Mercedes-Benz is hoping that it’ll be third-time lucky for them as they launch a new MPV in India – the V-Class.
The V-Class from Mercedes-Benz is finally here in India. This isn’t the first time that the German luxury car brand has launched an MPV (or minivan) in India. In fact, it’s their third attempt! In 1999, they launched the MB, and then again in 2011, they came up with the R-Class. And, in spite of being very good products, both of them were a total flop in terms of sales as India wasn’t ready for a luxury MPV at that time.
Toyota, on the other hand, has made a killing with the Innova, as it was a more practical and affordable option with a premium feel. Today, though, the MPV segment in India has grown in leaps and bounds – something that you may have noticed from our February 2019 cover story. There are good options available at different price points. Korean carmaker Kia is also expected to bring in the Carnival, which is even more premium than the Innova.
The V-Class, however, is priced absurdly high. But does this fancy luxury van justify its optimistic price tag?
Rectangle on wheels
There are those who like the long and straight-forward design of the V-Class, but, to me, it simply looks like a large rectangular box. There’s no doubt that this car is humongous – it’s well over five metres in length and weighs over three tonnes. Also, there’s no hiding from the fact that it looks like a full-size van on Indian roads. The design doesn’t really look appealing, but the car stands out because it’s big and it has that three-pointed star on it – something that still adds a lot of appeal in these parts.
The only attractive section of the vehicle is the front, which gets a shiny big grille and a nicely designed front bumper. It’s a typical Mercedes illustration that now adorns all Merc vehicles. The overall attractiveness of a car is always subjective, but, to me, the Innova and Carnival look much better. The fact of the matter is that the V-Class is a van, and even Shakespeare would find it difficult to romanticise the design and aesthetics of a van.
All about the cabin
This design of the V-Class is obviously very practical. In fact, the cabin looks like a small conference room. The V-Class comes in two variants. There’s a six-seater and a seven-seater version, which is a little longer. We got our hands on the six-seater, which had four rear seats facing each other. Of course, you can change the direction of the seats, so that they all face forwards. All the seats are on rails, which means that you can also slide them back and forth, or even fold them to provide additional boot space.
Between the seats, there’s a centrepiece that also slides up and down the cabin. Two small tables fold out of it and it can be used as a makeshift desk. The seats are comfortable, no doubt. The cabin has acres of leg room, headroom, shoulder room and cubby holes.
There are massive sliding rear doors that open with just the press of a button. The boot also has a pretty good amount of space. It has a platform in the middle, which can be folded away or used as a shelf. And if you don’t want to open the boot door, you can simply open the large rear windscreen and access any luggage that’s placed on the shelf. You can also access a secret compartment inside this shelf that contains two foldable plastic crates, which can hold anything from groceries to office supplies.
For rear passengers, there are rear AC vents and four great quality speakers. The front seats are very comfortable and spacious too, but let’s be honest no one who buys this car is ever going to be in any of the front seats. The front dash setup is, once again, typical Mercedes-Benz fare – there’s a central infotainment system and round AC vents in chrome along with the wooden inlays.
To power this three-tonne van, the V-Class has a pretty average-sized 2,143cc, four-cylinder turbo diesel. It generates 163 horses and 380Nm of torque. The figures are respectable, no doubt, and they do get the car going. But – and here’s the rub – it takes its time. From a standstill, the car is slow and there’s a lot of turbo lag. But once it gets going, it picks up speed pretty well – although you’re always acutely aware of the weight of this car.
The engine is refined but it is loud. Again, we’re talking about a van, so you can’t really expect hair-raising performance. I must mention, though, that both the Innova and Carnival have similar-sized diesel engines that offer more power and better performance.
The V-Class gets a 7-speed automatic transmission, which ensures that gearshifts are nice and smooth – but, again, it is a bit lazy. You do, however, have those sweet paddle shifters, which certainly help during a quick overtake. Considering its three-tonne weight, the engine and gearbox do a pretty good job – but the V-Class is never going to be the perfect getaway car if you’re planning a bank heist.
You feel the brilliance of Mercedes-Benz’s engineering in terms of its handling, ride quality and suspension setup. Considering its massive dimensions and weight, the steering is very direct. It is, of course, quite light but still quite responsive. The V-Class borrows its electro-mechanical steering from the C-Class.
Along with the intuitive steering, the suspension also plays a major role in offering a plush ride. It really absorbs everything nicely and keeps the rear-seat passengers comfortable and unaffected despite the road surface. The V-Class gets adaptive dampers, so it’s soft when it needs to be, like on the highway, where it feels more like a yacht coasting over small waves. If the V-Class is meant for ferrying people around in a very relaxed and comfortable manner, then it certainly achieves its purpose.
Who will buy it?
When it comes to a luxury and premium feel, the competitors of the V-Class aren’t very far behind. And, from under the hood, they actually offer a more compelling argument. The Carnival, for instance, is likely to get the most powerful engine of the lot when it’s launched towards the end of the year – and it will cost you far less than half of what the Merc will. The V-Class, with its rather outrageous price tag of ` 81.3 lakh (ex-showroom) for this Exclusive edition, is perfect if you’re planning secret meetings on the move to execute your strategy for global domination!
The V-Class will be a very successful luxury fleet vehicle, but I’m not sure who will buy this as a personal vehicle – especially when you have the Innova that sets the benchmark in the segment in terms of ride quality, space or comfort. The only thing the V-Class has going for it is the adjustable seating position that provides the option of its conference room setup. Oh, there’s that famous three-pointed star too! But if you want something that feels premium and is nice to drive too, I would recommend waiting for the Kia Carnival. But if you aren’t too disturbed by the high price, the Merc provides space and comfort unlike anything else on our roads.
- Mercedes-Benz V-Class
Engine: 2,143cc / 4-Cylinders / Turbocharged
Transmission: 7-Speed AT / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 163bhp @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 1,400-2,400rpm
Price: ₹ 81.3 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: An ultra-luxurious business van, with a Mercedes badge and quality.