Mercedes-Benz V Class V300 d 237 Sport 5dr 9G-Tronic
This is normally the part we focus most attention on, but this being a camper van it’s safe to say handling dexterity is not top of the agenda. But you have to drive it from beach to backwoods camping spot, so...
It’s slow. Even as a V250d with 324lb ft to do the shoving, it’s not as fast as the twin-turbocharged VW (which isn’t that much more torquey on paper, but feels more responsive, has a faster-reacting gearbox and generally gets itself about with a bit more verve). A rotary switch on the dash allows you to cycle through drivetrain modes and Sport does sharpen things up, plus there are paddles if you really want to get involved. I wouldn’t bother.
Still, speed’s not the issue here, and neither is handling. The Marco Polo is better when it comes to comfort and stability. You sit lower than you do in the VW, so you notice the roll less and it feels slightly less ponderous. It’s also softly suspended, which is good as Merc has equipped it with large 18-inch wheels, and the softness does give the Marco Polo a relaxing gait when you’re just pottering around. Be warned about motorway cross winds, though – it will angle over as if you’ve put all the heaviest people on one side...
But it’s quiet, cruises well and there are precious few rattles and bangs from the kitchenette in the back. A few small points, though. It has a lower, more car-like driving position than the VW, but because the scuttle is low, you still sit high in relation to the dash. Also, the seat only has an armrest on one side, so when you’re driving, your right elbow has to stretch across to the door. That may sound like a worringly small matter, but on the sort of long drive to somewhere pretty that you might expect to do in the Marco Polo, comfort is everything, and the VW is that bit more comforting.
But in the VW you’re also higher and more over the front wheels, so there’s more vertical movement, which the longer wheelbase Mercedes contains better. Look, here’s the important thing to remember. You could point either of these across continental Europe and smash the miles out with almost the same sense of comfort and isolation that you could a Land Rover Discovery. It’s stable, will hold a healthy high-speed cruise and is more manoeuvrable than you think. You may think it’s a van. You’ll be surprised at how much vans have come on. Just remember it’s tall. 1980mm means you might need to plan your parking in advance.
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