora of affordable competitors? Or will it remain firmly entrenched in the hands of commercial operators doing the executive shuttle between the airport and hotel?
Vehicle Style: Five-door People-Mover
Price: $85,500 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 140kW/4400Nm (overtorque - 150kW/480Nm) 2.1 4cyl twin-turbo diesel | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.3 l/100km | tested: 8.4 l/100km
The V-Class debuted here in 1996 and, almost 20 years later, returns in the shape of an all-new, single model V 250 Avantgarde, replacing the Viano and Valente models.
Like the discontinued R-Class from the 2000’s, the V 250 is focussed on people-moving and comes with a premium look and feel as well as improvements to comfort, functionality and safety.
Driving its rear wheels is a powerful and economical 2.1 litre turbo diesel engine and seven-speed auto; that combo makes this large people mover equally enjoyable whether at the wheel or occupying the seats behind.
Key interior features: Cruise control with variable speed limiter, air-ducts to rear passenger compartment, multi-function electrically-adjustable steering wheel in nappa leather, electrically-adjustable front seats (with heating), rear air-conditioning, automatic climate control
Infotainment: Burmester 15 speaker, 640-watt surround sound system, COMAND infotainment system with hi-res screen, satnav, WLAN in vehicle hotspots, voice control, SMS/e-mail write/read function and DVD player
Cargo: Up to 905 litres (with third row seats down)
Sliding open the electrically-operated side doors reveals a classy and vast interior. The space is unlike any other people carrier and so vast it almost warrants its own postcode.
nappa leather (part of the $6500 optional Avantgarde interior pack)
and offer excellent comfort and support.
Given its commercial vehicle roots, I was surprised to find an electrically-adjustable steering column, as well as its electrically-adjusted front seats with heating and memory functions.
From the driver’s seat, the layout is very familiar with elements of various Mercedes models. The analogue dials, COMAND infotainment system that juts out of the dashboard and circular vents have been adapted from the A/B/C-Class ranges.
Sliding the second row seats back affords outstanding legroom with still a decent amount for those in the third row.
Even when fully laden, there is plenty of room for suitcases behind the third row. And loading them isn’t a back breaker as the V 250’s electrically operated tailgate has a low load height.
Also, for smaller items, the tailgate window operates independently.
Adding to the interior spaciousness is the lack of a centre console, allowing walk through access to the second row of seats.
The fit and finish is exemplary and most surfaces are soft to touch. It is also remarkably quiet, allowing conversation to easily take place across all three rows.
Premium touches include privacy glass from the B pillars backwards, brushed stainless steel, illuminated Mercedes-Benz name etched in the doors sills, the air-con piped to all three rows, a choice of three interior lighting hues, a concert hall surround sound speaker system and the COMAND infotainment system with its endless cache of menus, applications and functions.
While the privacy glass won’t allow others to see in, the vast windows mean excellent all-round vision.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.1 litre 4cyl turbo-diesel 140KW/440Nm (overboost 150kW/480Nm)
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
- Brakes: Ventilated disc brakes front and solid disc brakes rear
- Steering: Electromechanical power steering
- Fuel Economy claimed: 6.3 l/100km | tested: 8.4 l/100km
Feeding power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed auto transmission is a 2.1litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, with 140kW/440NM on tap or (150kw/480Nm in overboost). It replaces the previous 3.0 litre V6 diesel and sets the same 0-100km/h time of 9.1 seconds, but uses 26 percent less fuel overall.
Jumping behind the wheel, I wondered first where Mercedes had focused its attention, the driver or the passengers?
A couple of tell-tale signs of its driver focus are the steering wheel mounted paddle shifts and ‘Agility Select’ function to choose from the four driving modes– Economical, Sport, Comfortable, and Manual– with each providing different levels of accelerator and transmission tune. Chalk up one for the driver.
Then I plonked the Higgins posterior into the second and third row seats and found them extremely comfortable, supportive and relaxing. Tick, for the passengers.
With the scores even, I figured a drive would settle it one way or the other.
The V250 has the familiar diesel clatter when you start and is heard again under hard acceleration, noticeably when the torque weighs in from 1400rpm, but at all other times it is impressively quiet.
The seven-speed auto delivers swift and seamless changes and the electromechanical power steering is well weighted with good feel.
There is no getting away from the body roll due to the V 250’s weight and height, but rolling country roads aren’t filled with trepidation. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the big Merc glides from corner to corner with surprising composure, and it’s easy to forget its sheer size.
Keeping it all in check are the big brakes that have a nice progressive solidness to them.
But on the same roads, those perched in the second and third rows will appreciate the fuss-free way the big Merc dispatches bumps and and blemishes without any banging or rattling or thumping.
The ride overall is surprisingly supple and extremely comfortable.
For the big family, or for exclusive guests, premium people-moving doesn’t come much better.
ANCAP rating: The Mercedes-Benz V 250 has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: Acceleration Skid Control (ASR), adaptive brake with hold function, hill start assist, brake drying function, adaptive flashing LED brake lights, six airbags, attention assist – drowsiness detection, auto dimming interior and driver's side exterior mirrors, blind spot & lane keep assist, crosswind assist, disctronic plus, ESP, ABS, LED Intelligent Light System (ILS) with Adaptive High beam Assist, LED indicators, tail lights, DRL’s, cornering lights, accident anticipatory system, rain sensing windscreen wipers, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
It’s a small but solid sector, the people mover market, with some excellent options, that, like the V 250, can be surprisingly good to drive. Like Kia’s Carnival, from $41,490 to $60,790, which is a very accomplished car with an entry model at barely half the price of the Mercedes.
Also, at a low $37,610 (to $46,040) Honda’s Odyssey is well-featured and frugal, and also offers a flexible interior and smart accommodation. Others include the venerable, but ageing, Toyota Tarago and Hyundai’s iMAX.
A freshened face however, and also offering some of the same exclusive feel of the Mercedes is Volkswagen’s new T6 Multivan, starting at a reduced $49,990.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Mercedes-Benz V-Class is a class act that will capably move your family (or your well-heeled hotel guests) in unbridled refinement, comfort, luxury safety and style. For many, that is all that’s needed.
It also drives very well for its size and commercial vehicle roots. That said, many others match the Merc’s road manners for a lot less coin if the matter of the badge (and the brand cachet) is not so important.
However, for the marque’s legendary resale value, and that mammoth, immensely comfortable versatile interior, the Mercedes Benz V 250 still leads the field.
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