From £53,1808
Mercedes' Marco Polo delivers a luxury take on the camper van concept, but can it justify its price?

What is it?

The first thing you’ll note about the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo is that from the outside it looks like a van, and from the inside it looks a pretty decently specced home, resplendent with wood-effect flooring, a sink, a hob, two double beds and more. 

The Marco Polo - or the Marco Polo 250 d Sport Long to give it its full name - is based on the long-wheelbase version of the commodious Mercedes-Benz V-Class MPV, itself based on the Vito van.

As all historians will have noted, it takes its name from the great 13th century explorer and author, and that in turn explains why this review is going to be more concerned with fixtures, fittings, head room and the like that it is the finer points of driving dynamics. This is Mercedes’s luxury take on the camper van concept.

This test is of a model in Sport trim and powered by the more powerful version of the 2.1-litre diesel engine, which still costs the better part of £15,000 more than the equivalent V-Class, but obviously replaces what it gives up in seats for bed space and the sort of kitchen facilities that make many a modern flat look sparsely appointed.

Even so, at more than £55,000, there’s still a few spots in the UK that you could buy a flat for this money. Can a camper van ever justify such cost?

What's it like?

The first clues in answer to that question hit you as you climb aboard, either through the front seats or the sliding side door (which it’s worth noting is on the Euro-friendly driver’s side, meaning rear passengers will be entering and leaving on the road side in the UK).

The interior of the Marco Polo is nothing less than a delight. The two-burner hob, fridge, sink, pop-up table and storage space arrangement is compact, easy to access and cleverly orientated so that, for instance, the bits you’re more likely to access while standing are located below the point the roof will raise to its highest.

The as-standard yacht flooring lifts the ambience, while the sliding rear seat bench, which converts to a double bed at the push of some buttons, is comfortable and easy to move fore and aft. The front seats also rotate round, making turning your kitchen/car into a living room the work of moments, albeit slightly fiddly ones as you manoeuvre the chairs into the right position so they will swivel without catching anything. The roof sleeping area opens and closes at the push of a button and is released via two simple clips.

Compromises are few and far between, albeit with the glaring exception of the USB ports between the front seats, which are located underneath the protruding Comand controller for the sat-nav, radio and other functions. It’s a minor blip on an otherwise well resolved interior. It’s worth noting, too, that USB and power plugs are located all around the interior, so only the driver or front seat passenger are likely to be impacted.

The driver's high seating position is excellent, however, delivering very good forward visibility, while the standard parking sensors and rear-view camera make light work of tight parking situations. The Marco Polo is big, but not unwieldy.

The V-Class's four-cylinder diesel engine is impressively refined aside from a grumble when it is fired to life or sat at idle, and it pulls well enough to make overtaking, or perhaps more commonly matching motorway speeds as you join a carriageway, comfortable. Most of the torque is low down, too, so you rarely need to stretch the Marco Polo’s legs. The engine is well matched to the silky smooth seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which seems impervious to getting flustered, no matter how hurried your demands.

There’s only so much isolation a van-lengthed vehicle on 18in wheels can offer from pockmarked roads, but despite being easily unsettled, overall the Marco Polo is comfortable to be in. The only other reminder of its size and weight comes under braking, which isn’t quite as immediate as its other bountiful qualities may suck you into expecting. 

Should I buy one?

Tick, tick, tick - the Marco Polo answers pretty much every question asked of it with resoundingly affirmative answers. The proverbial elephant in the room, however, remains that towering price tag.

Now here’s the rub: a top-spec, bells-and-whistles Volkswagen California, the Marco Polo's most likely rival, comes in at fractionally less than this Marco Polo, while an entry-level California is not that far shy of £20,000 less. On a PCP finance deal, the Marco Polo typically needs a £11,000 deposit and three years of £600-per-month payments; a mid-spec California requires around half the deposit and £100 per month less.

However, spec for spec, the Marco Polo is not so far off the pace in terms of pricing, and it undoubtedly outshines its rival for perceived quality, performance and running cost economy. If the California wasn’t such an icon of the camper van world, there would be no hesitation in saying that the Mercedes-Benz badge, and the affiliated qualities, justify the higher price.

As it is, the decision is tougher, but by no means a one-way battle. If you want the ultimate in camper vans and are prepared to pay for it, the Marco Polo is well worth your consideration.

Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo 250 d Sport Long

Location Henley, Oxfordshire On sale Now Price £55,055 Engine 4 cyls, 2143cc, turbo, diesel Power 187bhp at 5500rpm Torque 162lb ft at 1400-2400rpm Gearbox 7-spd auto Kerb weight 2440kg Top speed 129mph 0-62mph 9.8sec Economy 44.8mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 169g/km, 32% Rivals VW California, VW Caravelle.

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Comments
8

15 May 2017
Yes very nice and well done Mercedes, beautifully formed but very small inside... for much the same price you all would be better off looking at Lunar Caravans' award winning Landstar range of Mercedes Sprinter based motor homes where you will find the equivalent luxury plus the headroom and all the facilities you and yours need for staying away from home and hotels... enjoy

15 May 2017
How much?! That's insane money...imo of course.

15 May 2017
Why on earth is this a sport? When did camping become a sport? Is it like "turbo" in the 80's?
Spanner

15 May 2017
A Wellhouse Hyundai i800 is 10K cheaper and no worse off for it.

15 May 2017
First time I've heard the old Merc 2.1 described as refined

27 May 2017
I am suspicious about the both engine parameters: bhp and most importantly the torque...Isn't it too weak considering it's a big and heavy vehicle?

27 May 2017
Well, I just have found other sources show a torque of 440 Nm which translates to 325 lb ft.

27 May 2017
Well, I just have found other sources show a torque of 440 Nm which translates to 325 lb ft.

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