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Mercedes’ van-based MPV offers economical diesel engines and up to eight seats, but it commands a hefty premium compared with rivals

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One can make a case that it’s vans such as the Mercedes V-Class – and not the SUVs we’re plied with – that today come closest to mastering the art of the lifestyle vehicle.

It’s why you find so many MPV owners, never to return to the SUV fold, eulogising the utility and surprising opulence of their boxy (and sometimes quite expensive) wheels.

Playing into this is the fact that the ‘van with windows’ market has recently become more desirable and competitive than ever. Volkswagen has its understatedly charming Multivan; Ford’s Tourneo Custom has a panoramic roof; and the new Lexus LM, with its Mark Levinson sound system, is pitched as something to go up against the BMW 7 Series.

As an established player in this area (one in which its compatriots Audi and BMW still have never so much as dabbled), Mercedes-Benz needs to keep up, and so it has updated the V-Class for 2024, with a sharper exterior design and an overhaul of the infotainment system.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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That said, in the metal it can be tricky to tell the new model apart from the old one, despite the fact that the wider grille, the neater headlights and some gills at the flanks of the front bumper that wouldn’t look entirely out of place on an AMG GT are all in fact new.

As for wheelbase, the regular Long model still puts 3200mm of metal between the axles, while the Extra Long stretches to 3430mm – about a Fiat 500’s worth. The latter can also be had with an eight-seat configuration – one more than standard. 

In terms of the rear-wheel-drive chassis, the V-Class has offered air suspension as an option since its last meaningful update in 2020, which was also when it adopted the OM654 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine. This is now available in two tunes for the UK: 161bhp and 233bhp. 

Interestingly, Mercedes' 2.0-litre is set to join the line-up, meaning those who want better powertrain refinement than the diesel engine can offer will no longer be pushed only towards the all-electric EQV. 

The V-Class also now comes in a variety of surprisingly fetching colours – just check out Vintage Blue or Sodalite Blue.

INTERIOR

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The cabin update marks major change. Were it not for the cliff-face geometry of the wide, wood-effect (or, in higher trims, metal-effect) dashboard and the expanse between the front seats (nicely sculpted and with useful armrests), you could almost be forgiven for thinking you had climbed aboard one of Mercedes’ saloons.

Gone are dramatically hooded instrument binnacles and the slightly awkward central touchscreen display, on its plinth. It’s all been replaced with the new generation of MBUX displays (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatability come as standard), though the little ledge that houses a touchpad controller is carried over.

There's a good amount of physical switchgear, too, including those for electrically sliding side doors and the climate controls. Less welcome are the imprecise panel-push controls on the new wheel, smart as it is.

In the main, and given the V-Class's van DNA, it feels supremely premium in here – something that's enhanced at night time, when the new ambient lighting comes to the fore. 

Of course, the front portion of the cabin is not what the V-Class is really about.

The passenger region of the car is outstandingly spacious in terms of leg and head room, even with the eight-seat configuration (two rows of three in the back). Luggage space isn't quite as straightforward – there's plenty of it, but only if you opt for the longer bodyshells that Mercedes offers. 

The seats themselves are mounted onto rails that run the length of the floor, so you can tinker with the precise amount of leg room each row has. Of course, it's also possible to have one row facing backwards, though you can also do this in the VW Multivan.

Whichever inlay trim you opt for also extends down the flanks on the cabin and into the third row, so there's a premium atmosphere throughout. Opting for beige leather raises the premium appeal of the V-Class still further, and there are other options such as a Burmester sound system and a panoramic roof, which are included for Exclusive trim. 

RIDE & HANDLING

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Barring the occasionally jerky low-speed shift, the diesel-with-torque-converter-gearbox is an effective powertrain for the V-Class, not least because the engine is so torque-rich. Pulling off motorway slip roads, even with many passengers aboard, ought to be no problem for the upper V300d variant we tested.

However, this engine’s gruff tone under load isn’t particularly VIP, somewhat undermining the luxurious atmosphere that Mercedes is striving for here.

At least there’s impressively little wind noise on the move. Moreoever, the arrival of the mild-hybrid 2.0-litre turbo petrol OM254 from the car range later in 2024 will give owners the option of a more refined engine, plus there is of course the electric EQV to consider (a truly smooth operator for VIP work).

As for ride quality, our air-suspended test car cruised along the smooth autoroutes surrounding Cannes with if not quite a magic carpet glide then a gentle waft entirely befitting a near-six-figure MPV. However, at lower speeds, on patchier urban road surfaces, it leaves a little to be desired, as its axles can be quite reactive. The VW Multivan, which isn't actually van-based in terms of its engineering DNA, does better in this respect.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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The V-Class range starts at £74,585 for the seven-seat V220d Long, which uses the same diesel engine as the V300, albeit detuned from 233bhp to 161bhp. Having the more powerful – and torquey – motor will cost you around £5000 more, and to us it's worth the extra outlay.

You might also consider the V-Class in Extra Long form, which precludes you from having a panoramic roof but does create usefully more space for either passenger leg room or luggage. A V300d in Extra Long from starts at just over £80,000.

Whichever version you choose, opting for an eight-seat layout (as opposed to seven seats) is a no-cost option. 

All models are also well equipped, though for an extra £13,000, Exclusive trim does bring some choice additions over entry-level Premium. These include the Burmester sound system, a panoramic roof (in Long form), the useful digital rear-view camera and some aesthetic enhancement that make the V-Class even more red-carpet-ready. 

More prosaically, fuel economy is rated at 38.2mpg for the V300d, though don't expect to match this in urban driving. 

VERDICT

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Overall, this update to the V-Class delivers where it matters. Interior tech is now a real strong point, and Mercedes' MPV feels more premium than ever inside. It also continues to generate an appreciably car-like driving experience, despite its unambiguously van-derived architecture.

High pricing precludes it from being an obvious option for families, but for businesses and VIPs, a judiciously specced V-Class probably remains the first choice.

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering.