- Verdict on the V-Class from passengers in the back
- Air-con vents, privacy glass and space are all winning aspects
- Their friends who call it a van won’t be getting lifts, though
- Verdict on the V-Class from passengers in the back
- Air-con vents, privacy glass and space are all winning aspects
- Their friends who call it a van won’t be getting lifts, though
Regular readers will be aware – just as those who know me in the real-world often hear me lamenting the fact – that my kids have no interest in cars. Or anything car-related, come to think of it.
If I suggested visiting a classic car show one sunny Sunday, the three of them would sooner volunteer to sift out the cat litter with their bare hands for the next 100 years. They’re as likely to sit down and watch an F1 race as I would be to endure a half-hour episode of Hollyoaks (although if I did, I’d have to say hasn’t Lysette Anthony aged gracefully…).
Now, I’m not suggesting that the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz V-Class has heralded the awakening some deep-seated motoring passions within them, but Jack (16), Fin (13) and Lily (11 going on 17) are now able to travel without winding each up incessantly, and consequently I’m less hoarse on the school runs.
So 4,000 miles in, what do the three of them think of the V 250 d MPV? Inevitably, I received their thoughts via email, WhatsApp and iMessage.
Jack – currently sitting his GCSE exams
‘I like the space it has inside – it’s not a surprise considering how big it is, but its layout’s generally well-designed, the windows are tinted for privacy and the electric sliding doors are convenient. They’re also amusing when you see onlookers’ faces as they open and close without anyone touching them.
‘One aspect I do find inconvenient is getting out of the car when facing backwards in the middle row. Maybe it’s my height, or maybe I’ve just not figured out how to bend myself properly, but I almost always bang the back of my head or neck on the top of the door frame as I twist out.
‘Not really sure whether my friends would consider it cool or not. They’ve already said it’s not the most visually appealing car Mercedes makes, but I think they’d appreciate it more if they were ever inside it, I guess.’
Fin – in Year 9 and beginning his pre-GCSE studies
‘There’s loads of legroom in it, so you can really stretch out, especially if there’s nobody sitting opposite you. I’ve not been in it yet with the seats all facing forward but I imagine it wouldn’t feel as spacious.
‘I really like the light-coloured leather too. So many cars seem to be black and it’s boring. But what I really like are the air-con vents in the roof. They’re really good at keeping you cool – you don’t even notice that the windows don’t open in the back.
‘I don’t like sitting in the middle seat of the back row if someone’s pulled the table out. It’s not when it’s in use that it bugs me, just when it’s not been slid back and your legs are cramped up or spread apart. Why is the middle seat always the worst?
‘When I get picked up from football training on a Friday night in it, my friends think it looks great and if my mate Henry gets a lift in it too he’s all like “woah – it’s so luxurious in here”.’
Lily – coming to the end of her primary education
‘Well, I like how the seats are facing both directions in the back, so you can talk to people much easier if you want to, and the air conditioning in the back is better than any other car I’ve been in.
‘What I really like most are the windows that are so tinted that they look black from the outside so people can’t see in and look at what you’re doing.
‘The thing I miss the most though is that it doesn’t have a glass roof to make it even lighter in the back. [She’s then told that you can have a glazed roof on other V-Classes] Why didn’t you ask for one of those then, Dad?? Duh!
‘My friends love it when I get picked up from school in it – they say it’s like a limo. Not Will, though. Will said it was just a van.’
I think there are two salient points we can draw from my kids’ responses:
- That it’s the Mercedes’ sheer space in particular that’s winning them over
- Will needs to wind his neck in
Overall mileage: 4,166 miles
Fuel economy: 29.9mpg (calculated)
Third report: From the driver's seat
One perennially enjoyable facet of car testing is catching out drivers who’ve been prejudicial in assuming what I’m behind the wheel of lacks pace. After clocking up 3,000 miles in the V-Class, it’s safe to say I’ve not driven anything that’s been subjected to such narrow-mindedness on the road.
Whether I’m sat stationary in lane one at a red traffic light, or similarly keeping left as I preserve momentum on my approach to a roundabout, seemingly without fail someone immediately fills the vacant road-space to my right. And almost without fail, the Mercedes V 250 d is able to out-drag them. You can imagine my smile…
This isn’t some kind of automotive sourcery, but rather good, new-fashioned German engineering – specifically, a rich seam of 440Nm of torque available from the depths of the 2.1-litre diesel’s rev range. Officially it’s sufficient for a 9.1-second 0-62mph time, yet given the V-Class’s 2,155kg heft and physical immensity, it feels much faster than that.
Playing safe when taking corners
Desired cruise control speed resumed, I’m always rather glad that the automatic gearbox has slithered seamlessly up to seventh as it heralds a more tolerable tune from the engine. There’s no escaping that as you press on it booms like a Massey Ferguson impersonating Brian Blessed, so its preferable to ease off the loud pedal and let the motor settle.
This gentler, more sympathetic approach pays dividends aurally, but not whenever you encounter a bend in the road. A mere curve signals no let-up in the V-Class’s progress, but as you wind on the steering to tackle something representing a more acute change of direction, the effects of the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) are as obvious as they are immediate.
Enter a corner with any sort of enthusiasm and immediately you can feel the car braking itself; turn the wheel an extra few degrees and yet more speed dwindles away. You can’t help but feel as though the ESP’s system’s playing it too safe, especially as you can override its nannying by caressing the rubber-studded throttle pedal to tease the speedo up a few miles per hour without any drama.
Sport mode reigns supreme
Like more conventional Mercedes models, the V-Class has adaptive driving modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport and Manual – to vary the responsiveness of the accelerator and gear changes, as well as the firmness of the suspension.
I’ll explore these further in a future update, but so far I find I drive most of the time in the Sport setting. Not only is more of that low-down performance accessible, which is useful for getting up to speed quicker than it will in the default Comfort mode, but the ride quality becomes a smidgen stiffer.
My kids – all three of whom are prone to varying degrees of motion sickness – appreciate the Sport setting because it dials out the inherent floatiness of the V-Class’s air suspension system, something exacerbated by the Extra Long version’s colossal wheelbase. Feeling more of the road’s imperfections, without ever being harsh, seems to quell their unease before it develops any significance.
Having the fruit of my loins in the V-Class acting as human ballast also settles the V 250 d at higher speeds – with just the driver on board you’re aware of more vibration being sourced from the rear wheels. It doesn’t go as far as to unsettle it into a full-on B-road shimmy, but you’re aware of it all the same.
Disappointingly, it lacks an adjustable Individual setting that you’ll find elsewhere in the Mercedes range, which is rather vexing as my ideal combination’s to have the engine and gearbox in Sport with the suspension in Comfort. I'll survive, I suppose...
Putting the brakes on
Inevitably, there are times when it’s necessary to scrub off speed in short order, and in this regard the V-Class impresses. Not only do you have the back-up of a not-too-intrusive autonomous emergency braking package, but the brake discs front and rear are ventilated to make them more effective.
They’re easy to modulate, which is useful as they’re designed to stop the car safely when it’s been driven seven-up, but what they can’t disguise is the weight transfer during deceleration. You soon adapt to that and begin to use it to your advantage, particularly as you brake into a bend, increasing the front tyres’ grip of the asphalt as the Mercedes’ nose becomes heavier.
Not that much of that adhesion is telegraphed through the steering wheel, sadly, and being perched so high you’re hardly driving by the seat of your pants either – you simply learn to trust that the grip is there.
Your faith is reinforced by the thick, leather-wrapped rim acting as a conduit for road surface undulations, but that’s as much as you get in feedback terms, but that sort of misses the point.
After all, as much as it can be hustled around surprisingly briskly, the V-Class’s role is to transport people around in unruffled comfort – and on that metric, it excels.
Overall mileage: 3,006 miles
Fuel economy: 30.0mpg (calculated)
Second report: Let's talk about specs
After wafting away nearly 2,000 miles at the wheel of our Mercedes-Benz V-Class, there’s been plenty of opportunity to explore its fixtures and fittings.
There’s much that’s standardised for its £52,470 on-the-road asking price, but the optional extras list was plundered to the tune of a further £5,790 – are they proving worthwhile?
AMG Line versus Sport
Today’s V-Class line-up comprises of two trim levels, both of which are available across all three length options.
Despite being the most gargantuan, the Extra Long body is the middle-ranking in terms of price, courtesy of the medium-sized Long (that’s not confusing, is it?) having a glass roof as standard.
I’ll explore the V-Class’s lighting in a future update, but it’s worth pointing out that while the headlamps offer superb illumination that adapts to your speed and steering angle, the automatic main beam is merely an on/off function. Mercedes’ superior matrix system – that moves a portion of dipped beam so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic – isn’t on the V-Class’s kit roster.
So what does AMG Line add to the V-Class party for an extra £2,140 over the Sport? Frankly, it’s almost entirely superficial.
Firstly, the alloy wheels are upgraded to smart, two-tone 19-inchers with a barely discernible alteration to the ride quality thanks to the V 250 d’s air suspension.
There’s no archetypal AMG woofling exhaust heralding potent performance, though – it still has 190hp after all – but the looks have been beefed-up.
