Taking the Drive-Thru route with new V-Class
Watch out for extras fuelling price
The first thing we did was take the Mercedes V-Class to the Drive-Thru at McDonald's. That is a totally alien thing for me or my daughter to even think of. But we'd both had a busy morning, traffic was brutal in town, it was sultry and it was lunch time on the Naas Road.
The deciding factor, I think - no, I'm sure - was the table I'd just excalibrated from the floor of the V-Class. It was only a matter of pressing two buttons and up it came. With tinted side windows and living-room space across the second row, we conspiratorially decided the occasion warranted a break with tradition. This lounge/office on wheels needed to be properly tested: not just driven, but lived and worked in.
So she picked out a 300-calorie chicken wrap and Coke Zero. I had the same wrap with a cup of tea. And there we sat, to all the world just another big black Mercedes parked (incorrectly in the waiting area, but what the hell: if you can't do it in a Merc, you can do it in nothing), dining and chatting. And realising it was a special sort of moment.
The V-Class is big and roomy. I think you gathered that. Its precursor was the Viano. It is based on a van but altered, managed and dressed up to make a passenger carrier. With a fair degree of success, it must be said, even though the updates (instrument panel, 7ins central display screen and infotainment/multimedia system) are far from revolutionary. They do claim the 2.1-litre diesel is a lot more frugal.
No, of course, it's not what you'd ideally pick for tipping around town in or sliding into tight driveways. But it is a big, comfy people carrier that could make a fine job of ferrying a large family, hotel/VIP guests etc.
I'm not going to insult your intelligence with talk of drive, handling and ride. This was comfortable on the highways but reminded us of its van lineage with sharp thuds over rutted side roads or recently scarred surfaces. As the driver, I was well looked after (strangely, the engine key is on the left of the steering wheel) and never had a moment's concern about driving on narrow roads, in tight city traffic or parking.
The high-driving position helped a lot, as did the bird's eye view of my surroundings supplied by the Parking Pack. It came as part of a herd of optional extras on my test car which will, in total, set you back around €16,000. If I could buy the 360° parking aid on its own, I would. It was brilliant.
The 2.1-litre diesel engine under the bonnet we know well at this stage. It's not a world beater, but in this, it was much quieter than in some other models and had plenty of pull when I looked for it. With a 7spd automatic transmission, all I had to do was drive - or be the chauffeur for others (who needed to read up on something en route to an appointment). I availed of the free office too. It was a strange feeling to be on the laptop at a desk in a Merc, but needs must when duty calls. And it called a few times. If I tired a bit, I could have - but, I stress, didn't - arranged the seats in 'bed' fashion and had a lie down. You can juggle seats/luggage arrangements to suit yourself; they fold, and you can clip them in or out to open up space.
As well as facing each other, you can have them lined up more conventionally. There are several options, depending on the length (Compact, Long and Extra Long) of V-Class you buy: six-seater (three rows of two), seven-seater (two rows of two and one of three) or eight-seater (one of two and two of three). There is an extra-long version (six or eight seats depending on space needs).
Of course, it's a niche interest, but now and again, it is nice to indulge in a little bit of practical escapism. Yes, we had fun in this, but there are downsides, such as the €750 annual road tax.
And while prices start at €52,390, the extras add up quickly.
I'm told the improving economy is providing a new platform for motors such as this. I just wonder how many occupants will order the driver to take the McDonalds Drive-Thru route.
FACT & FIGURES
Mercedes V-Class 220CDi Long diesel people carrier, automatic (2,143cc, 163bhp, 163g/100km, €750 road tax). Prices start €52,390. On-test version €63,965. With extras, €80,292.
Equipment included: safety/comfort aids, 18ins alloys, 8ins media display, air con front/rear, driving modes switch, auto streaming/Bluetooth/USB, 'intelligent' light systems, rain sensor. Extras added: three-seater rear bench, 360-degree Parking Pack, sat nav, brown wood trim, table 'package', outside sports pack, Avantgarde interior design pack. Extras: €16,327.
My side of the road
People out jogging who don't want to break their stride at roundabouts are a big danger now. The sensible ones run on the spot until it's safe to proceed, but on smaller roundabouts especially, more take a chance on you stopping on the roundabout while they scoot across. Many don't even look over their shoulder such is the focus and intent on their running. Watch out for them.