The three pointed star’s latest people mover is called the Viano, and I’ve got to spend about a dozen hours with it going up to Baguio (and back) early this year. Hence, enough road time for a fair review.
The Viano Ambiente is very basic inside. It’s not clad with exotic paneling or loaded with gadgets. It looks and feels more like an entry level C-Class. But despite its simplicity, you still know (and feel) that you’re inside a Merc. The seats have top quality leather and are very ergonomic. Its a 7-seater, and a roomy one at that. There’s the standard driver and front passenger seat and the middle row has a pair of captain seats. The 3rd (last) row is “just” a bench, but it’s the best bench that I’ve ever laid my ass on. It’s supple, comfortable, adjustable and offers great lumbar support.
As stated, you will find no avant garde features and gadgetry. It has the automatic sliding doors, but nowadays, it’s nothing special. No video on board, no GPS, no beverage cooler, not even an iPod jack. It’s disappointingly too spartan. As if to compensate, the Viano offers its passengers a very quiet, sound insulated cabin, with adequate cooling coming from the A/C.
The Viano is towed by a 3-liter gasoline power plant. It’s adequate at best, with enough power to carry a full load of passengers smoothly to Baguio. It would be stupid to drag race the Viano, probably not even with that new Hyundai Starex in the next lane at the stoplight.
This Mercedes van’s best asset would have to be its air suspension. It’s auto adjusting, so that the rear end wouldn’t sag under full load. Moreover, it gives the best riding comfort I have ever experienced in a van. It’s firm yet not jarring, and cruising the highways at 120km/h feels more like 60km/h from the inside.
The Mercedes-Benz Viano has no whiz-bang gadgetry nor thoroughbred DNA. What it does have is the finesse and refinement to ensure its passengers are comfortable and relaxed. In this sense, the designers and engineers at Mercedes “get it.” It’s biggest disadvantage is its price tag, which is worth about three Hyundai Starex. In that light it is very difficult to justify, unless the paragraph below is important to you (read on).
On top of all these is the three-pointed-star emblem, that offers prestige and exclusivity. It’s probably the only boxy van out there that gets the stares from passers by. Rumor has it that mall Tycoon Henry Sy uses one. Note that the Viano is a full-blooded Mercedes-Benz, and absolutely not like the faker MB100 vans of old. Talk about arriving at your destination fresh, relaxed and in style. Red carpet not included.