Its bodykit is subtle – which pleases me as I’m not a fan of such fripperies – with a reprofiled front bumper, sill extensions, a discreet tailgate spoiler and, utterly unnecessarily, a back bumper applique hinting at a rear diffuser. Is there a more tenuous link to Formula 1 I wonder..?
Metallic paint – in this case Cavansite Blue – is also part of the AMG Line package.
Once inside the changes are even fewer in number: the swirly pattern dashboard plinth and door trims are replaced by faux carbon-fibre (see previous F1 question), while the circular air-vents are circumferenced in chrome.
Those, along with roof-mounted vents in the rear and ducting at carpet level, are the outlets for the three-zone climate control. Given the van-like volume of space inside, I’m already most impressed that even on warm days I’ve not had any complaints about the passenger compartment being too hot.
So why go for the AMG Line? It’s essentially an aesthetics argument, and one not everyone will like, but while both trim levels are expected to retain 52% of their value over three years and 30,000 miles, Mercedes expects more used buyers will be attracted to V-Classes with the AMG pack, making it easier to sell on. Time will tell.
Extras, extras – read all about them
Speccing the V-Class as a seven-seater rather than an eight means that the middle row seats comprise of a pair of captains’ chairs with arm rests in place of another three-passenger bench at no extra cost. Neither is there a charge for switching from standard black to Silk Beige leather.
It also includes a pop-up table that slides along the floor rails and a couple of removable cup-holders for the rear-row occupants.
So far I’ve left the middle chairs in the vis-à-vis formation shown in the photos, but they do unclip to face forwards, something I suspect will liberate more legroom and I’ll cover in the coming weeks.
Invaluable for manoeuvring the 5.37m-long V-Class at low speeds is the 360-degree camera system. The lenses are positioned below the three-pointed star in the grille, under each door mirror and behind a flap in the tailgate which keeps the rear one clean when not in use.
Those images are cleverly stitched together to form a composite birdseye view illustrated on the multimedia screen, with controls to allow you to zoom in for specific views. £335 well spent.
From the driver’s seat
Whether you can justify the £1,225 for the electrically adjustable front seats with three-position memory function will depend on how many people regularly drive your V-Class. If it’s only likely to be one person, then save your money.
Again, a point of note when having the middle row seats facing backwards, if you recline the front pair too far they will foul the chairs behind, requiring you to have them manually slid out of the way. It wouldn’t be a problem if all seven passengers are facing forwards.
Comand [sic] is the upgraded multimedia system with an 8.4-inch screen, an uncluttered and quick to refresh sat-nav, live traffic updates and internet access among other features. Whether it’s £1,795 better than the standard multimedia system is a moot point, but many used buyers seek it out, and arguably it looks more upmarket mounted on the C-Class-esque dashboard.
Complementing Comand is the 15-speaker Burmester surround sound upgrade. It’s a £675 option and includes speakers in the dash, front and side doors, third row side panels and the roof above the boot area. They deliver superb sound reproduction, reminding me that not all the tracks on my phone have crackles in the bassy sections.
Putting the boot in
Talking of the boot, the space has been with a £400 load compartment divider – essentially a carpeted box with a hinged lid. Its value is greater than the sum of its parts, though.
Primarily it acts as a second boot floor, allowing heavy objects to be placed above smaller, more delicate ones if needs be. That additional level is great if you don’t have room to open the enormous tailgate because it lines up with the base of the glass hatch, adding to the convenience.
Further functionality is apparent when you open the lid of the divider to reveal two collapsible plastic boxes, useful for stopping lighter groceries from sliding around inside the boot – plus you can carry them straight into the house afterwards.
And, if you need to carry taller items, the shelf flips up vertically or can be removed altogether.
There’s no escaping how expensive the V 250 d AMG Line Extra Long is to buy in the first place, but the car-to-cash ratio makes it feel like good value compared with smaller MPVs.
Overall mileage: 1,873 miles
Fuel economy: 29.6mpg (calculated)
First report: Welcome to Parkers
As a rule I’m not one for giving cars names. After all, the Mercedes-Benz V 250 d AMG Line Extra Long, which I’m the custodian of over the coming months, already has a perfectly conventional moniker – if one that hardly slinks seductively off the tongue – without me bestowing it with something twee/naff/cutesy (delete as applicable).
Yet, on account of its cetacean-like dimensions and Cavansite metallic paintwork, I find myself affectionately referring to it as the Blue Whale. That must make me its Ishmael, if I’m going to venture off on a Herman Melville-esque tangent… Which I won’t.
