Given that we live in an age in which there appears to be a speed camera on almost every street corner ready to catch the unwary, it's something of a paradox that vans are more powerful and potentially faster than ever before.
Take Mercedes-Benz's rear-wheel drive 120CDI Vito for instance. Despite the fact that the heaviest model in the Vito range grosses at less than 3.0 tonnes, it's up for grabs with a 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel pumping out a mighty 204 bhp at 3,800rpm.
To put that figure into perspective, it's three times the maximum amount of power that was available from diesel Ford Transits in the late 1990s. A meaty 324 lb/ft of torque is on tap across a 1,600rpm-to-2,400rpm plateau and the vehicle is fitted with a particulate trap.
The V6 comes with a five-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
With all that power to call on it's probably just as well that ABS and adaptive ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) come as standard too, along with acceleration skid control, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and disc brakes all round.
We tried out the V6-plus-auto combination in a Vito Long with a standard roof.
With a 3,200mm wheelbase, it boasts a 5.2m3 cargo area with a sliding door on each side.
A tailgate is usually fitted, but on our Vito rear access was by means of twin, side-hinged unglazed doors for an extra £160; all prices quoted here exclude VAT. They can be swung through 90°, or through 180° if you release the stays.
For your money you get eight load tie-down points; six set into the floor plus one adjacent to each of the side doors.
With a gross weight of 2,770kg, our van could handle a payload of up to 924kg and boasted a full height steel bulkhead — an extra £150 — plus a tailored wooden cover for the floor. Partial ply-lining cost £240.
Maximum load length is 2,667mm, with a through-loading facility beneath the bulkhead extending it to 2,869mm. Maximum height is 1,350mm, while maximum width is 1,650mm, narrowing to 1,277mm between the rear wheelboxes. Rear loading height 562mm.
The rear door aperture is 1,353mm high and 1,396mm wide. Dimensions for the side apertures are 1,259mm and 920mm (allowing for the bulkhead) respectively, and the cargo bay can be locked and unlocked separately from the cab.
Our Vito's cab interior featured a single rather than a twin passenger seat. Like the driver's perch it was adjustable for height, reach and rake, and was included in a £695 comfort pack. The pack also embraces a passenger airbag — a driver's airbag is standard — tinted glass and what Mercedes describes as a soft-touch dashboard with metallic trim.
The absence of an inboard passenger seat meant that there was a large amount of empty space between the driver and the single passenger; Vito has a foot-operated parking brake, remember, rather than a conventional handbrake lever. The vacant area could have been filled by a large storage box.
Not that Vito lacks oddment stowage space. Facilities include bins in each of the cab doors with mouldings that will hold a flask or a 1.5-litre bottle of water, a shallow lidded compartment — rather oddly the lid forms part of the comfort pack — on top of the dashboard that will just about swallow an A4 clipboard, and a deep lidded glovebox.
The latter has a floor that slopes away from you so that items such as pens slide to the back and resist retrieval.
Our van boasted electric windows, but manual mirrors. Air-conditioning — standard on this model — formed part of a heating and ventilation system with somewhat confusing controls.
An upgraded Sound 20 radio/CD player — yours for another £195 — kept us entertained.
Shame that the gearshift sits on a moulding that bulges out from the centre of the dashboard, impeding cross-cab movement.
Out on the public highway the flexible V6 offers an almost indecent amount of performance and delivers it smoothly and quietly all the way up the rev band. Having hurtled away from rest you get to enjoy huge dollops of mid-range and top-end acceleration, always with one eye out for those nasty licence-losing cameras.
The gearbox is a real joy to use. You can either leave it in 'D' for Drive, or tap the lever gently and switch to manual. A dashboard display tells you which mode you're in, and which gear you're in too if you've resorted to the manual option.
Whatever your choice, the changes are seamless and jerk-free. Hill starts are a doddle, but be warned; auto Vitos have a tendency to creep forwards.
The standard foot-operated parking brake works fine in combination with the auto 'box, but we'd still prefer a conventional handbrake lever.
You use a handle on the dashboard to release Vito's parking brake, causing the pedal you depress to set it to fly up from the floor accompanied by a loud bang. Watch your ankle.
The most powerful model in the Vito line-up handles well with plenty of feedback through the steering, and feels solid and stable. OK, the unladen ride could be a bit better controlled, but in that regard it's no worse than many of its competitors, and probably better than most.
Operating on a 'clap-hands' principle, the windscreen wipers kept the screen completely clean in some filthy weather. Unfortunately one wiper arm kept smacking the A-pillar on the driver's side; a real irritation.
Finished in metallic silver (£495), our Vito sat on steel wheels cleverly made to look like alloys for a modest £60 and shod with Goodyear Wrangler F1 225/55 R17 tyres.
Fuel consumption during its time in our hands averaged out at 32mpg.
Vito is protected by a three year/125,000 mile warranty and service intervals are determined by Mercedes-Benz's onboard ASSYST package according to the work the vehicle is on. Our test van carried a basic price tag of £19,140, excluding options.
While the automatic V6 Vito is a superb drive, it's a van you buy with your heart rather than your head. Few buyers other than the emergency services need all that power and only van owners on intensive stop-start city centre delivery work can really justify that automatic gearbox. But if you're self-employed and spend more time at the wheel of your vehicle than you do in your own home, you naturally want the best. And if that's your desire, the big-hearted auto Vito wins hands-down.