This is the new Mercedes V-Class – a revamped and renamed Viano, which aims to tempt family buyers away from the likes of the VW Multivan by offering a more plush interior than its predecessor and luxury car technology.
Mercedes has stressed the high quality of the interior inside the new V-Class, where switchgear, infotainment systems and the new touch-pad controller are shared with the 2014 C-Class. What Car? had a chance to crawl over the cabin of the new car at the launch event in Germany to check out the upgrades.
Most eye-catching in the cabin is the curvaceous new dashboard, which – in high-spec versions – is lavishly trimmed in dark, subtly grained wood trim, and topped by leather, colour co-ordinated with the luxury leather upholstery available for the first time in the V-Class.
It is undoubtedly a very classy interior and, when details like the chrome-rimmed instrument dials and centrally-positioned seven-inch infotainment system are added in, they disguise the V-Class’s van heritage.
We explored the new touch-pad controller and found it intuitive to use — at least when the vehicle was parked. If you have any experience of a touch-screen phone or laptop trackpad, it seems likely most drivers will choose to use it.
Mercedes has included a more familiar rotary controller, too, although the position of the dial below the touch-pad makes operating it a little awkward.
Visibility from the driver’s seat seems good, although some drivers may find it difficult to see the edge of the bonnet and identify the corners of the bumpers when manoeuvring.
However, this may prove moot in practice thanks to the 12 parking sensors and four cameras that are claimed to give the V-Class driver a 360-degree view of what’s going on around the vehicle.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, while the armrests of the captain’s chairs help to give a relaxed feel at the wheel.
One ergonomic failing we identified was the hard-to-reach switch for the electric parking brake, hidden behind and below the steering wheel. It really should have been located on the centre console.
Nevertheless, a people-carrier is all about the accommodation provided for the second and third rows of passengers, and the V-Class doesn’t disappoint.
The new seat designs look and feel plush and comfortable. The most luxurious layout is the four-seat rear cabin in which the chairs are arranged facing each other, creating a mobile lounge that could be used for meetings on the move.
We didn’t take our tape measure to Germany, but our impression was that the new seats take up a bit more cabin space than those in the outgoing Viano. We also sat in a cabin with two rows of three seats – an arrangement that’s certain to appeal to large families.
The V-Class is still based on a boxy commercial van, so the body is as roomy at the rear as at the front.
The roominess and practicality will be a sales clincher for many – even the third row can accommodate two child seats with room for a third adult occupant. Many parents will know how difficult that is in anything but the biggest of estate cars or saloons.
However, potential buyers should be aware that all this interior space comes because the V-Class has one of the biggest footprints of any passenger car.
At 537cm, the long-wheelbase V-Class is longer than a big executive car, although Mercedes has dropped the overall height by 20cm – enough, it says, to fit into most restricted-height car parks.
UK buyers will be offered two engines, both the latest versions of Merc’s 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel. The V220 CDI is rated at 161bhp with 280lb ft of torque, an official 50.0mpg and CO2 emissions of 149g/km. Meanwhile, the 188bhp V250 Bluetec has 324lb ft of torque, emits 157g/km CO2 and returns 47mpg. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on the V220, while the V250 gets a seven-speed auto.
We couldn’t evaluate any of the various electronic safety systems – which include the latest kit offered in the new C- and S-Class models – the availability of so many driver aids and safeguards will undoubtedly appeal to potential family buyers.
The Mercedes V-Class will be available to order from autumn 2014.
By Julian Rendell