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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - Viano - people-mover range

Launch Story

Mercedes-Benz logo21 Jul 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

MERCEDES-BENZ is confident Australians will embrace its expanding range of people carriers, despite limited sales expectations and the fact that the first new vehicles are based on the Vito light commercial vehicle.

As GoAuto revealed last month, the Spanish-built Vito wagon and luxury Viano variant launched last week herald a range of new "sports touring" wagons the German manufacturer intends to sell here.

These include the new, compact, circa-$45,000 B-class wagon and the six-seater, all-wheel drive, $150,000 R-class people-mover. Both are due next year.

For their part, the Vito wagon and Viano were developed at the same time and share similar styling cues, but will be pitched at different buyers.

Priced from $54,990, the eight-seater Vito is more utilitarian while the seven-seater Viano, which retails from $61,990, is tilted towards upmarket clientele.

Mercedes-Benz Australia's light-commercial vehicle senior executive, Campbell York, said the newcomers were not expected to cannibalise sales from sister brand Chrysler, which relies heavily on its Grand Voyager.

He insisted that despite its price spread between $55,990 and $71,990, the Grand Voyager operated in a different market to the similarly priced Vito and Viano combination.

"We think we have a greater opportunity to take sales from the Volvo XC90," he said.

Mercedes expects to sell a combined total of 400 Viano and Vito wagons annually.

However, Mr York believes both have the credentials to swing prospective customers over from Honda's MDX and other seven-seat four-wheel drive wagons and people-movers.

According to Mercedes-Benz Australia's managing director (passenger cars), Horst von Sanden, the Vito/Viano combination should also appeal to luxury hotels, rental car companies and executive fleets, in addition to large families.

Expected to be a stepping-stone from B-class, the Vito and Viano offer a choice of 2.2-litre turbo-diesel or V6 petrol engine propulsion.

The former is a modern common-rail unit developing 110kW at 3800rpm and 330Nm between 1800rpm and 2400rpm. It enables the 1910kg vehicle to reach 100km/h from rest in a claimed 11.1 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 174km/h.

In the Vito, a 3.2-litre V6 used in the former E320 sedan is available, producing 140kW at 5600rpm and 270Nm between 2750rpm and 4750rpm.

Viano, meanwhile, gains the newest 3.7-litre V6 shared with the S350 sedan, albeit in a slightly detuned form, as well as the M350.

It develops 170kW at 6000rpm and 345Nm between 2500rpm and 4500rpm, enabling a claimed 0-100km/h time of 8.2 seconds and top speed of 191km/h.

All engines are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with pseudo-manual sequential manual gear selection.

Versatility is a key selling point, with Mercedes arguing that the sliding seat-rail system available on some models and the high equipment levels across the board would set a benchmark for the segment.

Mr von Sanden also insisted that by drawing on drivetrains and electronics from Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, the pair offered vehicle characteristics "that could not been solely developed for vans".

Unlike the first-generation Vito, which was front-wheel drive, both the Vito wagon and Viano people-movers are rear-drive and feature electronic handling devices such as stability control.

The rear-drive configuration also allows for a smaller turning circle of 11.8 metres.

The Vito/Viano’s wheelbase of 3200mm is 200mm longer than that of the outgoing V-class and the overall length of 4993mm is 88mm greater. Overall width is 1901mm and height 1875mm.

Viano braking is via four-wheel discs, measuring 300mm diameter at the front and 296mm at the rear. Fuel tank capacity is 75 litres.

Two large sliding doors – 985mm wide and 1240mm high – are fitted on either side of the vehicle and, like the tailgate, can be locked and unlocked (independently of the front doors, if required) by remote control.

The standard seating configuration is 2-3-3 in the Vito and 2-2-3 in the Viano, however, the latter is available as an eight-seater ($1250) or 2-2-2 six-seater (no-cost).

Similar to aircraft seating arrangements, all seats are individual items. The second and third-row seats are anchored to guide rails and have quick-release locks that enable them to be positioned at various points – at 25mm increments – throughout the cabin.

Each seating position astern of the front seats has armrests, an integrated three-point seatbelt and four-position headrest. Importantly, each seat weighs only 29kg to reduce the burden of changing positions or removing it from the vehicle.

Up front, the driver and front passenger seats are height adjustable, while power-operated front seats with position memory are available as optional extras – $2500 for the driver’s seat, $1430 for the front passenger.

The battery is housed in the front passenger seat console and the six-disc CD changer, a $1340 option, is situated under the driver’s seat.

All Vito and Viano models are fitted with "active service" system, dual airbags, in-dash CD player, anti-lock brakes (with anti-slip regulation, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution), electric front windows, remote central locking, air-conditioning and a full-size spare.

The Viano can be specified in either entry Trend or the better-equipped Ambiente guises.

All Vianos get the Vito equipment, plus tinted windows, electric front and rear vent windows, climate-control air-conditioning, cruise control, a full-size spare wheel, multi-function steering wheel, roof rails, warning triangle, 16-inch alloy wheels and foglights.

The Ambiente is another $6900 and adds side airbags ($1100 on the Trend), 17-inch light alloy wheels, six-disc CD changer, door courtesy lights, wood highlights, leather steering wheel/shift lever, leather upholstery and self-levelling suspension.

Front window airbags are a $900 option in both Viano Trend and Ambiente.

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