Erm… It looks like a van with windows
Although the V-Class is sold by Mercedes’ car division (and dealerships), there’s no escaping that this third-generation of MPV is van-based, sharing its underpinnings, and much of its bodywork and mechanical paraphernalia with the humble Vito commercial vehicle.
But unlike the first-generation V-Class – and the Viano that preceded this iteration – the latest model has been differentiated more than ever before so that it feels more car-like.
There’s little that can be done to hide its van-like origins – although its chamfered corners make it look as though it might have been squeezed out of a tube when compared with its most immediate rival, the sharper-edged Volkswagen Caravelle. At least the cabin feels suitably upmarket.
Up front it feels – and looks – not dissimilar to the C-Class, with a swoopy dashboard punctuated by circular air vents and Merc’s familiar tablet-like multimedia screen sat proud of the faux carbon-fibre applique.
Below is the rotary-and-touchpad multimedia control module that many upmarket Benzes feature, while the other switchgear feels suitably well-engineered and reassuringly familiar.
Access to the rear compartment is via two electrically operated sliding doors (controls for which are on the doors themselves, the pillars immediately behind the front passengers’ heads, within the pod for the multimedia controller and on the key), revealing space for five adults.
As standard there’d be two benches with space for six back there, but I opted for two captains’ chairs and a pop-up table instead – a zero-cost change when ordering a V-Class.
Those van-like dimensions allow tall passengers to sit comfortably even in row three, despite the roof gently tapering by this point, while the middle pair of seats can be faced rearwards in this lounge configuration, or unclipped to point in the direction of travel.
Measuring 5.37m nose to tail, the Extra Long body has an extended wheelbase compared with the shorter two V-Classes, yet this is more to the benefit of boot space than passenger comfort. With all seven seats in use there’s 1,410 litres of capacity, expanding to a, err, van-like 4,630 litres if all of the seats barring the front pair are removed.
Don’t be fooled by the 250 aspect of this V-Class’s nomenclature, for under the short bonnet nestles Mercedes’ venerable – and clattery – 2.1-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel. Maximum power’s a not-all-that-impressive 190hp, but in a 2,155kg leviathan like this its peak torque of 440Nm at just 1,400rpm is useful for getting up to speed briskly when pulling away from junctions.
Top speed’s officially quoted at 129mph, while the 0-62mph sprint is said to be a unshabby 9.1 seconds. Certainly its pace does catch out those who expect it to be an easy overtake when exiting roundabouts on dual-carriageways.
According to the stats it should average 44.8mpg but so far while I’ve been running it in gently it’s only mustered 29.4mpg.
No manual gearbox is offered in the UK, meaning the smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic, complete with its steering column-mounted lever is sensibly standardised. There’s a pair of wheel-mounted paddles if you want manual control.
Range-topping AMG Line trim
I’ll pore over the many intricacies of the flagship AMG Line specification in a future update, but suffice to say the differences over the entry-level Sport are minimal, and primarily superficial – so dampen any hopes you had that this is really a Mercedes-AMG V 63 pretending to be something more subdued. Could you imagine..?
Chief among the changes are a subtle bodykit – the gaping grilles in the front bumper are easier to spot than the sill extensions, tailgate spoiler and a (mock) rear diffuser.
Those black and machine-finished silver alloy wheels are 19-inchers (realising this enables you to appreciate how big the V-Class is) but thanks to the standard air suspension, the ride remains supple, especially with a few people in the back.
Inside the tell-tales are restricted to some chrome bezels for the four circular air-vents in the dash and that mock carbonfibre trim mentioned earlier.
I’ve also plundered Mercedes’ options list to reflect how V-Class buyers typically spec their cars – again, these will be explored in a forthcoming update – but two stand-out additions are the excellent Burmester surround sound speaker system (£675) and the invaluable 360-degree camera package. At £335 the four cameras are a no-brainer and make the V-Class significantly easier to park.
All of the optional extras bump the price of Parkers’ long-term V-Class from an already not inconsiderable £52,470 to £58,260. That’s significantly cheaper than a studio apartment in Kensington for almost as much space.
So, nearly 1,000 miles in already and it’s proved to be faultless except for one gripe I’m already finding a tad tiresome: the fuel filler flap.
Not only does it betray its van origins further (you have to open the passenger door to release the flap) it’s situated too low down, making you stoop during diesel replenishment.
Either that or it makes you look like you’re scanning the forecourt floor for loose change (we’ve all been there, but it’s less sociably acceptable when bending over next to a 17-plate Merc).
Even so, the overriding first impressions are positive – let’s see if they remain so as much is asked of the V-Class over the coming months as we determine whether it really is the Mercedes-Benz of MPVs.
Overall mileage: 885 miles
Fuel economy: 29.4mpg (calculated)