Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Mercedes-Benz V-Class V300d Special Edition is a class act

Keeping three Comrades runners and their two selfless seconders comfy is no easy feat.

South Africans generally love their vans. But there is one in particular they arguably love just a little more than the others.

The fondness for the Mercedes-Benz V-Class is easy to grasp. The German manufacturer is after all the only premium brand to play in this space. That in itself is rather baffling, as the premium carmakers go to great lengths in denying rivals a bigger slice of cake that is sometimes far smaller than the van segment.

While the VW Caravelle, Toyota Quantum VX and top-spec Hyundai Staria Executive can challenge lower end V-Class derivatives pound for pound in some areas, they have no answer for the hitting power of the heavyweight Mercedes-Benz V300d.

Mercedes-Benz V300d in a league of its own

Producing 174kW of power and 500Nm of torque, the V300d four-cylinder turbodiesel engine offers the most powerful production powertrain on offer in the world of vans. Not only is it 28kW/50Nm more than its closest rival the Caravelle, but also 50kg lighter at 2 145kg than the VW bus. Counting slightly in the Caravelle’s favour is the fact that it is all-wheel drive compared to the rear-wheel drive V-Class.

Not content with the V300d already being in a league of its own, Mercedes-Benz Vans South Africa last year upped the ante with the introduction of the Special Edition. A South Africa-exclusive limited-edition variant of the Mercedes-Benz V300d the manufacturer calls “the most exclusive ever released”. It is most likely the last version of the current model that will make way for its already-launched replacement locally in the next 12 months.

The Mercedes-Benz V300d Special Edition makes an immediate statement by differentiating itself from its siblings through an array of exterior styling enhancements, not all being purely aesthetical. It also boasts a comprehensive set of safety features.

Mercedes-Benz V300d cabin
The Mercedes-Benz V300d has two captain’s chairs in the second row. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Epic road trip to KZN

The Citizen Motoring recently had the chance to sample the Special Edition. And we took it on a road trip it was purpose-built for; a return journey for a long weekend to Durban.

The five adult occupants included four editorial staff members of The Citizen of which three descending on KwaZulu-Natal for the Comrades Marathon. It goes without saying that comfort for preserving their physique on the way down to the coast and to help ease the tenderness on the way back was of utmost importance.

ALSO READ: Hyundai Staria gives Caravelle and V-Class food for thought

Opting for self-catering accommodation meant that the tour party required a lot of cargo space. This is where the Special Edition-exclusive rooftop box designed came into its own. The sleek AMG-designed carrier swallowed all the luggage bags and bedding on top. This meant that the camp fridge, several cooler boxes and the groceries fitted into the boot which is cleverly arranged in two parts by a sturdy shelf.

As nothing had to be crammed into the cabin, the runners and their selfless seconders enjoyed extreme comfort, which turned out to be just as crucial for latter group.

Mercedes-Benz V300d boot
A clever shelf system allow more space to stack cargo. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Mercedes-Benz V300d Special Edition a looker

Along with the roofbox, the V300d also features additional exterior styling enhancement in the form of black mirror caps and black exterior detailing along with gloss black 19-inch alloy wheels. Clad in the Special Edition-exclusive Sodalite Blue Metallic paintwork, our tester drew lots of attention.

With two captain’s chairs in the second row and a three-seat third row bench seat, the Special Edition offers space for seven occupants. The captain’s chairs have stowable tray tables. And they can turn around to create a mobile “conference” facility.

While some aspects of the V300d like the TFT-display in the instrument cluster is dated compared to fresher Mercedes-Benz model ranges, the Special Edition makes up for it through heaps of creature comforts. These include a full leather interior, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, 3.2-litre centre console fridge, rear adjustable air-conditioner, dual panoramic sunroof, double electric sliding doors and tailgate and brilliant 15-speaker 640-watt Burmester sound system.

ALSO READ: Toyota Quantum VX the one bus no Comrades runner can resist

Safe as a house

Keeping its human cargo safe include things like six airbags, Crosswind Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Lane Keep Assist, Attention Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, Active Brake Assist, Pre-Safe and Auto High Beam Assist LED headlights.

As expected, the Mercedes-Benz V300d Special Edition performed like a rock star on the N3 to Durban and back. The diesel mill delivers refined power with its gear changes from the 9G-tronic transmission being buttery smooth.

ALSO READ: VIDEO: New Ford Tourneo makes intentions clear at Nampo

Navigating the van on the twisty sections after Pietermaritzburg was a breeze, while the generous torque on tap made the long slog up on the way back a breeze. It definitely dealt with those hills much better than the three jelly-legged passengers that huffed and puffed over the finish line in Pietermaritzburg.

Mercedes-Benz V300d drivers seat
There are plenty of features to make up for the V-Class’ dated interior. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Excellent fuel economy

Fuel consumption for the overall distance of 1 744km worked out to an excellent 9.3L/100km. This would have been even lower if the seconders did not get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic outside Pietermaritzburg for three hours due to extreme congestion at the Comrades finish.

Sometimes sitting can be more painful than running. And they deserved medals for their perseverance. Fortunately the comfy seats and sound system kept them in the mood for the celebratory post-race braai and beverages.

At R2 304 772, the Mercedes-Benz V300d Special Edition comes at a R205k premium over the Exclusive derivative. But the V300d Special Edition offers more practicality than SUVs with bigger price tags and its striking good looks give it even more street credit.

That is why people love this van so much. Those who don’t have one, will want one.

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