Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Older diesel engines are gruff but gutsy
  • Newer engines are significantly more refined
  • All V-Classes have automatic transmissions

While a lack of petrol engines for UK-market Mercedes-Benz V-Classes isn’t a surprise, that there’s no hybrid version is something of a disappointment – but at least the fully electric EQV from 2020 will redress this balance.

Diesel engines

While the V-Class’s looks didn’t alter much in its 2019 facelift, the mechanical makeover was very welcome as it ushered in Mercedes’ newer 2.0-litre diesel.

For starters, it’s significantly quieter and smoother than the engine it replaced. Like its predecessor, the version badged V 220 d produces 163hp and 380Nm of pulling power – but that peak figure is available from a lower 1,200rpm, making it pull away marginally quicker from standing starts. This is further reflected in its quicker 11.0-second 0-62mph time, though its top speed remained unchanged at 121mph.

Although European markets continue to receive a 190hp version badged V 250 d, this iteration isn’t brought to Britain – with the range instead jumping straight to the V 300 d. This punchier V-Class produces 239hp and 500Nm of torque from 1,600rpm, with a further boost of 30Nm during hard acceleration.

Mercedes-Benz V-Class engine

It’s appreciably quicker, too, requiring just 7.8 seconds for the 0-62mph dash before heading on to a top speed of 136mph.

Both of these 2.0-litre diesels are teamed with nine-speed automatic gearboxes that sends drive exclusively to the rear wheels.

Which V-Class is best? V 220 d versus V 300 d

If you’ve driven an earlier example of this generation of V-Class then you’ll be immediately struck by how refined the newer 2.0-litre diesel engine is in both guises. Whereas the old 2.1-litre unit was clattery and obtrusive, the replacement motor simply isn’t.

At motorway cruising speeds you’re more aware of the roar from the tyres and occasional gusts of wind brushing up the windscreen pillars than you are the drone of the engine. It’s a welcome and impressive change.

Part of that refinement is courtesy of the nine-speed automatic gearbox: with more ratios to choose from and smaller steps between them, the engines are less prone to bursts of noisy high-rev action compared with the previous seven-speeder.

The downside is that on occasion the transmission swaps very rapidly between gears while it decides which one is optimum for both power and efficiency; however, it’s not jerky while it goes about its business.

At urban speeds both the V 220 d and V 300 d feel very similar, with the less torquey motor making up for its deficiency by accessing its peak pulling power 400rpm earlier. Both feel urgent off the line and pootle about at 30mph very calmly.

Therein lies the decision: if you’ll be primarily driving the V-Class within city limits then stick to the V 220 d – it’s only out on the open road where overtakes are likely to feature that the extra grunt of the V 300 d feels useful.

That said, for many Mercedes buyers status is everything – consequently, the V 300 d is expected to be the bigger seller of the two…

Engines previously available

Until spring 2019, the V-Class had under its bonnet – nestled below the windscreen and dashboard, in fact – Mercedes’ familiar and somewhat clattery 2.1-litre diesel engine.

In V 220 d guise – formerly V 220 BlueTec – it delivers 163hp and 380Nm of torque from 1,400rpm, meaning it’s no sprinter. Top speed’s quoted at 121mph while the 0-62mph time of 11.8 seconds is no more than adequate.

Thankfully the seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission is excellent, with smooth shifts and sensible gearing for each ratio – allowing it to be settled at both urban and motorway speeds. It’s only during spells of hard acceleration that the motor becomes raucous.

2019 Mercedes-Benz V-Class driving

If performance is more of a priority, or for if you regularly drive out of town where gathering speed more quickly is useful, then the V 250 d (launched as the V 250 BlueTec in 2015) is the V-Class to go for.

To call it quick is an overstatement but it’s brisk enough to surprise other drivers with a 9.1-second 0-62mph time and a 129mph top speed.

These figures are possible thanks to power being cranked up to 190hp with a complementary increase in peak torque to 440Nm, still on tap from 1,400rpm.

Variable V-Class driving modes

Some may argue that just because Mercedes has its Agility Select driving mode system it doesn’t mean the V-Class has to have it too ­– but it does.

Every time you start the car it defaults to Comfort – a moderate accelerator response, gearchanges lower down the rev range and more supple damping for the Agility Control suspension.

It’s fine around town but when you need more response – and a slightly firmer feel to the handling – Sport makes more sense but will make the engine slightly noisier as the gears are held onto for much longer.

How does it handle?

  • Handling is better than its size suggests
  • Corners well but body roll is ever-present
  • V-Class performs best when driven gently

2019 Mercedes-Benz V-Class driving

It doesn’t matter how clever you are, beating the laws of physics just isn’t on the cards and the V-Class will never quite be able to shake off its van-like handling characteristics. After all, in its lengthiest two guises, it’s comfortably over five metres nose to tail, almost two metres tall and over two tonnes in weight.

However, Mercedes claims it has made great inroads to improving the experience for V-Class drivers thanks to the Agility Control suspension and the latest generation of adaptive Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

The V-Class certainly corners more quickly than its more immediate van-derived rivals and resists understeer – where the vehicle pushes wide through corners – admirably. Nevertheless, it’s inescapable that a conventional car-based MPV will likely still outdo it on the same section of road – Ford’s S-Max and Galaxy shine particularly brightly in this regard.

There is some noticeable body roll – negated a little in Sport mode – especially with high-speed direction changes; you soon learn to either trust the grip offered by the chassis or slow down instead.

Drive the V-Class with the cruise control on and the car’s own settings will slow you down if it deems that the speed and steering angle aren’t appropriate. It does play this game a little too safely, but you can always override it with your right foot.

Mercedes is aware of the limitations that such boxy packaging affords and the Intelligent Drive system uses a variety of radar, camera and ultrasound sensors to improve the experience on the move – and this includes Crosswind Assist to lessen the impact of lateral gusts billowing up the V-Class’s flanks, making it feel much more stable than those slab sides suggest it ought to.

In archetypal Mercedes style, the steering is very much on the light side of weighting and the V-Class’s controls don’t encourage you to press on too hard – it is, after all, a vehicle that performs best when driven gently.

Although the brake pedal itself is firm, the Mercedes’ brakes inspire confidence and the V-Class can slow down at an impressive rate of knots.