After amalgamating the old Vito and Viano nameplates into one, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class has been the go-to high-end van for those needing to move eight occupants in comfort without resorting to purchasing a large, bakkie-based SUV. Last year, in the heat of a global pandemic, Mercedes-Benz South Africa improved the V-Class offering by introducing the V300d as a new range-topper in the line-up. Headlined by figures of 176 kW and up to 530 Nm of torque paired to a 9-speed automatic gearbox – the latter being a first for the V, the large hauler has overcome one of its biggest prior issues – enough grunt to haul 8 people. But the changes didn’t stop there: the V300d plays host to the innovative MBUX infotainment interface, and a swathe of leather, ambient lighting, and the latest tech. To show us what the luxury van is all about, Mercedes invited us to spend 5 days with the V300d.
Pros and Cons
- Light on fuel for size and performance
- Extremely luxurious
- MBUX infotainment is a breeze to use
- 500 Nm hauls like a freight train
- Spacious across all 3 rows of seating
- Lots of wind noise from rear sliding doors
- It’s big. Really big.
- Some materials belie luxury
- Very expensive for what is essentially a commercial vehicle
Mercedes-Benz V-Class Exterior
Despite being a commercial van at heart, the V-Class wears Mercedes design language well. The standard dual-wing Mercedes grille up front is flanked by LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, while the side profile is defined by sliding rear doors on either side and 19-inch alloy wheels. Various styling packages are available, too including the Exclusive line, which adds blingier wheels and chrome trim elements, or the AMG line, as equipped to our tester, with Mercedes’ diamond-look grille and AMG-influenced front bumper design. The Night Package can be further equipped with dark tinted windows and blacked-out styling elements. A range of 16 exterior paint hues can be selected from, including subdued choices like Arctic White and Pebble Grey or mode adventurous options like Jupiter Red, Hyacinth Red, and Cavansite Blue.
Engine and Transmission:
As with all Mercedes-Benz products, the numerical designation indicates placement in the lineup from a performance perspective. That makes the V300d the most potent in the V-Class range, while the ‘d’ suffix indicates a diesel power plant under the short bonnet. That’s where you’ll find the OM654, a four-cylinder aluminum turbo-diesel motor used in numerous products including the E-Class. It generates 176 kW of power, but the real showstopper is 500 Nm of torque, which increases to 530 Nm in overboost mode for a brief period of time. Drive is directed to the rear axle by the 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic gearbox, while Dynamic Select allows the driver to choose between Comfort, Sport, and Manual driving modes.
The new engine is a revelation. Not only is it smooth, but the heaploads of torque means the V-Class no longer feels overly cumbersome as it does with lesser engine choices. The automatic transmission is remarkably smooth, too, slipping between the gears to keep the V300d in its powerband, resulting in a 7.9-second 0-100 km/h dash and a top speed of 220 km/h, although we don’t recommend attempting the latter. For those towing, the diesel engine allows braked towing of loads up to 2,000 kg.
Ride and Handling:
Mercedes can dress up the V-Class in Avantgarde styling with AMG body kits as much as it likes, but at the end of the day, the V300d’s bones are that of a humble work van. As such, you’re not going to get the driving dynamics of an S-Class. First of all, the V300d is massive, barely fitting into a standard parking bay. Thankfully, parking sensors and a reverse camera make it easier to navigate in and out of tight spaces, and visibility is surprisingly good.
But out on the open road, the V-Class is better suited to long-distance cruising than inner-city travel. The turning circle isn’t very tight, and the long wheelbase makes tight manouevres tricky. The steering is light, but the rack is slow. However, the worst aspect of the V-Class, and the one that gives away its humble backstory, is how much noise there is. You might get all the leather of an E-Class, but you certainly don’t get the refinement. We can forgive the creaking body as the van flexes over curbs and uneven roads, but the amount of wind noise that permeates is very out of place. It’s not even from the windscreen or over the mirrors, but instead through the rear door seals, which keep out water but little else. Upon being overtaken by a very noisy taxi, I had to do a double-take to make sure I wasn’t driving with the back door open.
