Buying a brand new car is always an exciting experience. You go through a plethora of choices – from sedans to crossovers to SUVs, pickup trucks and passenger vans – leaf through brochures or browse over online reviews, and then decide on a particular brand and a specific model. Once you’ve ascertained that you have the budget, you visit a dealer to take a closer look at the vehicle, take it for a test drive, and then eventually sign on the dotted line. Before you know it, you’re the proud owner and you’re enjoying the new car smell while you’re driving your new acquisition home.
When COVID-19 became a global pandemic, the automobile industry was forecasted to bear the brunt because essential products, not luxury items, will be the priority of most buyers. While the effects of the pandemic were certainly felt during the lockdown months, the perceived lack of safe public transport prompted most people to consider their own personal mobility. Automotive bargains popped up when most car dealers lowered their prices to attract customers, move their inventories, and help stimulate the economy. Suddenly, there was music in the air again, especially the hum of industry in car dealerships, after several months of silence.
Against All Odds
To safeguard the health of customers going into car dealerships, the government instituted health and safety protocols that were immediately placed into effect by most brands. CATS Motors, All British Cars, and Auto Nation Group (ANG) were among the first to immediately implement these protocols in their Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Land Rover, Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge, and Harley-Davidson dealerships. These protocols required funds but were seen as smart investments to safeguard the interests of customers and all stakeholders.
In spite of the economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic, CATS Motors opened a new flagship “lighthouse” Mercedes-Benz dealership built in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City to best serve their discerning clientele. Not only is the new dealership spacious and luxurious, it complies with the health and safety protocols prescribed by the government. The experience of acquiring a brand new Mercedes-Benz was not only maintained, it was even further enhanced with the new showroom. Looking around the expansive BGC showroom, Phil Colin’s 1984 hit song, “Against All Odds” starting playing in my head. It was a really expensive but intelligent gamble for Mercedes-Benz Philippines.
My wife Shawie and I went through this new Mercedes-Benz customer experience when we took delivery of an Obsidian Black 2020 Mercedes-Benz V220d Avantgarde (W447) on the weekend of my 55th birthday. After we went through the requisite pre-delivery inspection, paperwork and pleasantries, we drove off with the new luxury van. I immediately plugged my music USB into the infotainment system and played Michael McDonald’s 1986 song “Sweet Freedom”, which was a song used during the launch of a well-appointed passenger van when I was working in a car company in the early 1990’s. That song somehow resurfaces every time I drive a van, which is a testament to the power of imaging – the sweet freedom to drive away with your loved ones.
While most passenger vans look like proverbial bricks on wheels, our long-wheelbase V220d is a handsome and elegant people carrier. The headlamps with Intelligent LED Light Technology border the wide grille with the large Mercedes-Benz tri-star at the center, which proudly announces that this is more than an ordinary passenger van. There are automatic sliding doors on both sides to provide easy ingress and egress while large windows provide an open, airy feeling inside. The large windows may not bode well for those who guard their privacy but it’s nothing that dark window tints can’t conceal.
It’s So Easy
Whether you climb into the front cockpit or the passenger section of this V-Class, you’ll find everything is easy – easy on the eyes, easy to operate, and best of all, easy to appreciate. The driver and the front passenger face dashboard with a glossy carbon fiber-like finish with a smallish infotainment monitor in the middle and requisite switches and the COMAND controls below it. The driver grips a three-spoke steering wheel with infotainment controls on the spokes and a thickly-padded leather-covered rim that’s soft to the touch.
There are six captain’s chairs, with the driver’s and front passenger’s seats having power adjustments while the four passenger seats offer manual adjustments. A moveable and stowable table acts like an island in the center of the interior while air-conditioning vents all around the cabin cools each passenger. Ambient interior lighting provides the ambiance and a gentle reminder that you’re inside a luxurious and spacious Mercedes-Benz that only six privileged people can enjoy. And as we continue to luxuriate inside our V2200d, the rich audio system began playing the 1977 hit song, “It’s So Easy” by Linda Ronstadt. Yes, indeed. It is so easy to fall in love with all this Teutonic luxury and efficiency.
Fun, Fun, Fun
As we motor along the relatively light QCG traffic, the 1964 Beach Boys’ hit “Fun, Fun, Fun” was playing inside the V220d. And it was really fun to spool up the two-stage turbocharger of the 2.1-liter diesel motor and feel 380 Newton-meters of torque accelerate the van quickly and surprise other motorists that this people-carrier is no slowpoke. The 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic transmission seamlessly shifts up and down to multiply 160 horsepower (163 PS) before delivering the power to the rear wheels. And, with an average fuel mileage between 13.5 and 15 kilometers per liter in combined city and highway driving, our slightly spirited driving didn’t compel us to monitor the fuel gauge constantly.
Another fun, fun, fun fact about this Mercedes-Benz is that it is fun to drive. It handles well, it turns on a dime, err… centavo, and it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a flying brick. The large windshield and side windows help outward visibility and the van is not overly tall so the center of gravity is relatively low. It doesn’t take much to adjust to its length, especially if you’re used to driving sedans and shorter vehicles. You just need to be aware that the rear wheels are a bit farther out the back. The ride is relatively supple even with just two occupants in the front row. The rear suspension doesn’t bounce up and down when the rear seats are unoccupied and the ride is very supple when all the seats are occupied.
All Or Nothing At All
Of course, we submit to the obvious proposition that Mercedes-Benz did not build this luxurious V220d Avantgarde for simply practical purposes. Those comfortable captain chairs were meant to transport the privileged few, their relations and possessions to their classy destinations in style. There’s ample luggage space behind the third row under a rear parcel shelf / organizer that has a clever folding cover that hides a couple of bins for small items. The rear shelf can be folded upward to provide more space for taller items, which shows the intelligent and creative train-of-thought that went into the design of the rear compartment.
As proud owners of an older S-Class – a 1986 W126 500SE – we can honestly say that more than the engineering offered by the vehicle, we acquired our car for the prestige that owning a Mercedes-Benz bestows. Like the title of the 1940 Frank Sinatra hit, “All Or Nothing At All”, Mercedes-Benz owners would rather have all or nothing at all. We believe that buyers who will plunk P4.69 Million for a 2020 Mercedes-Benz V220d Avantgarde will likely have the same mindset. They’re not just buying luxurious transportation for six lucky individuals built with proven and reliable German engineering; they’re getting into an exclusive club that only discerning Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts can truly appreciate.
Classification: 5-door luxury passenger van
Engine type: Liquid-cooled inline-4 twin-turbo diesel
Maximum power: 160hp (163 PS) @ 3800 rpm
Maximum torque: 380 Nm @ 1400 – 2400 rpm
Transmission 7-speed Automatic
Length: 5141 mm
Width: 22248 mm
Height: 1880 mm
Wheelbase: 3200 mm
Curb weight: 2075 kg
Ground clearance: 160 mm
Fuel tank capacity: 60 liters
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 10.8 seconds
Maximum speed: 195 km/h
Fuel mileage: 15.1 km/L
Cargo volume: 1031 liters
CATS Motors, Inc.
1008 Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA), Greenhills,
San Juan City 1502, Metro Manila
Tel: (+632) 8784 5001
5th Avenue corner 24th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City,
Taguig 1634, Metro Manila