In my decades of Geneva Motor Show attendance, I have never seen so many spiffed-up vans on the floor. Is Europe catching the van fever that once inspired American hippies to apply wall-to-ceiling shag carpet, porthole windows, and Cragar mags to their Econolines? No, but the Middle East and China are eager to gild the Mercedes-Benz V-Class (cousin to our Metris). And no fewer than six companies were on the show floor making the case for further gilding the Mercedes-Benz of vans to these profligate buyers. Meanwhile, the Mercedes stand featured a midcycle refresh of the V-Class and an electric EQV concept based on it. Here are the highlights:
Maybach V 250 Hey, can they DO that? Ertex was the only company on the Geneva show floor bold enough to affix actual Maybach badges, wheels, and a Maybach-look grille to its fancied-up V-Class, though they weren’t alone in claiming to install actual Maybach reclining, massaging, footrest thrones in the way back. And although most such vans start with the longer of two available V-Class wheelbases, Ertex was the only one displaying a van that had been stretched a further 10.6 inches aft of the rear wheels. Other sybaritic enhancements include a Burmester sound system, a fridge, a humidor, electrically deployed tables, a PlayStation 4, Apple TV, and 33-inch Samsung LCD TV that doubles as a division window that can be lowered to facilitate shouting directly at your driver. Don’t expect acceleration that risks sloshing the Cristal. Like most of the upfitters, Ertex leaves the chassis and powertrain alone, so there’s only 188 hp and 325 lb-ft to work with. (Note that our Metris gets a 2.0-liter turbo gas engine that produces 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.) Ertex was established in 1989 and has 70 employees.
The price: €175,000 ($197,800 USD) plus a V 250 van. Many less opulent versions are available, starting at €100,000 plus the van.
North American Availability: Yes in the U.S.! Ertex is at work on a Metris conversion, though most of Ertex’s roughly 120 buyers last year hail from the Middle East, Turkey, and Paris.
DizaynVip V 250 The most eye-catching element on one of the three vans on the DizaynVip stand was its maroon “velvet” paint, which the representative said washes just like regular paint. It’s very difficult to capture on film, but it’s somewhat mesmerizing. Founded in 1992, DizaynVip employs 100 people and claims to have been named “The Best Quality Automobile Design Company of Europe” at the organization of International Brands Leadership Summit. Its roster of upgrades reads pretty similar to that of Ertex, and the representative said that it has performed stretches both inside and aft of the wheelbase. Annual output is about 300 per year, with clients ranging from the Middle East to Russia and the former Russian satellite countries.
The price: The three vehicles on the stand were priced from €210,000 to €240,000 including the van ($237,450-$271,350 USD).
North American Availability: Yes! DizaynVip has delivered Metris conversions to the U.S.
Okçu V 250 Treasure Apparently Turkey is the Elkhart, Indiana, of Mercedes van conversions, with fully half the Geneva V-Class upfitters hailing from there. Highlights of the displayed “Treasure” model include 24-karat gold trim and two genuine White South Sea pearls embedded into honeycomb-inspired interior panels, Rolls-Royce-quality leather with shagreen (sting ray leather) accents on the seats and a Rolls-like starlight headliner. The company was founded in 1951 and has been upgrading Mercedes V-Class and Sprinter vans for the past 15 years. Okçu also designs and fits marine and aviation interiors. China is among the company’s largest markets for the roughly 150 units it produces per year.
The price: €150,000-€250,000 ($169,600-$282,600 USD)
North American Availability: Yes! Okçu has a sales office in Phoenix, Arizona, and has sold five Metris conversions in the Miami market—apparently it appeals to the Latin-American clientele there.
Brabus (Bottrop, Germany)
Brabus Business D4 Those who want some dash with their flash will naturally gravitate to the company that has been tuning Mercedes-Benz vehicles for more than 40 years. In addition to the custom leather, PlayStation 4, Apple TV, electric curtains, “Starry Sky” headliner, and myriad other features offered by other V-Class upfitters, Brabus adds its own 18- or 19-inch Monobloc R (10-spoke) or T (five-spoke) design wheels, a suspension lowering kit of 0.6 or 1.0 inch, an aero body kit of AMG Line styled front fascia with LED marker lamps, side sill extensions, and rear fascia diffuser to accept the Brabus stainless-steel sport exhaust system. A reflash of the engine control unit adds 44 hp and 52 lb-ft for a total of 232 hp and 376 lb-ft. One fun Brabus interior feature: a ceiling-mounted redundant speedometer. Demand for the V-Class has been modest at Brabus, with only “a couple dozen” selling per year.
