Mercedes-Benz Vito 2009 Review
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...in the Classic Adelaide rally The Porsche 911 Turbo is just too fast in a straight line for me to get past.
I've caught up, despite starting 30 seconds behind, but there is no way I can pass him. You see, I'm in a diesel Mercedes-Benz Vito. When the PR bloke at Mercedes-Benz asks me to drive a van in the Classic Adelaide tarmac rally, I fear he has lost his mind. Of course I agree because I'll race anything, even a wheelie bin, especially if it belongs to someone else.
The Classic Adelaide is the rally for fantastic sportscars in Australia. The gallery of precious metal this year includes priceless flawless Mercedes Gullwings from the 1950s, stunning Jaguar Le Mans specials, classic Ferraris, De Tomasos, Nissan GT-Rs, Toyota Supras, AMGs...and my van.
This isn't any old van though, it's a Vito with a 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6. The figures suggest it should get along ok. The engine produces 150kW and 440Nm of torque. It is linked up to a five-speed automatic and the power goes to the rear wheels.
Size and fit-out
I can't lie though. When I first see it in the car park with all the exotic machinery I am worried. It's an Extra Long crew cab and it is massive. I am pretty sure that it is the only vehicle longer than 5m in the event (5223mm). It stands out like an elephant in the loungeroom parked next to the low slung Aston Martins and Porsches that also run in the Thoroughbred Touring class. The Vito has a second row of seats, which means it can carry five people comfortably as well as a rear cargo area best described as cavernous.
There's 3.65m2 of load area and, if you take out the second seat row, that swells to 5.68m2.
The Vito would make a perfect support vehicle for one of the race cars — and that is what all the officials think it is. Every time we roll up to the start of a stage, the officials wave us away. Support vehicles go that way, they shout.
My co-driver, Tom Morrison, and I point to the numbers on the side of the van and explain we are actually in the event. After a few seconds, the officials get it, but usually ask something like: Why? It's a good question. Mercedes thought this van could go quite fast, and they were right. Holding down the brake and building up the revs at the same time means the Vito shoots off the line. It doesn't sling away from the start like the AMG rockets in front of me, but it is impressive for something you can move house with.
The engine has plenty of go from 1500-2500rpm, but then it's time to start changing gears. There is no revving this engine out to the red-line. It's all very quiet in here, especially with a helmet on. That's good because I can hear Tom's warnings about tricky corners coming up, but strange because racing is usually accompanied by an awesome soundtrack of engine noise.
Corners are a bit of a problem. The van is so tall and winning tarmac rallies wasn't all that high on the priority list when it was being developed. The standard suspension is soft and the Vito does lean a fair amount. You get the feeling that if you push too hard it will just fall over. It is the first van to be sold in Australia with a five star crash protection rating, but I'd still rather not crash, especially as it doesn't have a roll cage.
At least the suspension is predictable and the (standard) tyres have a lot of grip. I turn off the traction control system, but the Electronic Stability Control is on all the time. It comes on a few times, usually in the tight bends, but isn't too intrusive.
No cars catch me on the first few stages, so I press a bit harder. Maintaining high corner speeds is the key. While the torque is impressive, this engine doesn't have a heap of power to play with, so you don't want to wash off any speed unnecessarily. I'm really pressing hard on the last stage before lunch and after about 6km I see a flash of red up ahead. It looks very much like the Porsche 911 Turbo that left the line 30 seconds ahead. It is. He isn't so quick through the corners, but has enough grunt to keep me behind for the next two kilometres before the stage finish.
Our class isn't timed, but we sneak in a stopwatch to compare with the cars in some of the other classes. We're limited to a top speed of 130km/h, but these other cars can go as fast as they want and most also have full pace notes.
After the event I check some of our times and realise the big Vito has beaten some pretty impressive machinery, especially on the second day when the roads with quite slippery after some morning rain. On one stage, our van was faster than a Lancia Delta Integrale, a 1995 BMW M3, and a Mitsubishi EVO IV, on another we are quicker than a 1994 Porsche 911 Carrera. Not bad for a stock standard delivery van.
Mercedes Vito Extra Long Crew Cab
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel
Power: 150kW at 3800rpm
Torque: 440Nm at 1600-2400 revs
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 9.2L/100km combined
Range and Specs
|109CDI Compact||2.1L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$8,030 – 11,330||2009 Mercedes-Benz Vito 2009 109CDI Compact Pricing and Specs|
|111CDI Compact||2.1L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO||$8,910 – 12,540||2009 Mercedes-Benz Vito 2009 111CDI Compact Pricing and Specs|
|111CDI Compact Crew Cab||2.1L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO||$9,240 – 12,980||2009 Mercedes-Benz Vito 2009 111CDI Compact Crew Cab Pricing and Specs|
|111CDI Extra Long||2.1L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$9,240 – 12,980||2009 Mercedes-Benz Vito 2009 111CDI Extra Long Pricing and Specs|
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