By: Dave Abrahams
Midrand - This is not just a new model for Mercedes-Benz SA, it's a whole new class.
Released in South Africa this week, the V-Class MPV is significantly bigger than a B-Class but way less extravagant than the now defunct R-Class high-performance luxury bus.
It's aimed at big families, soccer moms (and dads!), getting out there with a load of playtoys too big for an SUV, or shuttling VIP guests in appropriately classy style.
The four-model line-up is available in three trim lines - Standard, BlueTec and Avantgarde - with an exterior sports package and an interior design package available for each line, as well as a raft of optional extras.
The V-Class comes standard, however, with a full suite of radar, camera and ultrasound sensors feeding data to driver aids that include crosswind assist (very welcome on a van), attention assist (wish kids had it!) and active parking assist, which will steer you into and out of places that would have the average driver parking by braille.
Also standard on the top two derivatives (and an option on the rest) is Pre-Safe; additional, extra-cost optional gizmotronics include a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot assist, and adaptive LED headlights.
The V-Class is offered in South Africa with just one engine - a 2143cc direct-injection turbodiesel four - but in three states of tune.
The V200 CDI is rated at 100kW and 330Nm while the V220 CDI is quoted at 120kW and 380Nm; in each case that's a 20Nm improvement over the previous version, but with fuel consumption down by about two litres, to a nominal 5.7 litres per 100km in the V220.
The V250 BlueTec delivers a claimed 140kW and 440Nm with 150kW and 480Nm (briefly) available under hard acceleration. That'll take it to 100km/h from rest in 9.1 seconds, while burning a nominal six litres per 100km.
The V200 and V220 have a six-speed manual 'box as standard; a 7G-Tronic Plus paddle-shifter is standard on the V250, optional on the other two.
Adaptive damping is standard, as is adaptive traction control, while auto-transmission derivatives also offer four driving modes - Economical, Comfortable, Sport or Manual - at the press of a button, each of which resets the engine, accelerator and transmission mapping to suit its name.
The electrickery starts with a free-standing seven-inch central display and a multifunction steering wheel with 12 buttons, while the van's upmarket status is underpinned by a steering column adjustable for height and tilt, luxury front seats with sidebags, electric parking brake and active arrest for the rear sliding door.
The Comand touchpad lets you operate all the telematics functions by gestures or by entering characters in the same way as on a smartphone, including an internet browser, voice control and real-time traffic information.
An optional 16 speaker Burmester surround sound system has a microphone in the overhead console so that anything said by the driver and front passenger can be heard on the speakers by passengers in the rear.
The standard aircon can be upgraded to an auto set-up with various ventilation modes to offer individual climate control, adjustable from the rear seats, while the driver and front passenger's seats are available as an option with four-way adjustable lumber support and active ventilation.
The standard layout is four individual luxury rear seats with armrests in two seat rows, but the V-Class can be ordered with bench seats in six, seven or eight-place format with quick-release rails so they can quickly by shifted around or removed, depending on the job at hand.
Another option (standard on the top-spec Avantgarde) is a split-level tailgate with a quick-detachable parcel-shelf rated to carry up to 50kg, with two recesses, each containing a removable and collapsible shopping basket.
V200 CDI Standard - R695 981
V220 CDI Standard - R726 875
V220 CDI AVANTGARDE - R949 175
V250 BlueTEC - R782 416
V250 BlueTEC AVANTGARDE - R984 196
These include Mercedes-Benz's standard six-year or 100 000km maintenance plan.
Denis Droppa, editor of our print sister publication Star Motoring, was at the SA launch. Check out Independent Newspapers’ Motoring supplements next Thursday for his driving impressions.