The price: €75,372 as shown ($85,208 USD)
North American Availability: Technically yes in the U.S., but there has never been an order. You could be first!
Klassen (Minden, Germany)
Klassen V 250 MVA1 Here’s another upfitter that claims to fit actual Maybach seats in the rear, with rear-facing jump seats at the division panel. All leather is said to be Maybach quality, as well. Klassen will sell a model with no rear center console and three less luxurious seats at the rear for five-passenger seating in the back. The representative mentioned that one client specified a single throne in the rear to leave room for his pet. An option with the two-seat rear is a 22-inch fold-down TV so the jump-seat folks can watch what’s on the 33-inch division-window screen behind them. Other available features include a fingerprint-authorized safe, a Nespresso maker, full voice control of most features, and a coat rack in the back. Klassen does not alter the chassis or engine (preserving their factory warranty) but can armor its vehicles upon request. Annual production is about 85 per year.
The price: €210,000 as shown ($237,384 USD) with typical prices ranging from €150,000 to €250,000 ($169,600–$282,600 USD)
North American Availability: Yes, in the U.S. Metris models have been shipped.
Luxuria V-Class Everest 64 We didn’t manage to get much information about this company, as the representative was temporarily out of the booth when we stopped by, but we can tell you that it hails from Moscow to serve that market’s growing appetite for chauffeured luxury travel. The company’s website is also short on detail apart from noting that “in this project we applied materials and decorative elements that were not previously used in the construction of VIP lounges. We tried to make each element of the interior an independent art object.”
The price: Unknown
North American Availability: Unknown
Mercedes-Benz V-Class Midcycle Update
With the code name BR 447, the face-lifted V-Class that any new fancy-van conversions are likely to be based on broke cover with a restyled facade featuring new lighting and a revised fascia with chrome accents. More important is the new OM 654 diesel engine that made its debut in the European E-Class and is now also available in the CLS-Class. In the V 300 d it makes 236 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque—391 lb-ft with temporary overboost. That’s an increase of 48 hp and 44–66 lb-ft. (Imagine what Brabus will do with this one!) There’s also a new nine-speed automatic transmission, marking a useful upgrade from the seven-speed currently in use. Inside, the instrument panel is thoroughly reworked to incorporate the current “turbine” air vent design. Oh, and for the camping enthusiasts, Mercedes offers a pop-up roof camper van called the Marco Polo. C’mon Mercedes, where’s our Metris Marco Polo?
Price (Switzerland): Base CHF 55,789 ($55,538 USD), as shown CHF 71,621 ($71,299 USD)
North American Availability: Expect our Metris to get similar styling and interior upgrades, not the diesel engine.
This fully electric V-Class, the production version of which is expected to show up at this year’s Frankfurt show, will be a long shot for Maybach-ification by the Turks, Germans, or Russians. That’s because of the higher starting weight of the vehicle and the precipitous drop in range expected from all the added weight and electrical loads presented by these conversions. But as shown, the 100-kW-hr battery pack is expected to deliver 249 miles (400 km) of range. A rapid-charging system will allow the van to take on 62 miles (100 km) of range in 15 minutes. Mercedes-Benz anticipates offering a wide range of seating options for up to eight passengers with an option for a VIP mobile office setup, as well. Interestingly, the 201-hp electric motor turns the front wheels, not the rears as in most V-Classes. The interior gets the full EQ treatment with midnight blue materials accented by rose gold trim. The van will enjoy all the same MBUX infotainment system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) features, which unite a self-learning voice control system with innovative connectivity features to assist with locating charging stations, paying for charging, etc., as pioneered by the other EQ brand vehicles.
Bonus Van: Citroën Spacetourer “The Citroënist” Lifestyle Van
For van enthusiasts who just want to support their weekend outdoor hobbies, how about this pop-top camper built to sleep two and carry two bikes and all the tools to keep them running? There’s also a TV and a shower head for outdoor showering. It’s pretty cool, but there’s no pricing and no real chance of it coming to North America.