Sam Philip18 July 2013

Merc's Vito van: TG's Speed Week hero

It wasn't the Lambo, Porsche or even Fiesta ST Mountune, but a heroic support van

Mercedes Benz Vito

The true hero of Top Gear magazine's Performance Car Of The Year showdown was not the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster nor the Porsche Cayman. It was not the Merc A45 AMG nor even the plucky Mountune-fettled Ford Fiesta ST.

The true hero of TG's Speed Week was our support vehicle: the Vito Sport X, Mercedes' most deranged van and one of our very favourite things we've driven all year.

True, Top Gear does not know a great deal about vans. Top Gear cannot tell you whether the Vito Sport X is a smarter bet for transporting your triple-glazed windows or industrial pipework or enormous collection of vintage smut than, say, a Transit or a Vivaro.

However, Top Gear does know a little about driving like a ham-fisted loon around a lethal French race circuit, and on that score the Sport X makes us very happy.

Housed under that vannish exterior is the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel from Merc's road car division, tuned for 221bhp and 325lb ft of torque. In the World Of Vans, that's Veyron-esque power.

0-62mph takes 9.1 seconds, which might not sound like much against three-second Aventadors and McLaren 12Cs, but in a vehicle with the rough dimensions of a Nissen hut, feels indecently rapid.

But the most surprising bit is what happens when you arrive, too fast, at a corner. The surprising bit, specifically, is that the Sport X will get around the corner instead of depositing you into a distant field with said collection of vintage smut fluttering gently about your ears.

The Sport X's suspension is lower than the standard Vito's and, with fat Continentals wrapped around Brabus 18-inch alloys, it negotiates bends with such composure you occasionally forget you're in, y'know, a big square van. And, because it's rear-drive, you can even have a shot at drifting it if you're feeling especially brave. This braveness will likely not last long.

True, the Vito didn't get around the Circuit de Charade quite so quick as the 691bhp Aventador, but trust us: an Aventador will really struggle to carry three photographers, a two-man helicopter crew and all their assorted kit. The Vito swallowed the lot.

And, speaking of photographers, you're unlikely to ever see one perched atop an Aventador's roof to capture Top Gear magazine's cover shot: at least, if you do, whoever owns the Aventador will not be very happy.

The Vito Sport X is a touch cheaper than the £295,000 Aventador, too. For a mere £35,000 (including VAT) you get leather and tinted windows and carpeted floors and auto-adjusting xenon lamps with cornering function and all sorts of other goodies.

OK, so those in the know about commercial vehicles tell us that 35 grand is actually rather a lot for a light van. But for a track beast that's also an unsurpassed people-and-stuff lugger and a mobile photography platform, it sounds like a bargain to us.

 

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