The recently revealed 2015 edition of the Pirelli Calendar does away with many misconceptions - for one thing, it features plus-size model Candice Huffine. We've just had our own experience with a generous-size model, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class.
Unlike most shots in The Cal
, the cabin of the V-Class wasn’t covered in latex and yet driving a range-topping model made us feel just as special as those who were gifted with the limited print edition of Pirelli’s fashion venture.
In the metamorphosis from the Viano to the V-Class, the model is no longer marketed as a “large-capacity” vehicle, but rather as the “largest member of the passenger car family”. The German automaker now sees the V-Class as a car and this shows when you’re inside the vehicle, regardless if you’re the driver or a passenger.
While many believe the V-Class designation to be new, the name was actually used for the... grandfather of the current model. Alas, neither the mid 90s V-Class, nor the 2000s Viano managed to reach the status of the Volkswagen Transporter. Did we say “Transporter”? We actually meant Multivan
, as we are talking about light commercial vehicles that were converted to the MPV
So why has the V-Class gone through such an identity change? Partially due to the aforementioned fate of its successors and also thanks to the fact that Mercedes-Benz is fully reorganizing itself, form strengthening the family design identity and introducing a new nomenclature to launching the Mercedes-AMG
and Mercedes-Maybach sub-brands.
Aside from reinventing the Viano, the V-Class also picks up where the now defunct R-Class left off. Mercedes’ people mover was perhaps too expensive for its class and ended up going down together with the entire segment, but the carmaker hasn’t forgotten about those who have family transportation needs.
While the V-Class is already roaming around Europe, we’ll still have to wait until fall 2015 to get it in the US. The Benz of vans will land on American shores under a different moniker though: the Metris.
We sampled the 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class with the range-topping powertrain (V250 automatic) and equipment level (Avantgarde). While we would’ve easily traded the standard RWD for the 4Matic AWD
, this would’ve meant waiting for the all-four models to reach the market, which we obviously didn’t want to do.
As any Mercedes model that was introduced after the launch of the S-Class, the V-Class borrows the flagship sedan’s face.
This is a front end design that we wouldn’t mind waking up next to every morning.
The upright radiator grille and the headlights do most of the work here. Speaking of light clusters, the V-Class follows its mentor down the LED path - if you tick the right options, there won’t be a single light bulb left on the car, inside or out, just LEDs.
The sculpted bonnet also deserves some credit here and during the three days we spent with the V-Class, we even saw a few practical-type guys on the street checking out our tester. The side and the rear of the V-Class are far from having received such a complex visual remake as the front end. Still, while many vehicles in this class are shy when it comes to playing with character lines on their sides, this Mercedes-Benz does turn to such tricks in order to keep a decent look.
Moving to the rear, the ultra tall taillights of the Viano have made room for compact, car-like units.
Perhaps the most important change, as far as the eye is concerned, comes in the form of the rear window that spreads lower. This can be opened separately and makes an excellent job at concealing the massive size of the rear hatch. Despite this and the electric assistance on our tester, you will still feel the size when you try to open or close the hatch.
Speaking of access, while the default setup brings a sliding door on the right, our test car was gifted with a second one on the left, both power-operated. When you’re at the traffic lights and you open both doors simultaneously at the touch of a button, people in cars around you tend to get a bit scarred. Perhaps they’ve seen too many drive-by movies.
Once you’re inside, you discover the true magic of the V-Class. Up front, the cabin falls perfectly in line with any Mercedes in the showroom. The dashboard is horizontally split in two by a massive piece of trim. The Avantgarde equipment line of our tester meant this was a plastic that did a good job at imitating wood and the same material was used to decorate the rear of the cabin. Still, if you’re not a fan of the finish, there are other choices.
And if the Lugano leather of the Avantgarde, which covers the seats and, get this, the dashboard, is not enough, the Interior Design package can bring Nappa leather.
The driver is treated with a C-Class multifunctional steering wheel and the pair of dashboard instruments remind of those on the compact saloon. The picture is completed by Mercedes’ traditional round vents, which have a particularly lavish... air to them.
The steering column-mounted gear shifter for the automatic transmission completes the process of making the interior feel refined.
Still, the center console lever for the manual does remind of the usual utilitarian nature such vehicles have.
Since this is a Mercedes, the ergonomics are good, but we can’t say the same about the latest iteration of the Command infotainment system. The center console itself is not difficult to operate, but the rotary controller with a touchpad over it is.
Perhaps it’s just us being used with free-rotating knobs, but the actual issue arises when you enter the menus. All the animations and the navigation simply use more of your time than they should.
It’s interesting how the Command system appears to have gotten more complicated over the years, while BMW’s iDrive, which was simply impossible to use in the beginning, has become more user-friendly. Regardless, the middle-row individual seats are the place you want to be when you’re between the panels of a V-Class. The front seats are just OK when it comes to comfort, but the individual ones in the second row provide the supreme level of coziness you expect from this car.
As for the third row, the access can be difficult. Besides, sitting right above the rear axle limits the ride comfort a bit, which means this remains the least appealing choice.
Mercedes-Benz allows you to choose between multiple seating configurations, as the V-Class can swallow up to eight people.
For instance, the front seats can swivel (50 degrees outwards and 180 degrees inwards), while the third row can be occupied by a bench that can become a bed. The expected folding and sliding table is also here. We tested the individual second-row seats and the three-person bench in the third row, but found these a tad difficult to operate.
Alas, when it comes to playing the role of a family hauler, the V-Class leaves certain things to be desired.
It all starts with the atmosphere - while you have plenty of customization possibilities, through leather, stitching and trim, they all lead to the same plush-but-cold business appearance.
In this respect, the Mercedes V-Class is somewhat similar to Ibis hotels - if your income is modest, your home may be less gifted than an Ibis room, but it’s definitely cozier.
We’ve already talked about the seat comfort parts that could be improved and we must also mention the storage spaces. In its quest to do away with any utilitarian traces, the V-Class is shy when it comes to providing all those little useful spaces besides the standard ones.
And if one of your children happens to drop his toys on the rear floor at night, you’ll find out the interior lighting could be stronger.
Before we start talking about how the V-Class feels when surrounded by a city, we have to discuss its dimensions. First of all, you should know there are three versions available.
You can have the default one we tested, which is called long (obviously) and measures 5,140 mm (202.4 inches ) in length, has a wheelbase of 3,200 mm (126 inches) and an extended rear overhang. Then there’s the compact version, which sits at 4,895 mm (192.7) in length and has a wheelbase of 3,200 mm (126 inches), as well as the extra-long flavor, which measures 5,370 mm (211.4 inches) in length and comes with a wheelbase of 3,430 mm (135 inches).
While SUVs have thought many drivers to cope with cars that measure 5 meters in length, the 2,248 mm (88.5 inches) width of the V-Class means you’ll have to be extra careful when driving through certain areas of the city.
One of our editors is exactly 1.88 meters tall (6'2”). He can be “driven” into normal-sized garages, multistory car parks, underground parks and has even successfully tried car washes. Coincidentally, the V-Class measures just as much in height, so you can use it in all the aforementioned scenarios.