11 Mar 2013

Driven - Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport X

Matt Hubbard reviews the Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport X van and finds it startlingly good

I was at Mercedes World in Brooklands to test some Mercedes-Benz cars.  I'd just had a chat with the wonderful Simon Ford of Simons Car Spots.  We'd discussed what cars we'd driven and what we'd like to drive.  "How about a van?" said Simon.  Bloody good idea.  I hadn't driven a van since moving house ten years ago.

Simon took the keys to the new Citan.  I took the Vito.  I hadn't a clue what it looked like, being more of a car than van aficionado.  We walked to the car park.  Mine was huge, Simon's was rather smaller.  We bade our fairwells.  I looked at the Vito.  It was huge, painted silver, adorned with a rather tasty front spoiler and side skirts.  And it sat on 18 inch Brabus wheels.

This wasn't an ordinary van.  That much was clear.  I climbed inside.  It was cavernous.  Checked the spec sheet.  3 litre V6 diesel with 224hp.  0-60mph in 9.1 seconds.  Rear wheel drive.  Weighs 1955kg.      Definitely no ordinary van.

It's plush too.  Like a Mercedes car from a different era.  Proper, luxurious leather seats with individual armrests.  Well laid out dash with a simpler version of Mercedes COMAND system.  All the materials were of good quality.  Lots of storage space.  Automatic gearlever protruding from the dash.  Good sound system.

Being a van you sit high and your feet dangle onto the pedals.  Aside from vertical lower legs the Vito's driving position is remarkably car-like.

The space available for the passengers, though, is more than any car could ever achieve.  More even than a Range Rover.  Three individual leather seats with masses of room in all directions, fully adjustable and with armrests.

And there's a sliding door on each side of the passenger space.  Not heavy to pull but they require a firm slam to close properly.  Then there's the luggage space.  Heave the rear door up and over to reveal the most cavernous load space.  Flat as a pancake with slab sides.

I set off and immediately drove over a kerb (upon checking later I didn't damage the Brabus wheels).  At low speeds, when manoeuvring, the sheer size of the Vito makes itself very clear.  You have to use the mirrors a lot, and preferably have someone outside it telling you if you're going to hit anything.

On the road and I couldn't have been more amazed.  It's a hoot to drive.  An absolute scream.  Something so vast shouldn't be able to go so fast, or go round corners so well.  It pulls strongly through all 5 gears and you can feel the rear pushing out round fast corners.  If you start to lose the rear end it has adaptive ESP as standard.  The auto gearbox worked fine, with no gremlins or hesitation.

Driving the Vito put a huge smile on my face.  It's a true Q-car/van.  Simple, fast, huge.  An A-Team van for the modern era.  Mercedes should really paint it black with a red slash down the side.  It's fun, pure and simple.  I enjoyed driving the Vito more than a lot of brand new cars I've tested recently.  It's certainly a better, and bigger, load and people lugger than the new Mitsubishi Outlander.

At traffic lights you find yourself grinning like a Cheshire Cat, thinking about it, touching the dash just to remind yourself it isn't some low grade plastic, finding some undiscovered storage space, thinking how the top of the dash is perfectly designed to fit a newspaper and mug of tea on it.  And then the lights turn green and you beat the Mondeo driver who was next to you.

Aside from it's price and CO2 figures the Mercedes Vito Sport X is a true revelation.  A van emulating a car, and doing the job of an SUV better than most bespoke SUVs.  It really is that good.  If you need a car that will seat five adults easily and need a huge boot area you should seriously consider the Vito Sport X.


Price - £35,553
Engine - 3 litre, V6, diesel, turbo
Transmission - 5 speed automatic, RWD
Power - 224bhp
Torque - 325lb ft
Weight - 1955kg
0-62mph - 9.1 seconds
Top speed - 124mph
Fuel consumption - 32.5mpg combined
CO2 - 229g/km