F Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, The Great Gatsby, talks about the old rich and the new rich. In the novel, there is a marked distinction between the two and Jay Gatsby, the protagonist, lived life king-size, ostentatious in his display of his new-earned wealth. However, his love interest Daisy, lived differently. Think South Mumbai and the ‘Burbs. Tasteful and elegant on one side and loud and flashy on the other. We felt that the Mercedes-Benz V-Class was just that, but we wanted to find out for sure!
Which brings me to what I spent the last weekend doing.
“Are you sure it will all fit in?” Was the question posed to me.
“Of course it will.”
“I don’t believe you. You say it can fit all of us and our equipment and not have our knees round our ears?”
It took a lot of back and forth to convince my friend Anang that I was not pulling a fast one on him, something I am notoriously good/bad at depending on which end of the joke you find yourself .
Say hello to the Mercedes-Benz V-Class. In a league of its own, it is the only luxury MPV in the country. The V-Class, unlike the multitude of luxury cars in the market, does luxury the old-school way – something the old-rich might like. Something that I am neither old enough nor rich enough to be in sync with. That means the V-Class has acres of Nappa leather and wood in the cabin and it looks seriously posh. But there is also something that we auto journos seem to have forgotten. There is actual liveable space and, no, not the likes we have come to accept in a car – the kind of space that doesn’t come with any compromises attached to it. The legroom for instance, it is not the kind where you have an inch of space in front of your toes and you call it comfortable. And those moments when you say you can slide your feet below the seat in front of you. Ugh, seriously? Here you don’t even think about it. Feet stretched or splayed, it doesn’t matter. There is lots of everything, however you want it. And if you have particularly high standards, you can always just reposition the middle row of seats to face the last row passengers. I can swear I have seen living rooms that seem cramped in comparison. Come to think of it, which other luxury SUV or sedan or anything short of a camper van can give you this sort of space. Add to that, the fact that you can totally avoid pulling the door handles and expending any energy on such mundane tasks – just use the buttons on the key fob or the button inside the cabin.
The Mercedes-Benz V-Class, like the old rich from The Great Gatsby, is not shouty about what it can do. Mercedes-Benz incorporated brakes and throttle pedals that are softer so that the men and women in the back aren’t disturbed no matter the competence level of the driver. And the best part, they don’t boast about it. Told you this one is for the classy gents and ladies.
So, when I got the chance to spend a day with it, I was at odds about what to do. The thought of taking the car to Lavasa was quickly dismissed. And so was the thought of the same-old roadtrip. And then it came to me! The lightbulbs in my head lit up and I remembered that I have a friend from college who played in an instrumental rock band. What if the V-Class could be turned into a tour bus for a rock band for an impromptu gig? A couple of calls were made and after the to-and-fro about boot space in the V-Class, we were on our way to meet the band in Mumbai.
Enter the Five of Castles. The instrumental rock band from Mumbai is made up of Karan Suvarna (guitar), Prithvi Panchal (drums), Ankit Virdi (bass) and Anang Mistry (guitar).
The plan was simple. We pick up the band Five of Castles in Mumbai, take them to a friend’s farmhouse on the outskirts of Pune and enjoy a night of great music. I called shotgun and with Vishal behind the wheel caught some sleep on the throne-like seats of the V-Class. Sooner than I had expected, we were in Mumbai and the band got into the act of putting all their equipment in to the V-Class. Now I am no expert at music, but I am pretty sure damaged instruments don’t produce the best sound. With so much space, Anang and his bandmates didn’t have to worry about piling fragile instruments on top of each other. So, the drums went in the back, followed by the amplifiers. The guitars found space between the first and second row of seats and the band parked themselves in the second and third row captain seats. With that sorted, it was time to head to the farmhouse.
With the afternoon sun beating down hard on us, the cool comfort of the V-Class felt heavenly. The Nappa leather seats were supremely comfortable and combined with the pliant suspension that irons out everything, it was no wonder that I could fall asleep – so easily. There was the acres of leather in the cabin and the interior quality that you would associate with the three-pointed star. There was one thing in particular that the band liked and cherished having – the incredible 15-speaker Burmester sound system. Anang even remarked that it is so good that coupled with the terrific sound insulation, the V-Class could be a brilliant mobile studio. A few hours later we were at the venue for our impromptu gig and as the sun began to set, it was time for some music and the band started off with their most popular track Wabi Sabi. The soothing guitar riffs along with the progressive metal influences soon ensured that we got lost in the music and lost track of time. A 45-minute gig and the band had left us enthralled.
Much later, it was time to drop my friends back home. In almost any other car, this would be a chore. But I didn’t particularly mind being behind the wheel of the V-Class. For an MPV this size, the V-Class drives rather well. It has enough punch from the 2.0-litre engine producing 160bhp of power and 300Nm of torque and is mated to a 7-speed automatic. Add to that the well-weighted steering wheel and we have got ourselves an MPV that can be hustled to good speeds if needed. But that is not what the V-Class is for. A long day had passed and the gang was falling asleep at the back, one by one. The ambient lighting in the cabin helped in lulling them into a deep and delicious slumber, creating a relaxing ambience with a few hues of lighting and degrees of intensity to choose from. A short while later we were back home, completely energised and refreshed!
The V-Class is a beacon of the old rich. There is a certain sense of accomplishment that you feel when you’re inside the cabin. The whole world doesn’t stare at you like they would if you were in a luxury SUV. The world smiles and there is immediate respect. Not the kind that money can buy, but the kind that is earned over generations. Everything from the way it looks to the way it drives, plays a part in ensuring that.
Jay Gatsby might still prefer the flashy SUV. But behind the loud and vulgar displays of wealth there was an unbridled, pure desire to woo Daisy, the girl who’d far more likely be found in the lavish back seat of the V-Class.