Mercedes-Benz Van Experience Live
The Ultimate Van Event
If you’re in the market for a van then Mercedes-Benz have the ideal event that you just have to go to. The 11th 'Van Experience Live' has just taken place where over a period of two weeks nearly 200 people each day experience their van range in a series of activities from off-road, to skid pan to…anything with a van!
First up was how the Adaptive Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) works in the medium-sized Vito. The situation is you’re driving along, a car comes to an unexpected stop in front of you and the only thing you can do is swerve around it. When ESP kicks in it applies a specific braking force to individual wheels so the van is less likely to lose grip. In the test we experienced, the instructors drove straight at a barrier, didn’t slow down and just steered around the obstacle. It might not seem such a big deal for car users, but in the test you could see how beneficial it would be to van drivers.
Collision Prevention Assist will warn a driver if the distance to the vehicle infront is too short and will aid to prevent a rear-end collision. The Sprinter Traveliner was the vehicle to experience this with and the mocked up rear of a Citan Panel Van was the target. It seemed a very unnatural thing to drive straight at the Citan with no slowing down to see how the system would kick in but the radar warns you that you’re too close, at which point you brake, but if a higher speed is detected then the Braking Assist System will also kick in and increase brake pressure.
Get a Grip
The skid-pad was the next area to put not only Mercedes-Benz vans through their paces, but rivals too. The Citan Panel Van and Sprinter Dropside were quite contrasting vehicles to test on the ultra wet surfaces and with the help of the Acceleration Skid Control system prevented them from skidding and also provided really impressive levels of traction even on a wet, cobbled surface. Rivals, that shall remain nameless, didn’t fair so well, one felt like I was driving on ice, the other struggled to actually stay on the wet grip area.
The Citan Panel Van was my weapon of choice to take on the challenge, especially as most people got very competitive at the mention of a prize for the highest mpg figure. The Prodrive track at Kenilworth saw Citans, Vitos and Sprinters going sedately around, or in some cases quickly (they were never going to win a prize). The trick was not to go as slow as possible as some seemed to do, or travel around in too high a gear, it was all about keeping a constant speed and keeping the air-conditioning off and the windows up. Not ideal when the sun was out and it was quite hot. My co-driver impressed with 83.3mpg after two laps of the track, on my go and having being briefed wrongly I managed 70mpg, despite spending the time with the windows down. The winner scored a highly impressive 93mpg making the most of the BlueEFFICIENCY fuel efficiency systems that are on the van range.
Have you ever seen or taken a van on an off-road course? The previous day I’d done some off-roading in a car, but never thought I’d follow it up with driving a Compact Sprinter Traveliner. The course I’d be tackling included inclines, deep water and very pot-holed terrain and with safety features like Start-off Assist, which aids in starting off on uphill slopes, the large van managed the course with surprising ease. And it seemed to be more fun off-roading in a van but ideal for farmers or tree surgeons in the real world!
With over 200 vehicles on display at the event all for varying uses including delivery, construction, even an ice-cream van, Mercedes-Benz have an extensive range to cater for all requirements. Last year’s sales were 21% up on 2012 and with the new Vito being launched next month the brand is going from strength to strength in this sector.