HAS a people-mover ever been cooler?
The Mercedes-Benz Grand Edition Viano has to be the hottest property in what is traditionally boring and uninspiring territory. Somehow the three-pointed star has made the van catwalk-worthy.
Seemingly, everything Mercedes-Benz touches at the moment turns to gold.
Ovetr the past year we have seen the A-Class accompanied by a sharp price point which saw unprecedented interest from a younger audience. Then there was the sexy CLA compact saloon, and the uber cool E-Class and S-Class.
Now the GLA compact SUV is about to arrive and get set for another long showroom queue.
But when it comes to hauling the extended family, the people-mover remains the best option. Last year the Viano received the Avantgarde treatment which brings it into line with the Mercedes-Benz range.
Luxury adult accommodation is affirmed with an expansive internal space. No matter which row you choose, there is excellent head, leg and knee room.
Depending on your needs, the Viano can be optioned with two individual captain's chairs in the second and third rows with a table. It does cost extra, but you can also get two three-seater benches in the back to improve the capacity to eight.
So you can select been occupancy of between six and eight.
Leather trimmed seats and door panels combine with satin-finish burr-walnut features across the dash for a high-end feel befitting the brand.
Armed with sat nav and a colour screen, the primary bugbear is the dash position of the shifter. With no centre console, the shifter sits in front of the key sat nav controls when in "park".
On the road
Remembering the length of the Viano is vital around town and amongst confined surrounds. Tight corners just need some additional room, and the driver needs to start the turn-in later than you would in a typical car.
Parking can be a challenge and the parking sensors, along with the rear view camera, are a vital ally in avoiding any bumps and scratches.
People-movers are not traditionally enjoyable to drive.
Mercedes-Benz has managed to inject some enjoyment into the Viano with sports suspension combined with a strong powerplant.
The V6 turbo diesel is a hairy-chested unit, offering some strong acceleration when you punch the accelerator.
It's partnered to a five-speed automatic, which performs pretty well despite it's age. Most of the latest auto boxes are seven or eight speed but the Viano moved along nicely with timely changes.
The ride is comfortable and smooth, with only the odd sharp bump such as railway tracks reverberating into the cabin.
What do you get?
Complimentary items include bi-xenon headlights, sunroof, front and rear climate controlled air con with four roof mounted vents, leather trim, 19-inch alloys, metallic paint, CD MP3 compatible stereo with eight speakers and 4GB hard drive along with Bluetooth phone connectivity.
Safety incorporates a reversing camera, six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes and acceleration skid control, although there are no curtain airbags.
Also in the plush people-mover realm are the Chrysler Grand Voyager Limited ($77,500), Toyota Tarago Ultima ($71,135) and the Volkswagen Multivan Highline TDI400 ($77,990).
With a good mixture of city and rural driving, the big van returned impressive economy close to the official figure of 8.6 litres for every 100km. That's frugal performance with six passengers with plenty of stop-start activity.
Servicing can be expensive, although intervals are long with maintenance only required annually or every 25,000km.
With adults able to find comfort in all three rows, the Viano is a supremely likeable offering. Large storage spots up front, three 12-volt plugs, seatback pockets and ample cup holders combines commonsense with luxury trimmings.
Seats are set on tracks, so you can't fold and collapse the pews for a claytons van to cart gear around.
The Viano has received the "pimp" treatment. Although it's not gaudy, with slick five twin-spoke 19-inch alloys and a body kit giving it a low-slung stance.
What matters most
What we liked: Tough looks for a people-mover, luxury feel across the dash, massive electronic opening side doors.
What we'd like to see: Better dash configuration so the shifter sits away from sat nav operations, curtain airbags, collapsible seats, upgraded automatic transmission.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing intervals are annual or every 25,000km.
Model: Mercedes-Benz Grand Edition Viano.
Details: Seven or eight-seat rear-wheel drive people-mover.
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel generating maximum power of 165kW @ 3800rpm and peak torque of 440Nm @ 1600-2400rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed automatic.
Consumption: 8.6 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 9.1 seconds, top speed 201kmh.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $81,940.
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