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Mercedes V-Class replaces Viano, Valente

Peoplemovers are viewed as the ungainly end of the passenger vehicle spectrum, but with new V-Class, Mercedes-Benz says it's setting a higher benchmark for those who need to haul up to eight people and their gear.  

Replacing the Vito-based Valente passenger hauler and the more upmarket Viano, the V-Class is described by Merc as "a saloon (sedan) for up to eight people”, combining functionality, comfort and style "in a way that no other vehicle in this segment can offer".

The V-Class will launch overseas in three lengths: a 4.9m short wheelbase, 5.17m mid-length and 5.37m long wheelbase, although not all may be offered here, where both the Valente and Viano arrive only in the 5m versions -- although the lower-spec Vito is available as a short wheelbase in both van and eight-seat passenger versions.

Mercedes says the V-Class offers elegant design and luxe interiors nappa leather options, plus a range of technology more usually associated with prestige sedans, including automatic climate-control airconditioning and the latest COMAND infotainment system with 'scrawlable' touchpad control. And for commercial passenger duties -- or perhaps conversation flow in very large families -- there's a microphone system to let the driver talk to the rear rows more clearly.

Those rows can be configured with buckets or benches to accommodate up to eight, with both options offering foldable seatbacks to create more luggage space, while the rear windscreen opens separately to the lower tailgate, giving quick access to toss smaller items into the cargo area.

Under the sloping bonnets will be a 2.1-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder, available in two levels of tune: a 120kW/380Nm V220 CDI (promising around 5.7L/100km fuel economy) and a 140kW/440Nm V250 BlueTec (6.1L/100km) Merc says has "as much pulling power and agility as the previous 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel".

Australian specification and locked-in timing is yet to be confirmed for the V-Class's arrival, however it's likely to be early in 2015. "We expect it to arrive in the first quarter of next year," Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy says.

However he stresses that despite the more upmarket focus, there may not be upward move for pricing from the starting points of $54,490 for the Valente model and $78,635 for the Viano. “We think it really depends how we specify the car here – we don't see any great change in where it sits in the market, so don't expect much change in the price point,” McCarthy says. “We've been successful with Valente and Viano because of price and how they’re specified so we’ll be continuing that strategy.”

However he says there’s no indication yet of whether the V-Class will also later replace the passenger version of the Vito, which starts with the five-seater at $48,990 and the eight-seater at $49,990 (the delivery van version starts at $38,990). “At this point passenger version of Vito will stay – but it’s really too early to confirm as we haven’t locked down the product yet.”

McCarthy says it’s also too early to define all the drivetrain offerings. “Viano will probably have the higher level of tune, but Valente we don’t know yet – as we get closer to the local launch we’ll nail down the specification.”

This reporter is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott

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