The V-Class’s commercial-vehicle underpinnings are evident right from the off, and affect a pretty rudimentary drive. It bounces over undulating roads, and if you hit a hefty bump or ridge at any speed, it sends a resounding shudder echoing through the cabin. It certainly feels a long way behind the comfort offered by regular MPVs such as the Seat Alhambra, and even the similarly van-based Peugeot Traveller manages to do better.
The same is true of handling. Bar the Ford Galaxy, none of these large MPVs feel particularly agile, granted. Yet with low-witted steering and a hefty amount of body lean through corners, the V-Class feels firmly in the shadow of rivals including the Alhambra, and again, even the Traveller.
Another area in which the V-Class lags behind its purpose-built MPV rivals is refinement. Wind and road noise are reasonably well checked, but you get lots of suspension noise over broken surfaces and the engine’s gruff when you work it hard. It also sends quite a bit of vibration through the steering wheel and pedals. If you really think a van-based vehicle would suit, we’d again recommend the Traveller, or even the VW Caravelle as more relaxing cars to tootle round in. Better still, by a Galaxy and it’ll seem whisper quiet by comparison.
At least the V-Class’s engines give good performance. Even the 161bhp diesel is up to the job and pulls well from low revs, but if you are regularly making use of all those seats then we’d suggest you plump for the 187bhp version. The extra shove it brings not only makes it feel relatively brisk, but also takes the stress out of your drive – not having to rev it so hard to make progress tempers the engine’s clatter. Both engines come with a standard seven-speed automatic gearbox, and this works well, producing slick shifts.