SPACE WARS | The 2019 Mercedes V-class and VW Caravelle face-off
Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen build excellent people movers in the shape of the Caravelle and the V-class: Thembekile Vokwana picks his favourite
Mercedes-Benz V250d: R 991,728
Mercedes-Benz has raised the luxury "people mover" game with its new V-class. When I got the opportunity to be a passenger, I chilled my bottle of bubbly in the fridge. Yes, you read right, this Benz comes equipped with an actual fridge.
Inside the V250d, the level of comfort and luxury are unparalleled. Your passengers don’t even need to worry about mundane things like opening doors. At the touch of a button those sliding doors open to reveal that sumptuous, leather-clad cabin.
Although boot space is not massive when compared to some rivals, it’s enough to swallow up several bags, while the split configuration allows access to the top shelf via the glass window that opens independently from the back door. All in all, the V250d is the perfect mode of transportation to any holiday destination.
Complaints? Although I enjoyed driving (and being driven in) the V-class, the absence of sliding or electric-powered windows in the rear passenger area is something of a disappointment for a vehicle that carries such a lofty price tag.
Volkswagen Caravelle Highline 2.0TDI: From R995, 200
In Spanish or Portuguese the word caravelle translates to "light sailing ship", so it’s quite apt then that Volkswagen gave its long-running minivan the same name. A luxurious sailing ship on four wheels, the Caravelle leaves a lasting impression whether you’re driving or being driven in it.
With a large leather-swathed cabin, it can comfortably seat seven adults - plus copious amounts of luggage. The top-of-the range Highline derivative I had on test might not have a fridge, but I'm pretty sure you can get one if you're willing to pay some extra cash.
The cabin comes with a lot of storage compartments for stashing smaller items – a real boon when parking out on the street. Visibility and seating positions for the driver and front passenger are excellent. Behind the wheel, the Caravelle doesn’t feel like a minivan thanks to its plush, polished suspension system.
The rear passengers are ensconced in a comfortable environment that offers retractable blinds for those hours in which the sun becomes unbearable, as well as individual air-conditioning and heater controls.
The pièce de résistance, however, has to be the optional table, finished in brushed aluminium. It made reading, working on my laptop and eating while in transit an absolute pleasure.
Like I said, the margins between the Caravelle and the V-class are slim, but this caveat made it the clear winner for me.
The “Shwabana” (that’s slang for Caravelle, in case you didn’t know) is the victor here - but by the thinnest of margins. Small but significant things like opening rear windows helped to tilt the scale.s.
The Volkswagen’s fuel consumption is outstanding too. We drove almost 900km on one tank, which is seriously impressive. To be fair, however, I only drove the Mercedes in heavy traffic, so similar figures may have been achievable if I'd taken it on the open road.
The V-class oozes elegance and is a stunning mode of luxury transportation - that's why it's so popular. But the Caravelle connected with me on both an emotional and practical level, which is why I’m picking it as the winner.