WITH 2008 marking the tenth anniversary of Mercedes-Benz Vans in Australia, the company has launched a revised all-diesel model line-up that includes the popular and stylish Vito compact van.
Benz concedes that sales have been stagnant in recent years, but the new line-up is expected to stimulate interest and the company has projected a 20 per cent growth in the next few years.
The current Vito was launched in Australia in 2004 and, while it has faced increasingly stiff competition from new models launched in the last couple of years, M-B Vans senior executive Campbell York is confident that more power and equipment for the latest model will win sales.
The big news on the Vito front is the introduction of the 111 range, which is the top-selling van in Europe and will result in the local phase-out of the 109 range. Only the entry level Compact 109CDI model will be retained, priced $290 higher at $38,990.
Vito 111 variants cover the full model spectrum, including the Compact van (front seats only), Long High Roof van (same wheelbase, but 245mm longer at the rear and 426mm higher overall), Extra Long van (230mm longer wheelbase at 3430mm and therefore 230mm longer overall as well) and Crew Cab (with a second row of seats, in both Compact and Extra Long bodies).
The Vito 111CDI models are powered by a turbocharged and intercooled diesel 2.1-litre – which M-B calls a 2.2-litre, even though its capacity of 2148cc suggests otherwise – engine producing 85kW of power at 3800rpm (up 21 per cent) and 290Nm of torque at 1600-2400rpm (up 16 per cent).
Although the 109CDI engine is identical on paper, it produces only 70kW at 3800rpm and 250Nm at 1400-2400rpm.
Fuel consumption is also much better with the latest engine development, with the 111 averaging 8.1L/100km compared with 8.9L for the 109, but payload and towing capacities are the same at 1150kg and 2000kg braked (750kg unbraked) respectively.
A five-speed automatic is available on the Vito 111 range at $2500 but the 109 makes do with only the standard six-speed manual.
At $40,490, the Vito 111CDI Compact is $1500 more than the 109CDI Compact, but Mr York argues that the fuel saving alone represents about $10 a week on average van mileage, which just happens to match the extra lease payments required for the new model.
New standard equipment on the 111CDI includes heated as well as powered outside mirrors (very useful considering the vision restrictions with a van), Mercedes-Benz’s Speedtronic cruise control and speed-limiter, Start-Off Assist function (which holds the van on a hill for two seconds after the brake pedal has been released), driver seatbelt warning light and sound alert and a 12-volt socket in the back near the tailgate.
The 109CDI also benefits from some extra equipment for 2008, including the power adjustable and heated mirrors, seatbelt warnings and factory trailer socket pre-wiring that links to the electronic stability control system to prevent fishtailing.
The Vito range is completed by the on-going 115CDI (in all body variants) and the 120 CDI that was introduced in 2007 in Extra Long body form only, with Crew Cab option.
While the 115CDI is also powered by a 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, but with a two-stage turbocharger and therefore with some 110kW and 330Nm, the 120CDI gets a 3.2-litre V6 that produces 150kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm at 1600-2400rpm.
Although introduced only last year, 120CDI prices have risen by between $1720 and $1950 with the introduction of the extra equipment noted earlier, plus a “soft-touch luxury dashboard” with aluminium-look trim to give the flagship model a more upmarket feel, a passenger-side front airbag and a cupholder for the passenger.