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New models - Mercedes-Benz - Valente

Driven: Mercedes’ star people-mover arrives

Mover and shaker: The Mercedes-Benz Valente is based on the Vito light-commercial van, but has room for up to nine occupants.

Vito-based Mercedes-Benz Valente gets price increase but loads of new safety tech

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Mercedes-Benz logo23 Jul 2015

THE new-generation version of Mercedes’ Vito-based Valente people-mover has landed in showrooms, carrying specification tailored to the Australian market and room for up to nine occupants.

It shares the drivetrain upgrade of its workhorse Vito sibling, sporting the light-commercial van’s drivetrain and 7G Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission from $56,380 plus on-road costs – up from the $54,490 starting price of the outgoing model – and that does not include a reversing camera as standard.

Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand managing director Diane Tarr said the German automotive giant had discussed adding the rearview camera as standard, but ultimately it was decided to include it as an option only.

“The camera has been discussed with Germany and we are trying to put it in the market in the right position,” she said. “Part of that is to also monitor the requests and uptake, we will continue to look at that.

“We have increased the price by around five per cent but the value addition is greater than that. The seven-speed auto and the standard safety features, we think we've got a good balance between safety features and value, the dealers are very positive about this car and are asking for more,” she said.

Mercedes has sold just 72 examples of the outgoing model so far this year, well down on the 2014 rate that ended in an annual tally of 323, putting it well down the list of volume-selling people-movers in what is a very small chunk of the passenger-car segment.

The $900 reversing camera is among a long list of options, which includes metallic paint for $1490, roof rails for an extra $500 and the Becker Map Pilot sat-nav system that is an additional $900.

Also on the options list is a parking package that includes active parking assist, parking sensors, and a reversing camera for $1700, or that pack can be upgraded to include sat-nav for $2400.

Heating and power adjustment for the front seats is lumped in with the Pre-Safe accident preparation system for $5700.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy said the Valente’s unique Australian specification will ensure it maintains its appeal.

“The spec is unique and we've continued it on, we've done really well with it and I know we will continue to do well with it,” Mr McCarthy said.

Its rivals in the people-mover segment include the European Volkswagen Caravelle and Multivan twins, priced from $50,690 and $49,990 respectively, the Toyota Tarago from $46,990 and cheaper fare such as Hyundai’s iMax from $38,290.

Mercedes lost one of its people-mover contenders in mid-2013, when it dropped the seven-seat R-Class due to sloe sales, preferring to encourage buyers to look at an E-Class Estate with a third-row optioned in, or models such as the Valente.

The driver can add a collision warning, blind-spot alert, lane-departure warning and a leather wrapped steering wheel for an extra $1600, or opt for a second package that loses the collision warning and costs $1300.

The LED lighting option also includes a rain sensor for the wipers and will add $2800 to the asking price, while the availability of dual electric sliding doors ups the price by $2490.

The Benz people-mover has grown in overall length by 132mm to 5140mm (Benz says for the benefit of pedestrian impact crashworthiness) and it also boasts two rear three-seater bench seats, which slide and fold, including a flip forward for kerbside access to the third row.

There are six child seat tethers and ISOFIX points (only missing from the two kerbside seats) as well as the ability for the seats to be removed for additional luggage space.

It sits just under 2000mm tall – even with the optional roof rails – which the maker says is vital for underground and multi-storey car park access.

Rear-seat occupants also get a dedicated climate control system as well as curtain airbags stretching across all three rows of seating.

Infotainment is controlled via the colour non-touch screen and steering wheel buttons, and it features USB and auxiliary inputs, as well as Bluetooth connectivity.

Power comes from the 2.2-litre four-cylinder common-rail two-stage turbo-diesel (one small turbo teamed with a second larger turbo) engine that’s shared across the broader Mercedes-Benz range and the first in the segment to meet Euro 6 emissions.

The Valente gets 120kW of power and 380Nm of peak torque, the second highest tune of the engine as it appears in the Vito commercial range.

There are two counter-rotating balance shafts and a dual-mass flywheel that succeed in smoothing out the engine's vibrations and noise, while the addition of a seven-speed paddleshift auto (up from the outgoing five-speeder) helps reduce fuel use by around 23 per cent, according to Benz. The official fuel consumption figure is 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres, while CO2 emissions are 163g/km.

The powerplant also features emissions reducing selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology, which uses the AdBlue additive common in large trucks to reduce oxides of nitrogen emissions in exhaust gas, converting the mix into water and nitrogen.

Safety is one of the key selling points to the new Valente, which Benz says sets new safety standards for the segment with the latest adaptive Electronic Stability Program Version 9i.

Added to the normal suite of safety features (anti-lock braking, traction and stability control, hill start assist and rollover controls) is enhanced understeering control, automatic brake disc wiping in wet conditions and preparation of the brakes in critical driving situations.

Also on offer is trailer stability assist if a tow bar is ordered to take advantage of a two-tonne braked towing capacity (or 2.5-tonnes if the appropriate option box is ticked).

It also includes dual front, front-side and front and rear curtain airbags as standard, but it is the inclusion of attention assist driver fatigue system and crosswind assist (which uses stability control sensors to counter crosswinds) as standard that also sets the Valente apart from the rest of the segment.

Also on the options list are LED headlights within the adaptive high-beam assist system (with up to 15 degrees of pivot) able to adapt the light distribution to the type of roadway and the prevailing driving conditions.

Benz says the new Valente, and its Vito sibling, covered approximately 5.5 million km in testing and benefits from €190 million ($A281m) of investment, including upgrades to the Vitoria plant in Spain where it is made.

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