Throw in a larger commercial vehicle called the Vario for good measure and it all gets a bit confusing. The link with the van world extends to more than just a name badge as well.
Despite extra comfort over the V-class it replaces and a car-like dashboard and cabin, the Viano struggles to hide its Vito van origins. Its sheer size means it drives like one, too.
As it can seat up to eight people, there is perhaps too much space on offer for small families, while parking, particularly at busy supermarkets or in tight office spaces, could be problematic. Due to its huge interior, the Viano is best suited to the role of a mobile office, ferrying round executives or transporting large families.
Pricing has yet to be announced for the Viano but expect to pay up to a couple of thousand pounds extra over the outgoing V-class, which currently costs between £23,998 and £27,920 on-the-road. That makes the new range pretty expensive.
Set for a winter launch in the UK, equipment levels have yet to be announced but Mercedes-Benz is promising the same or better than the equivalent V-class. Active and passive safety is impressive with traction control, ESP and ABS, twin airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners as standard.
Full-year sales next year are expected to reach about 500 units and the CDI diesel is likely to be the most popular model. The UK market will get the 2.2-litre diesel engine with 150bhp and also two versions of the 3.2-litre V6 petrol unit, badged 3.0 and 3.2 to differentiate their power outputs: 190bhp and 218bhp respectively.
Although not set for a UK launch, it is worth mentioning the Marco Polo camper van version of the Viano, which goes on sale elsewhere in Europe.
Mercedes-Benz UK bosses are considering whether to bring it over here and if they do, rush to your nearest dealership for a peek. It is very impressive. It has a fold-out roof extension that means you can stand up in it and it will comfortably sleep six people.
You also get a stove, fridge and plenty of cupboard space. It looks like the regular Viano so can be used every day.
Behind the wheel
All Viano models are rear-wheel drive, get two sliding doors and come with air conditioning. Each can have up to eight seats, with two sets of three-person benches, which is great for corporate use and, of course, for large families.
The seating flexibility is awesome, thanks to seat tracking in the floor. This makes it ideal for an on-the-move business meeting area as the seats can be shifted round to face each other.
Unsurprisingly, the Viano is not the sort of vehicle you want to thrash and throw around, although the CDI model – expected to be the most popular of the range – is torquey, if a little noisy. Steep hill climbs are almost effortless.
I drove all three variants. The petrol version is noticeably quicker, but apart from this fact I can see no reason why a fleet would chose it over the diesel. The CDI is perfectly adequate for the role this type of vehicle will perform and offers a 10mpg economy advantage over the petrol variants. The diesel comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard or with an optional five-speed automatic, while both petrol versions are automatic only.
There is a fair amount of body roll when taking tight bends, but that's to be expected with such a high vehicle. The driving position is good and the steering relatively light. Overall, though, the Viano still feels very van-like – the seats are positioned high and it just can't match the comfort of a car, particularly a Mercedes-Benz saloon, which is renowned for quality and comfort.
While there are two wheelbase lengths to choose from (standard and long), both longer than the current V-Class, from the sliding door forward both wheelbases are the same. The difference in space is in the rear overhang, which adds up to more luggage room.
The Viano is a roomy and comfortable vehicle but its driving characteristics reveal its van-based origins. Its sheer size could hamper its case against traditional MPV family favourites. But for businesses wanting a vehicle to use as a meeting room, workhorse or courtesy coach, it is a great choice.
|Vanio fact file|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||150/3,800||190/5,600||218/5,600|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||243/1,800||199/2,750||225/2,800|
|Max speed (mph):||108||112||118|
|0-62mph (secs):||13.0 (11.1 auto)||9.6||8.2|
|Comb fuel consumption (mpg):||32.8 (32.1)||22.6||22.6|
|Transmission:||6-sp man||5-sp man||5-sp auto|
|Prices (est):||£26,000 - £30,000|
Mercedes-Benz has also moved from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive to aid traction and improve the van's turning circle. Two wheelbases and three vehicle lengths will be available from launch, along with standard and high roofs. A medium-roof version will be added later and crewbuses will also be available in three vehicle lengths. This translates to load volumes of between 4.65 and 6.49 cubic metres. All models are available with gross vehicle weights of either 2,770kg or 2,940kg and payloads range from 855kg to 1,025kg.
Vans will have the option of tailgate or conventional twin doors, which can open to either 180 degrees or 270 degrees. The sliding doors are big enough for standard Euro pallets to be loaded and the width between wheelarches – 1,277mm – allows up to three Euro pallets to be loaded one behind another.
There is also an extra load space beneath the front seats, provided a full bulkhead is not fitted.
Under the bonnet, the new Vito will be powered by a choice of three diesel engines. All 2,148cc four cylinder common rail units, they offer power of 88bhp, 109bhp and 150bhp and torque of 162lb-ft, 199lb-ft and 243lb-ft respectively. A V6 petrol engine boasting a market-leading 190bhp will be available on special order. Planned LPG and CNG versions will not be available at launch.
Prices will not be higher than those of the present Vito, despite the extra specification.