Maybe it’s the automotive equivalent of comfort eating in troubled times, but there is still huge interest among the self-employed and small businesses in vans groaning with every conceivable extra. In some cases that interest is being translated into sales, despite the recession, so it’s an interest manufacturers are eager to capitalise on.
Hence the arrival of Mercedes-Benz’s limited-edition Vito Sport-X Blue, with a rip-snorting 204hp 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel engine lurking under its bonnet. A five-speed automatic gearbox comes as standard and transmits power to the rear wheels.
Up for grabs as either a panel van or a five-seater Dualiner with a second row of seats behind the driver and a cargo area at the back, the Three Pointed Star’s new offering is finished in metallic Jasper Blue paint and is not short on goodies.
For your money you get Brabus Monoblock S 18in alloy wheels, shod in our case with low-profile Yokohama Advan Sport 245/45 Z R18 low-profile tyres. The front spoiler, which incorporates fog lamps, has been sourced from Brabus too. ABS, adaptive ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) and Brake Assist are all fitted, along with traction control.
We sampled the Dualiner, with leather trimmed seats throughout — a glazed sliding door on each side provides access to the rear passenger saloon — climate and cruise control, satellite navigation and an electrically-operated glass sun roof with an internal shade just above the front seats. Also included in the deal are chromed steel exterior sill bars incorporating steps.
Access to the rear cargo area is via twin side-hinged doors, each with its own heated window and wash-wipe system. They can be swung through 90°, or through 180° if the door stays are released.
The compartment’s sides are unglazed, with lots of plastic trim comprehensively protecting them against minor scratches and scrapes. Complete with a 12v power point and four tie-down rings, all the load box needs is a full-height steel bulkhead and opaque back doors to make it reasonably secure.
Like the rest of the vehicle, the 2.6m3 load bay is uncarpeted and has a wipe-clean surface. Load length is 1,250mm — demount the seats and you can increase that to 2,224mm — load width is 1,650mm, load height is 1,353mm and rear loading height is 556mm. The rear door aperture is 1,264mm high and 1,396mm wide.
If there’s insufficient load space even with the rear seats taken out, then you can always make use of the roof rails. Gross weight is 2,490kg, with a 1,150kg gross payload capacity and you can tow a trailer grossing at 2,500kg.
Our demonstrator was based on the Vito Compact. A Sport-X Blue based on the Long is available too. About the last thing you want is to have your new toy pinched, so it’s good to see that an alarm is installed.
So what’s Sport-X Blue like to drive? It’s an absolute hoot. Floor the accelerator pedal and you can feel a large invisible hand between your shoulder blades shoving you firmly forwards. Acceleration is rocket-like — you’ve got 440Nm of torque to play with — and you’re rapidly up to motorway speeds. After that it’s a case of reining the blue bombshell in.
Equipped with very direct steering, the sporty Vito goes round corners as if on rails. Noise levels are well-suppressed and while the ride is firm, that doesn’t mean that it’s unpleasant.
Nor is fuel economy quite the issue we expected it to be. We averaged roughly 35mpg; not bad given that it was pedal to the metal (where legal) all the way.
We’re not keen on the foot-operated parking brake — you release it by pulling a lever on the dashboard to the accompaniment of a loud bang — but we must admit that it caused us no trouble at all given that it was combined with an auto ’box.
Clearly all this fun has a price tag attached and at £27,330 Sport-X Blue Dualiner does not come cheap. But if you’ve got the cash, and you’re reasonably confident that your business isn’t going to fold in the near future, then we reckon you should spend it on the go-faster Vito. After all, your money will earn next to nothing if you leave it in the bank or building society given today’s meagre interest rates, so you might as well have some fun with it.