Professional Builder attends the exclusive unveiling of the new Mercedes-Benz Vito.
As a manufacturer Mercedes-Benz is no stranger to breaking new ground. Indeed, way back in 1896, the German motor giant is credited with introducing the vehicle which has the most claim to be called the first ever van.
Over the subsequent years innovations have sped by as frequently as Lewis Hamilton’s all-conquering silver F1, and the third generation Vito is adding a few of its own to that considerable track record.
When the Mercedes-Benz Vito made its debut on our roads back in 1996 it was front wheel drive, then a first for the company, whilst the second incarnation was designed as a rear wheel drive vehicle.
Now, with the latest version, and uniquely in the mid-size panel van sector, you have a choice of both rear wheel and front wheel drive in one model.
Why would a tradesman need to make the distinction? Well, for one thing the front wheel drive system will provide better handling and traction when unladen or carrying only a light load.
If you will more often than not reach the upper limits of a maximum 1,369kg cargo capacity across the range, however, then the rear-wheel drive is the right solution for all applications involving heavy weights. Equally, high towing capacities are achieved with the rear wheel drive.
Mercedes also claim that the Vito is the only van in its class that is available in three lengths, all three of which are 140mm longer than the preceding model.
This can mainly be attributed to an extended front end to help protect pedestrians with resulting vehicle lengths at 4,895 mm, 5,140 mm and 5,370 mm. The maximum vehicle height is 1,910 mm depending on the model, which means that every version will fit in standard multi-storey or underground car parks.
The permissible gross vehicle weights are 2.8 t and 3.05 t, complemented by a reduced 2.5 t variant and an upgraded 3.2 t Vito. Thanks to the new front-wheel drive, 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 undisputed heavyweight champion 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.
A new aerodynamically shaped front end is reminiscent of its larger sibling, the Sprinter but the family resemblance in design is far from an end in itself. The new shape has reduced wind resistance, which can decrease fuel consumption but the efficiency features don’t end there.
The BlueEfficiency package available on the rear wheel drive, for instance, will achieve up to 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres on the Vito 116 CDI model.
In 2014 new van launches have rolled by as frequently as vehicles sporting the three pointed star have rolled of its production line but the new Vito is still an impressive addition to the new breed.
With the launch of the Citan, and the Sprinter already firmly established in its class, the enhancements to the Vito completes one of the most comprehensive and advanced van line-ups on the market.