Is it a van? Is it an MPV? Is it a leee-sure vehicle? The V-class replaced the Viano in 2014, which was essentially a van with seats. The V-class, on the other hand, represents a far more luxury proposition, and should be rightly considered alongside seven-seat SUVs by those looking for vehicles to accommodate large families. Its competitors include the Ford Tourneo Custom, the Hyundai i800 and perhaps even Vauxhall’s new Combi Life, which comes with the option of seven seats and an extended wheelbase. But, currently, the V-class, especially if you plump for the outrageously luxurious Marco Polo derivative, beats the lot for the closest a van gets to sophistication. We tested the V250d AMG Line Extra Long, in seven seat form, although the layout can be changed to accommodate eight seats.
The seating layout of the V-class is clever: in seven-seat form, the second row consists of two individual chairs, with a bollard in the middle which rises at the press of the button and releases two airline-style trays, one for each passenger. In this configuration, there is loads of of leg, head and shoulder room for two adults, with both seats sliding forwards and back. The third row consists of three seats, which the middle row can mirror should an eighth occupant be required. All the seats tip, slide and remove without lengthy fiddling around with tools. The middle row can be turned round 180 degrees to face the third-row occupants. We took four children to Cornwall in one, and given the preponderance for car-sickness, didn’t fancy any rearwards-facing passengers, but it’s a mighty fine arrangement for adults in conversation.
The boot is cavernous, which is the biggest godsend a manufacturer could give to a stressed family of six trying to pack for a week of surfing, camping, fishing, football, swimming, tennis, sandcastles, self-catering, sailing and kayaking. We unfailingly have a massive domestic when packing to leave on our annual jaunt, but this time, we threw everything in the back, had room for more, told the kids they could bring what they wanted for their seats, and off we went, Just like that.
Oh, and the V250 d has hill-start assist, Mercedes’ great infotainment system on a large touchscreen, a split tailgate so you can drop stuff through the window, nappa leather, heated front seats, different air conditioning zones, sidewind assist system, collision prevention system, cruise control with variable speed limiter and blah but it’s the space which just makes this an unbelievable purchase.
Actually, not bad for the keen driver. The 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder engine develops 190 horsepower with 440Nm of torque, which is what counts when you’re lugging kit and kids around. The seven-speed auto is operated via Merc’s traditional selector stalk on the side of the steering wheel and the suspension is actually a joy – unobtrusive and supple over all surfaces. For such a long chassis, with such a high body mounted on top, the steering feedback is a joy, exuding some of that pinsharp Mercedes character, surprisingly. It’s 0-60mph in nine seconds, but who cares in a V-class? And you should get about 37-40mpg which, with six on board and a load of dertritus, can’t be sniffed at.
Genuinely, I would take this, or a Ford Tourneo equivalent, over a similarly priced SUV now, which means the likes of a Land Rover Discovery or Volvo XC90. If you lead the kind of lives we do, with four filthy boys, dogs, and 48-hour relentless outdoor activity at the weekends, all you care about is finding the vehicle with the biggest boot and leg space imaginable. The rest is pretty much by the by. Which is depressing, given that 15 years ago all I cared about was a two-seater sports car. C’est la vie.