Forget the fact that the V-Class is based on a van; it’s actually a smart-looking thing. All models get alloy wheels – 17- or 18 inches in diameter, depending on trim (Sport models can be had with 19s as a no-cost option) – tinted glass at the back, and anodised roof rails. SE models get halogen headlamps, while Sport models come with LED items at both the front and back, as well as extra chrome detailing around the front bumper. The daytime running lights – LED items in Sport models – sit at the top of the light clusters and echo the similar styling on the C-Class and S-Class saloons, which gives the V a very upmarket look.
All models get leather upholstery as standard
The luxurious theme continues inside. Both trim levels get leather upholstery and beautifully soft carpets as standard, and the majority of the plastics feel really high-quality and sturdy, although the main dash trim does feel a little tinny and cheap. There’s loads of adjustability for the driver’s seat and the steering wheel, so most will be able to find exactly the right driving position with ease. Couple the high-set seat with the car’s huge glass area and you also get a really good view out, which is vital when handling such a big car. Most of the controls are easy to use, but the infotainment system’s wheel-and-touchpad control and the gearbox’s column-mounted shifter may take some getting used to.
The boot, especially in Extra Long versions, is vast
If you need to combine practicality with luxury, then this car will tick both boxes. It’ll carry seven people with space to spare (Extra Long variants are eight-seaters as standard, but this can be reduced to seven seats as a no-cost option). The boot is massive, with a varying range of capacities, from 610- and 1,410 (in standard and Extra Long models respectively) to 4,200- and 5,010 litres respectively with the rear seats removed. You can move and/or remove any of the chairs in the rear passenger compartment, but it is a very fiddly process and the seats themselves are very heavy. The boot opening is vast, which means getting stuff in and out is easy as well, but there is a bulky divider in there, which can be removed, but it’s very heavy. The size of the boot door also means that you’ve got to make sure that there’s plenty of room behind the car before you open it, as it describes a wide arc, which is easy to underestimate and bash into something behind the car. It does have a split tailgate, though, which means if you’re only putting small items in, you can just open the glass window. Once the boot’s open, you get a wide aperture with a very low floor and no lip, making it very easy to slide heavy objects in and out. The same applies to the electrically-operated sliding rear doors which makes it easy to get stuff/people in and out; especially in the confines of a busy car park. Naturally, there are cupholders and storage cubbies dotted all around the interior, too, as well as several 12-volt power supplies.
Ride and handling
This car is all about ride comfort, and it’s here where it excels. The suspension absorbs the majority of the bumps, yet it won’t pitch you about. Also, for what is a very, very large car indeed, the V-Class is actually pretty easy to drive. It’s manoeuvrable and has a surprisingly small turning circle. Steering is light, direct and, while there is some body lean in corners, it generally feels composed. It also remains stable at motorway speeds.
Despite the fact that the V weighs well in excess of two tonnes, the 188bhp 2.1-litre four cylinder turbodiesel which came in or V250 test car out gave a good account of itself. It’s exceptionally smooth and refined (not always the case with this engine in other Mercs) and pulls strongly from pretty much anywhere in the rev-range, while wind and road noise are kept to a minimum. It feels every bit as muscular as its 325lb/ft of torque suggests and the seven-speed automatic gearbox (the only transmission available) slurs quickly and smoothly between ratios, making both long motorway trips and being stuck in traffic supremely easy.
All models return over 44mpg which, is pretty impressive for such a heavy car
Most of these cars will be used as executive transport by chauffeur and high-end minicab companies, so their running costs, and especially CO2 emissions are important. All models return over 44mpg which, is pretty impressive for such a heavy car, while CO2 emissions aren’t too bad. This means that company car drivers shouldn’t see too much of a dent in their pay packets each month and VED won’t break the bank, either. Residual values will remain strong, too, so you shouldn’t lose too much of your (admittedly hefty) investment. Private buyers should, however, stay away. It’s unlikely that a family will ever need to transport seven people in such oppulence and they’ll find running costs prohibitively high; especially if they’ve got it as a company car, as the high purchase price will mean big Benefit in Kind bills. If you need to transport plenty of people on a regular basis, then a seven-seat SUV such as a Nissan X-Trail or large MPV like a Volkswagen Sharan or Seat Alhambra will cost less to buy and to own.
It’s too early for any concrete reliability data to have emerged for the V-Class, but the 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel has been around for quite a while now, so there shouldn’t be too many issues in this regard. However, Mercedes as brand languishes towards the bottom of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, due mostly to the high cost of fixes to most Mercedes.
You do get an impressive amount of safety kit as standard and this is reflected in its maximum five-star rating from Euro NCAP. Six airbags come as standard (although these only cover the front two occupants) as well as a tyre pressure monitoring system and stability control. All models also come with three-point belts for all occupants and a system called Sidewind Assist, which helps reduce the effect of strong crosswinds on the car. For more protection, you can specify the Driving Assistance Package on both trims, which incorporates a blind-spot warning system, active cruise control, Lane Keep Assist and the PRE-SAFE system, which detects if a crash is coming and warns the driver, as well as tightening the seat belts and closing the windows.
Both trim levels come pretty well equipped. They get sat-nav, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and a seven-inch colour infotainment display. You also get climate control and, in Extra Long models, a separate air-conditioning system for the rear compartment. Heated front seats are also standard, as are electrically-folding rear doors. Sport model adds things like three different colours of ambient lighting for the interior and ARTICO leather upholstery for the dashboard. There are a couple of options that we’d suggest you go for, however; the Driving Assistance package (available on Sport and SE models), which adds a host of safety kit and the 360 degree camera – which is also available on all models – which makes parking a doddle.
The V-Class does what it’s intended to do exceptionally well
To be honest, the only people who are really likely to buy these cars are upmarket minicab firms and chauffeur companies and, in terms of fulfilling the need of transporting lots of people in a luxurious and refined way, the V-Class does it exceptionally well. It may be more expensive to buy than the likes of a Volkswagen Caravelle, but it’s also much plusher inside, as well as being more refined and more economical and cleaner. However, for everyday transport, families are probably better off with an SUV like a Land Rover Discovery Sport, or a large MPV like a Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, as the V-Class is a pretty pricey thing to buy in the first place.