Motoring | Motoring News
Jaco Van Der Merwe
When you think of a big black van, a few images spring to mind. FBI agents manning surveillance equipment in a parking lot or thugs fitting balaclavas on their way to making a withdrawal at the bank tend to feature high up on the list on what we think goes down behind the tinted windows in the back.
Outside Hollywood though, a van can be a pretty handy option for a motorist who’s daily chores don’t involve stick ups or deciphering. And if you take the Mercedes-Benz V-Class we had on test recently for example, being black actually adds a healthy dose of desirability to its already established degree in practically.
Before the world went SUV-gaga a van was sort of a no-brainer when you had more than five people to move. No sedan or even station wagon could rival that extra row of seats plus plenty of luggage space. But this all changed with the influx of seven-seater SUVs.
SUVs fitted with a third row of seating can not only match vans in terms of seats and luggage space, but have raised the stakes too in terms of comfort. The average seating arrangement in the third row of an SUV is usually more comfortable than the more bench-type arrangement we have become accustomed to in vans over the years.
But with the V-Class, Mercedes has added the comfort element to the existing virtues of a van to create a superb all-round premium offering. After rolling out an updated version of the V-Class last year, the local model line-up recently received a new flagship in the form of the V300d.
The most notable differentiator from the V250d, which previously headed up the range, is the power output. Where the V250d’s 2.1-litre turbocharged diesel engine produces 140 kW of power and 440 Nm of torque, the V300d’s OM 654 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine produces 176kW/500Nm. During acceleration, an additional 30 Nm is possible that contributes to Mercedes’ claim that the V300d can get to 100 km/h from a standstill in 7.9 sec with a top speed of 220 km/h. That is quite an improvement from the V250d’s 9.6 sec and 206 km/h and very decent numbers for something which is still a people mover in essence.
For the first time in the V-Class, the V300d features the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission which sends the power to the rear wheels and features Dynamic Select which allows the driver to choose between Comfort and Sport mode. The Sport mode comes in very handy for overtaking, while the van also features the added benefit of paddle shifters behind the steering that allows manual gear shifting. We managed just over 12L/100 km during our short stay with the van, which is probably around par for the course.
Along with the powerplant, the V300d stands out from its siblings through several styling and comfort enhancements. The V300d in Exclusive guise we tested features all the trim levels from the other two derivatives, the Avantgarde and Avantgarde with AMG Line, along with panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera package, climatised rear seats and refrigerator centre console.
The 360-degree camera package is vital when trying to manoeuvre the V300d into tight spaces, with the added benefit of the twin sliding doors not needing width to open in tight parking spots. And the fact that they are electric along with the tailgate means that neither the driver or passengers will ever have to bother with sliding them manually.
V300d models feature the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), which will now be standard across the entire V-Class range. This includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, smartphone integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Mercedes-Benz hard-disk navigation. It also features a 16-speaker Burmester surround sound system. The V300d keeps its occupants safe through the Driver Assist package featuring Pre-Safe, Lane Keeping and Blind Spot Assist, plus Active Brake Assist.
At R1 645 880 the V300d is anything but cheap, but few more expensive premium seven-seater SUVs can rival what it offers for its passengers, especially those occupying the prime property in the second row. With climatised reclining leather seats, zoned climate control, stowable tray tables for the two captain’s chairs with armrests, USB ports, plenty of drinks holders, reading lights, panoramic sunroof plus oodles of head and legroom at their disposal, this is probably as luxurious as it gets when travelling by road. The three seats in the third row meant that our tester was a seven-seater, but it can also be ordered as six or eight-seater. The total space behind the third row in 542-litres which is split by a very practical raised parcel shelf.
With the driver’s needs taken care of with basically every system found on other model ranges at his or her disposal and a nice high seating position, the V300d is anything but a luxurious people mover for mere commercial purposes. It is a very viable alternative to a large SUV for a family car. With just a tiny little hint of gangster about it should you choose the Obsidian Black metallic paint.
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