What is it?
There is usually an element of risk involved when a carmaker begins their new year with a truly unusual vehicle. But that’s exactly how Mercedes-Benz India kicked things off earlier this year when it launched a five-plus metre long luxury vehicle with individual seating and a starting price of nearly Rs 86 lakhs on-road. Sounds great, right? It does, however, the vehicle in question isn’t any sumptuously appointed sedan but a full-size MPV. Say hello to the V-Class, ostensibly the most luxurious people carrier out there.
So where does the V-Class fit? It’s not as dignified or luxurious as the E-Class or the GLC, but its way more spacious and versatile than either, or any other luxury car for that matter. It is genuinely a distinctive offering in a segment which is still a niche in our market and here’s what we think of it.
Clearly, our first impression of the V-Class is that it’s big. Very big. At over 5.1 metres long and with a wheelbase stretching up to 3.2 metres, the V takes up more tarmac than the S-Class. And if that’s not enough, Mercedes is also selling an extra-long wheelbase version which is even longer. The latter is a 7-seater while the 6-seater V-Class that you see here is the more luxurious version designed for large families and corporates.
How is it on the inside?
Step inside the V-Class and its minivan roots are noticeable. The cabin has its share of strengths and weaknesses. First of all, the ergonomics are outright brilliant and you get a commanding view of the road. Visibility, in fact, is better than pretty much anything you have ever been in, thanks to the high perch and the low-set dashboard. What’s more, the large windows and the beige upholstery elevate the airy feeling and make the cabin seem more spacious than it actually is. The V-Class continues to impress when it comes to quality and appearance – the dash layout is similar to that of current Mercedes models, meaning everything is well laid out and touch points feel solid yet plush.
What’s not so good is the older generation infotainment system and the rather ordinary 7-inch display. Also, the equipment list is far from long although Mercedes has the basics covered. This more expensive Exclusive version gets the table package, electric sliding doors, rear glass opening, leather seats, ambient lighting, 360-degree reversing camera, LED headlamps and a two-zone climate control.
Arguably, the V-Class’ ultimate party trick are the electric sliding doors that open wide. Further improving the access is the high roof that makes it easy for anyone to limber into the cabin. Speaking of which, you get four individual seats in here, all mounted on rails. Interestingly, the middle row can be turned around to face the third row, instantly turning the cabin into a luxurious meeting room. Also standard in this Exclusive version is the ‘table package’ which includes two fold-out tables for eating a snack or working on. The arrangement isn’t entirely smooth and requires some effort on your part but it is pretty neat and even includes cup holders and deep cubby holes for putting away loose items.
As for space and comfort, the armchair-like seats in the second and the third row offer decent comfort. Thanks to the sheer volume of the cabin, you get plenty of space to shift around freely in your seat, however, under thigh support is on the low side. Simply put, the captain chairs in the V-Class are a little too flat and do not feel as plush as a well contoured bench seat you would find in a similarly priced sedan/SUV. What the cabin lacks in utmost seat comfort, it makes up for it by offering a ginormous amount of cargo space. With all the four seats removed, there is enough space in here to move houses. The boot space is impressive even with the third row seats in place, making the V-Class incredibly practical.
How does it drive?
The V-Class gets a 2.1-litre, four-cylinder motor that’s paired to a 7-speed automatic. This engine has been worked on to meet BS6 norms and in its current tune it makes 162bhp and 380Nm of torque. In isolation these figures seem impressive although we ought to add that the V-Class weighs over 3 tonnes. Nonetheless, this unusual Mercedes is surprisingly quick under normal driving conditions. Around town, it’s an effortless cruiser even when fully loaded – the engine pulls strongly from low revs and delivers a good surge of power in a linear way all the way till 3,500rpm.
For city driving there is plenty of low-down grunt and sufficient refinement although this old engine is a little gruff but not overly so. Even on the highways, the V-Class hums along, thanks to the 7-speed automatic which offers quick yet silky smooth gear changes. It also does a good job of keeping the engine in the meat of its torque band to pull this heavy vehicle with commendable ease.
Predictably, the V-Class also rides really well, with great body control over long undulations. For an MPV, it does a great job of ironing out sharp corrugations, delivering a plush ride. Sure, it drives more convincingly than its size would have you suggest but then it simply lacks the solidity or the agility of a conventional family car. At high speeds, there is a bit of road noise, however, bumps and vibrations are barely felt inside which is high commendable given the nature of this vehicle. Good things continue as we move onto the handling – the steering is perfectly weighted for a car this big and as you up the pace, it weighs up appropriately for you to have good control for highway driving. Better still, it’s the way the V-Class belies its size and shrinks around you is what truly baffles the mind. All the controls are super light and even though you ought to be aware of the length in traffic, it’s surprisingly easy to manoeuvre thanks to the superb all-round visibility and the commanding driving position.
Should I buy one?
The V-Class is truly versatile and a well thought-out MPV. For what is basically a van, it is surprisingly easy to drive and suitably planted even for long distance driving and as a luxury people carrier, it does the job well. In other words, the V-Class makes sense when you consider the sheer amount of space as well as the flexibility the cabin offers for large families or corporates. Unfortunately, its value equation is highly questionable – at Rs 1.03 crores on-road, this Exclusive version is way too expensive, especially when you take in the fact that it misses out on plenty of new-gen Mercedes tech.
Where does it fit in?
The V-Class has carved out a niche for itself with no competition whatsoever. It is an ultra-luxury MPV, one that carries a big premium – the extra-long wheelbase Expression version costs Rs 86 lakhs on-road and the six-seater Exclusive version you see here is priced at Rs 1.03 crores on-road.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi