Business As Usual
Whenever one thinks about luxury transport, vans are typically the last vehicle type to come out of people’s minds. The Toyota Alphard is probably the most prime example of a luxury or premium van, but that’s pretty much it. But what about those who want a true luxury van with a true premium badge to match? For the longest time now, Mercedes-Benz actually has an offering in this unique segment. Called the Mercedes-Benz V-Class, this van’s only other rival is the Toyota Alphard-based Lexus LM. Let’s take a look at how this 2020 Mercedes-Benz V 220d Avantgarde Long fares against its chief Japanese rival.
In terms of exterior styling, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class has got the fundamentals of a luxury car right. For the 2020 model year, the V-Class gets a minor refresh. The front bumper features a sportier design thanks to its wide lower air intake. And then there’s the three-pointed star badge upfront that’s flanked by a pair of sleek adaptive LED headlights. It’s also a good thing that Mercedes-Benz didn’t go completely overboard with the chrome detailing. Also complementing its elegant looks are its sleek five twin-spoke alloy wheels. Moving towards the rear, and you’ll see a subtle chrome detail at the tailgate and a pair of sleek LED taillights.
Step inside, and you’ll love the exquisitely-built interior of the V-Class. Build quality and materials are impeccably good. There’s a generous amount of soft-touch plastics, real wood trims, and exquisite metal details. Oh, and of course, being a premium German car, the doors shut with a solid thunk. Whichever knob, vent, or switch you operate, there’s a satisfying weight and click to it that you wouldn’t expect in a van. To further set the mood, occupants can enjoy the configurable LED ambient lighting and the excellent Burmester surround sound system.
However, there are two things I wish Mercedes-Benz could improve with the V-Class. It wouldn’t hurt to have smart entry with push-button start, and it certainly would be better if there were center-mounted cup holders. Front occupants have to make do with the bottle holders at the doors, which isn’t ideal if you’re like me who often wants to have drinks while on the move.
Vehicle interactions are made through the V-Class’s Audio 20 infotainment system. It’s basically a scaled-down version of the previous COMAND infotainment system. Though it’s much better than the clunky infotainment system in the Toyota Alphard, it certainly feels dated at this point when compared to the latest MBUX infotainment system found in its stablemates. On the upside, the premium Burmester surround sound system certainly more than makes up for it.
As with these types of luxury transport, the back seats are truly where the story’s at. Being the six-seater version, each occupant gets their own individual captain seat. As a result, space is truly generous on all three rows. Though unlike the Alphard or its Lexus counterpart, there are no footrests (or ottomans). Instead, there’s a sliding center console that houses two tables. They’re not just for eating your lunch, though. With these tables, you can fold out your laptop or sign business deals while on the move.
For even more passenger space, you can remove the parcel shelf at the trunk. The reason for its existence is because rather than waiting for the power liftgate to open, you can quickly store things in the trunk by simply lifting the easy-to-open glass hatch. Speaking of trunk space, it’s more generous than what the Alphard or the LM offers solely due to the fact that the V-Class is a slightly longer vehicle.
Powering this Mercedes-Benz V 220d Avantgarde Long is a 2.1-liter inline-4 turbo diesel engine that produces 163 hp and 380 Nm of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a smooth 7-speed automatic transmission. It’s also worth pointing that while I’m not a fan of electronic gear shifters, Mercedes-Benz’s column shifter is an exception to this. It’s easy and logical to use, unlike other electronic systems.
Compared to its rivals, the V-Class uses a small displacement turbo diesel engine. It may sound rudimentary compared to the silky-smooth 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engines of the Alphard and LM, but it does deliver power adequately and surefootedly. It won’t win a drag race for sure, but overtaking isn’t an issue with this powertrain combination. While fuel economy isn’t a concern for customers in this segment, owners would still definitely be happy to know that 9.7 km/l is easily achievable in the V-Class. The inherent advantage of its fuel economy advantage is having a much longer range before the low fuel light comes on.
What about handling? Well, it’s no sports sedan or sports car, but it handles pretty well for its size. The electric power steering feels secure and precise, though there’s not that much in the way of feedback from the road. In addition, the suspension deals pretty well with body roll. There’s no sensation that this van is going to tip over when driving enthusiastically through twisty roads. Oh, and thanks to it being rear-wheel drive (RWD), this van’s turning radius is pretty good given that it’s more than 5 meters long. Combined with the plethora of sensors, the sharp 360-degree camera system, and the available Active Parking Assist self-parking feature, the V-Class is easy to handle in tight spaces.
Bring it out on an open highway, and the V-Class’s refinement is certainly top-notch. Road and wind noise are barely audible at triple-digit speeds, plus high-speed stability is top-notch for the class. Engine noise is pretty muted too, though you can often hear the diesel clatter under the hardest of overtaking maneuvers.
Of course, critical to the comfort of any luxury vehicle is its ride quality. While the suspension is mostly good, there’s a bit of firmness to the rear axle when the van isn’t filled with passengers. The ride improves significantly when it’s filled with six people, but when empty, the Toyota Alphard feels a bit softer.
As a whole, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz V 220d Avantgarde Long is a worthy contender in the luxury MPV or minivan segment. Sure, the ride quality when the van’s empty could certainly be improved, but it does make up for it by having an impeccably-built interior, a fuel-efficient diesel engine, a great-sounding Burmester surround sound system, and a folding table to be able to do some work while on the move. However, because of these amenities, the overall vibe of the V-Class tends to remind you more of corporate life rather than your life after work. After a long shift at the office, all you probably want is to be able to sleep and relax while on the move. But by providing tables rather than an ottoman, it seems that V-Class is simply all about business as usual.
And that’s the beauty of this unique segment. The vans competing in this space all have their own interpretation of what spacious executive transport should be like. If it’s the comfort of a living room is what you’re after, then you probably want the Toyota Alphard or the Lexus LM. On the other hand, if you’re all about moving the economy and getting ready for the next board meeting, then this 2020 Mercedes-Benz V 220d Avantgarde Long is perfect for you.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.3 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.