What is it?
The V-class represents Mercedes’ attempts to move its big seven-seat people mover into the consciousness of passenger car buyers.
The Viano that it replaces followed the traditional van-with-seats format. But although the V-class in passenger car form tested here is built alongside commercial vehicle variants, there is little that gives away this model’s more humble roots.
There are three very good reasons for this. Firstly, for all its boxiness, there’s a genuine family look shared with the new C-class and S-class models, particularly from the front.
It is also impressively refined thanks to a surprisingly slippery shape, resulting in a low drag coefficient of 0.31 - the same as a Lexus LFA. It benefits further from the implementation of the 2.1-litre turbodiesel fitted to many of its passenger car models.
And, thirdly, the interior has been crafted with the care you’d hope for, given that it will cost nearly £40,000 in entry-level guise. This V250 BlueTec in Avantgarde trim is likely to command a price on the far side of £45,000, although prices will be confirmed closer to its launch in March 2015.
The V-class will be offered in short- and long-wheelbase configurations, and despite the latter measuring more than 5m in length, is surprisingly easy to drive. That has much to do with the width, barely wider than a Ford Galaxy, and Mercedes says its 1880mm height makes it car-park and car-wash friendly.
What's it like?
Like the Ford Transit and Tourneo, there’s little shame in sharing roots with the latest crop of commercial vehicles, and you’ll do well to spot those CV underpinnings here. The cabin is plush with soft-touch materials all around the cabin.
The V-class sports a range of new-to-the-class technology, including an advanced Comand system that incorporates a rather unintuitive track pad in addition to the familiar dial, and a self parking system that, when specified with an automatic gearbox, takes care of the throttle and brakes as well as steering.
The interior is an undeniable improvement in materials used, fit and finish than the Viano. Seven seats are standard, but two rows of three seats and a four-seat arrangement allowing occupants to face each other will feature on the options list. Tactile materials that are soft to the touch are used on pretty much every exposed panel, but bizarrely the Comand system surround feels rather low-rent.
Other useful additions include a split opening tailgate, storage crates in the rear parcel shelf and a range of cameras that can provide 180-degree views front or rear and a 360-degree bird's-eye view
The V250 model tested here replaces the V6 turbodiesel offered in the Viano, which is a significant improvement on that model’s torque output but at the same time matches its 0-62mph time. The engine is refined and smooth, and while we’ve been critical of the 2.1-litre engine in a similar tune in the new C-class, the refinement offered here is still class leading.
Agility Select, an option on automatic models, allows the driver to select from three throttle and gearshift maps, the sportiest of which offers 13bhp and 30lb ft of overboost.