V300d Fuel Economy:
The new engine in the V300d isn’t all about potency, but frugality too. To this end, Mercedes claims combined fuel economy of 7.8l/100km, but in reality, we averaged a tick over 9l/100km. A large, 70-litre fuel tank means a full tank of diesel will net you more than 750 km of range.
Mercedes V-Class Interior:
Arguably the star of the show, albeit vying for the limelight with the engine in the V300d, is the interior of the V-Class. It’s classy, especially when you go all-out on the spec to include heated and ventilated first and second-row seats, multi-zone climate control, and a panoramic sunroof as were all specced in our test unit. Three rows of seating are highly configurable, seating 7 by default but available as either 6- or 8-seater configurations with luggage room to spare. More than this, the second-row seats can be installed facing either forwards or backward, creating a meeting room on the move in the back, with even a pop-up table on the options list. The leather – available in either Black, Tartufo Brown, or the Silk Beige of our test unit – is lavish, and the design and layout are clearly modern Mercedes, highlighted by the MBUX infotainment system. Power-adjustable front seats are easy to get into a comfy position, and visibility is good considering the size of the van, while rear-seat ingress and egress are aided by sliding doors on either side and enough headroom to climb in comfortably. The third-row seats can genuinely accommodate adult occupants, too, with space for all sorts of mischief.
On the whole, the interior feels great, but the table in the back of our test unit felt cheap and out of place, and one of the second-row seats appeared to be installed incorrectly, so the controls for heating and ventilation weren’t always in reach.
From a cargo-carrying perspective, the 542 litres of cargo space behind row three is split by a shelf in the middle that can carry a fair amount of weight. The tailgate is power-operated to make life easier, and the low lift in height makes loading heavy items a boon. A split-window tailgate also enables you to load stuff straight onto the parcel shelf without opening the whole back end. Of course, the interior is equally adept at storing stuff, with various cubbies and binnacles at hand, including a refrigerated compartment beneath the center armrest and heated and cooled cupholders in our tester.
V300d Equipment and Safety
MBUX steals the show, as Mercedes’ latest infotainment suite is classy, clean, and easy to use. The 10.25-inch screen on the centre stack is controllable by touch, by the touchpad on the centre console, or by voice using the “Hey Mercedes” prompt. It responds well to voice commands, and while the V-Class doesn’t cater to the same plethora of voice commands as other MBUX-equipped models, the navigation and infotainment functions are covered perfectly. Among the features, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration supplement Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, while a 16-speaker sound system from Burmester ensures all three rows of occupants are included in the party. From a general feature perspective, automatic headlights with high-beam assist, power-sliding rear doors, a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled cupholders, heated and ventilated seats, and a refrigerated cubby are all among the cool features on offer.
Mercedes doesn’t let the V-Class leave the factory in an unsafe state, with a slew of driver assistance features including the aforementioned automatic headlights, lane keeping assist, blind-spot assist, and an optional 360-degree camera. Six standard airbags with an extra 2 optional help mitigate disaster should the unthinkable happen.
Mercedes-Benz V300d Price and Verdict:
We all know that the “Mercedes-Benz of Bakkies” costs an arm and a leg, but the V-Class is an even pricier machine, particularly in this top-spec form. The V300d in base Avantgarde trim starts at a VAT-inclusive base price of R1,440,203 before options, while the AMG Line model crosses 1.5-bar at R1,515,183. At the very top of the trim ladder, a V300d Exclusive asks R1,645,880 before options. So, is it worth it?
That question is always relative to your needs, but we’ll give the V-Class credit where it’s due. The new engine/gearbox combination in the V300d is a revelation, with an abundance of overtaking torque, towing ability, and levels of refinement that justify the three-pointed star on the nose and tail. The interior is lavish, too, and the copious amounts of space are unparalleled in a South African market that prefers SUVs to minivans. Cheap elements may crop up in places, and the high amounts of wind noise are not what we’d expect in a vehicle of this price, but there are enough elements to distract from this, and, on the whole, levels of refinement are high. This is not the type of van you buy for casual daily use, but as a high-end family holiday vehicle or a mobile office equivalent of a high-rise in Sandton, the V300d is a pretty sweet deal, particularly if you’re the kind of person who likes to remember your humble blue-collar roots, just like those of the V-Class.