It will not arrive here until mid-spring next year but having attended some workshops and seen the global reveal in Germany last week, I can tell you with some confidence that the all-new Vito Van is going to be a serious player in this segment.
Mercedes-Benz’s claim the new Vito range is summed up by ‘astonishing versatility’, which it is, but it was a couple of other new additions that caught my eye.
The first of those is that it is about to be the first in its class to offer front, rear, and all-wheel drive options. And the correlation is clear: the new front-wheel drive system for the lower capacity engined versions in the range is also much lighter. When unladen or carrying only a light load, front-wheel drive offers better traction. The weight advantage also translates into higher payload capacity in the low to medium gross vehicle weight versions.
This corresponds to the proven rear-wheel drive and higher engine capacity combination as the better solution for all applications involving heavy weights, high towing capacities, and exceptional driving dynamics.
And very important for Irish buyers, the FWD version with the transversly-mounted, compact four-cylinder 1.6 litre engine available in two power ratings: the Vito 109 CDI with 88 hp and the Vito 111 CDI with 114 hp. Mercedes-Benz said at the unveiling that the FWD versions will have significant cost advantage and this will be passed on to buyers.
Irish importers, Motor Distributors, confirmed this, saying that keeping costs as low as possible is a priority, and these will be passed on to Mercedes-Benz van buyers.
Another eye-cacher is that while it promises to be competitively priced, the new Vito van will have a very high level active and passive safety specification. In addition to Adaptive ESP, which encompasses many well-known and proven safety features, all new Vito models will also have attention assist, crosswind assist, and a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS ) as standard.
Promising the benchmark for safety in its vehicle class, Mercedes-Benz says that the new Vito’s high standard in this regard naturally extends to precision steering and powerful disc brakes all round (with 16 inch or 17 inch braking system depending on the model ) Many of the safety elements can also be found in the Mercedes-Benz passenger car range.
The new Vito is longer (by 140mm ) than its predecessor. The resulting vehicle three length options are 4,895 mm, 5,140 mm and 5,370 mm. The maximum vehicle height is 1,910 mm depending on the model. Consequently all variants are significantly below the important two-metre mark and therefore fit standard multi-storey/underground car parks and automatic car washes.
Mercedes-Benz Commercials points out that at 1,369 kg, it has the highest payload in its class and up to four permissible gross vehicle weight variants between 2.5 and 3.2 tonnes. The permissible gross vehicle weights at the heart of the range are 2.8t and 3.05t. They are complemented by an upgraded 3.2t Vito.
Thanks to the aforementioned new front-wheel drive versions in conjunction with a compact diesel engine, the Vito panel van’s kerb weight for the medium length with standard equipment is just 1,761 kg. As a result, even the Vito with a permissible gross vehicle weight of 3.05 t achieves a very impressive payload of 1,289 kg.
However, the payload champion of its class is the rear-wheel drive Vito, which has a permissible gross vehicle weight of 3.2 t and a payload capacity of 1,369 kg.
The suspension has been enhanced even further. The starting point is the steering system with electromechanical power assistance and changes to the kinematics. It extends to the semi-trailing arm rear axle with coil springs and new spring and damper tuning.
The Vito panel van and crew are designed for high loads. A comfort suspension is provided as an option for the crew-cabs and as standard on all Vito Tourer (newly named people carrier – not to be confused with the V-Class ) models. Features include less taut springs and more sensitive shock absorber control.
Another import feature that we learned concerns important lower running costs, including reduced fuel consumption. From the transmission and low-friction rear axle to the electromechanical steering and auxiliary units, Mercedes-Benz told me that that their engineers designed the new Vito for maximum fuel efficiency. On average, consumption of diesel in the NEDC is some 20 per cent less than for the preceding version.
There is also the Vito BlueEfficiency, offering exceptionally economy when it comes to fuel use. This package is available for the new Vito with rear-wheel drive and is standard on all new Vito Tourers with automatic transmission and in conjunction with the most powerful engine. The certified figure of 49.6 mpg for the Vito 116 CDI BlueEfficiency and truck registration is unmatched in this vehicle category.
Whatever the engine variant, every new Vito benefits from long service intervals of up to 25,000 miles (40,000 km ) or two years.
Earlier I referred to the the new Vito with front-wheel drive with the compact 1.6 liter, turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine. But in cases where demands on performance are high, use will be more intensive, gross vehicle weights are high or trailer towing will be demanding, the right choice is the new Vito with rear-wheel drive and four-cylinder engine 2.15-litre turbo-diesel unit. It is available at three power output levels Vito 114 CDI, 136 hp; Vito 116 CDI, 163 hp, and Vito 119 BlueTEC, 190 hp. As the first Euro 6 engine in this class, the Vito 119 BlueTEC occupies a special place.
Six-speed manual transmissions handle power transmission as standard. The 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission with torque converter is optional for the Vito 114 CDI and Vito 116 CDI and standard equipment on the Vito 119 BlueTEC. For vans it is the world’s only automatic transmission with torque converter and seven gears.
The exterior of the new model Vito Van gives off a great impression of a classier vehicle. It features a more rounded and more muscular style with strong lines. It looks really well and exudes high quality. However, design is not an end in itself. With a Cd value of 0.32 wind resistance is very low, which helped reduce fuel consumption and improves performance.
Inside in the new cockpit, it is more spacious than before and for taller drivers the seat goes back a bit further than in the existing model. Now completely redesigned, the new Vito’s cockpit is exemplary in terms of its functionality and ergonomics. You will see a lot of the new C-Class in it. Symmetrical in its fundamental form, the structure is clear and uncluttered for maximum operational safety. The cockpit has an exceptionally high-quality look for this vehicle class.
Both the driver and passenger are comfortably seated in the new Vito, and they told me that during development the stowage concept received plenty of attention. After all, for many drivers the new Vito will be their living space for most of the day.
Getting back to one of Mercedes-Benz’s terms for the new Vito: ‘astonishingly versatile’ - from skilled professionals, retail trades, service providers, shuttle services and taxis - the new Vito is truly one vehicle for all. With up to 1,369 kg of cargo capacity, it has the highest payload in its class. Meanwhile crewcab versions combine the advantages of a panel van with those of a crewbus. TThe new Vito Tourer sees Mercedes-Benz introduce passenger versions.
There is so much more that I haven’t got to, such as the fully galvanized body and new higher quality paint, very similar to passenger cars; the engine management system designed in conjunction with the new C-Class; with testing carried out in all kinds of environments (many very extreme ); and the manufacturing plant in the Basque country in Spain now has a very impressive ‘zero-defects philosophy’, including robots taking precision measurements of each new Vito.
There’s also the fact that the tail-gate opens and closes more easily and the closing of the sliding side doors has also been optimised; there is more and better sealing and insulating which reduces noise, vibration, and harshness (NVD ).
The new Mercedes-Benz Vito will raise standards further when it arrives next year. Van owners and drivers continue to be the big winners in this highly competitive market.