Review: Master Minivan

 

Review: Master Minivan

Here's why the 2017 Mercedes-Benz V 250 is more than just a parcel van

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Fri 25 Aug 2017, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 25 Aug 2017, 2:00 AM

Minivans are big in North America, and they've been part of pop culture too: the Mystery Machine in the Scooby Doo series is an MPV and so is the squad vehicle in A-Team. But in Dubai, we see them mostly as parcel vans for delivery companies or shuttle-buses for blue-collar workers.
Mercedes-Benz always likes to do things differently, as is evident with the all-new V-Class - the largest member of the passenger car family. It is available in three variants: Standard, Avant-Garde and Exclusive. We take a closer look at the MPV that has the footprint of half a studio apartment.

DESIGN & AESTHETICS
With the 2017 model, Mercedes-Benz really has outdone itself by morphing the frontal design of a prestigious SUV with a 3-pointed star onto what was previously a bus-face. The $50,000 starting price meant that this was a long time coming. It now wears the family jewels upfront in the form of a strip of startling LED daytime running lamps that flank the slatted grille just like in the current S and GLE-Class. And so, gently nudging motorists off the fast lane is unexpectedly easier with this minivan; but as you pass them, these neighbouring motorists realise this is a van and get a glimpse of the sheer length of this travelling box.
Mercedes-Benz has decked up the sides to some extent too - with a lustrous paintjob, blacked-out pillars and sporty 5-spoke 18-inch wheels that can be replaced with the larger, 19-inch variety as well. But at the rear end, the delivery van roots cannot be concealed: it's as boxy and rudimentary as it gets, except for the effect of the red vertical rear LED lamps and large window screen, which can be opened for a quick throw-in of items. There is a 600L boot meant for a stack of full-size suitcases.
You can enter either through the back or four other ways, if you discount the panoramic sun roof. The two large sliding doors, found on either side of the V-Class, make it easy for a quick pick-up/drop and a quicker getaway. The
interior, just like the exterior, have been given a total revamp; most of the last-generation décor have been replaced. Besides the high-riding driver's seat and a rear-view mirror that indicates the 8 people capacity, nothing else gives away the fact that you're driving a van and that's great feeling to have. You get that proper leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering, like any other Mercedes, and along with it come multi-function controls for pretty much everything, just like in a luxury SUV. You also get soft-touch plastics, a wooden sweeping dashboard and plenty of satin chrome highlights. And to give it that cosy vibe, you have the option of switching between three colours of the ambient lighting system: neutral (white), solar (amber) and polar (ice blue).  
Visibility is great in the front, but at the back it can be restricted due to the passenger heads blocking the line of sight; but, you can be on top of things with the optional 360° camera - which is actually a must-have - and Active Parking Assist.
The leather upholstery is of a high grade, but the cushioning is a tad hard. You should also know that this is the only segment to offer optional 4-way lumbar support and active seat ventilation. The rear seating allows for numerous configurations. As standard, it is equipped with four individual luxury seats with armrests. They can be folded forward intuitively for quick access to the rear. The folding table is optional. As an alternative, a two-passenger bench seat or a three-passenger bench seat, each with a backrest and three-point safety belt, is also available.
Any niggles? Throughout the test drive, my knee kept knocking against the unnecessarily wide lower centre-console. But you do get an enormous storage point under it with all the connections.

POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
So under the hood, you're probably expecting a large-displacement motor or perhaps a diesel engine, thinking of the extra grunt required to haul all those people and their luggage. (they do have the latter in Europe). But for the Middle East, for that extra twist of torque, they have turned to the direct injection turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine - the world's favourite engine format - one that makes 211 horsepower at 5,500rpm and 350Nm between 1,800 and 5,200 rpm, which is 10Nm more than the previous engine. Despite its overall size and relatively smaller engine, it's a zippy van through the city streets and highway. But I suspect that when you are fully loaded, with eight individuals on board and their designated luggage, the V 250 may possibly huff and puff a little.
The 2.0L turbo does well getting from 0 to 100 km/h in just 9.4 seconds and does even better getting from 80 to 120 thanks to some decent mid-range grunt. If you have the passengers strapped in - as is the regulation, starting 1 July 2017 - you can get to your destination quickly, thanks to an obedient chassis that virtually shortens the wheelbase for more agility. It's still a van though, and I really don't see the point in getting the sports suspension that drops ride height by 15mm. What you'd be more interested in is how it rides over bumps and potholes. Well, it's smooth for the most part but when the road surface gets uneven, let's just say you won't spill your coffee, but you won't be able to get a signature on a cheque either.

FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
Just because it's a van doesn't mean safety features have been compromised. There are 10 innovative driver assistance systems-based radar, camera and ultrasound sensors, which were introduced in the new E-Class and S-Class under the name 'Mercedes-Benz
Intelligent Drive' available in this. Standard equipment includes Crosswind Assist, which helps the driver stabilise the vehicle in gusting crosswinds, and the gimmicky Attention Assist, which can warn of drowsiness. Optionally available are Distronic Plus, Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Prevention Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist. And that's impressive, considering most of these features are not available as options in other vans. You can also add extras like air-conditioned rear seats, rear iPad holders, LED-illuminated thermo cup holders, an integrated cooler - and even a fancy Burmester audio system that comes with 16 speakers, a 10-channel DSP amplifier with 640 watts output, which you can connect using Bluetooth or USB.

VERDICT
The Mercedes-Benz V-Class is a useful load-lugging van mixed with the luxuries of an executive jet. Cons: an engine that needs a little more oomph when fully loaded, a slightly bouncy ride quality and the knee-knocking centre console. Overall, this knocks it out of the park for soccer moms and every company that needs a commuter for executives who like to travel in packs. But as for big fish industrialists and celebrities, they would prefer riding in a luxury SUV or rented limousine. even though this is the 'The Mercedes-Benz of Minivans'.   

FUN FACT
In some countries, a camping variant is available - known as the Marco Polo. It's equipped with a galley (including gas stove, sink, fridge, and storage), wardrobe and a sliding rear-bench seat, which can be turned into a large air-sprung bed. A pop-up roof is also standard (electric assist is optional) providing standing height inside.

SPECIFICATIONS
Body type: 6/7/8-seater; 5-door premium MPV
Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder; all-wheel drive
Transmission: 7G-TRONIC PLUS (automatic)
Peak output: 211bhp @ 5,500rpm; 350Nm @ 1,800-5,200rpm
0 to 100km/h: 9.4 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 210 km/h (electronically limited; claimed)
Price: Starting at Dh185,000

Pros: Non-van-like design; multiple options for seat arrangements; luxury and convenience options
Cons: Slightly stiff ride; knee-knocking centre-console; slow when loaded; not an SUV
Author's rating: 7.5/10
wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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