The Viano's way was paved by the V-Class, a van-based MPV that had been with us since 1996. It never sold particularly well in this country. After all, the V-Class had a good deal too much Vito van in its genes to really duke it out with cars like the Renault Grand Espace and the Chrysler Grand Voyager. Despite an interior that makes the Millennium Stadium feel claustrophobic, it just wasn't, well, grand enough. Its long-awaited successor, the Viano was expected to really hit the opposition for six.
After all, Mercedes had all the ingredients to make a stunning MPV. Great engines, state of the art production facilities, a track record for innovative design and packaging all backed up by some redoubtable marketing muscle. And yet when the first pictures of the Mercedes Viano fell on the desks of motoring journalists the length and breadth of the country, you could almost hear jaws clunking onto pine veneer. It was another van.
The press release started bullishly but within the first paragraph it mentioned the two different wheelbases available and three different body lengths - prime evidence of a commercial vehicle background. Despite our disappointment at Mercedes not building the Mercedes of MPVs, the reasons behind the development of the Viano are actually very sound.
It's only here in the UK that we adopt a snobbish attitude to this type of vehicle. In continental Europe, models like the Volkswagen Caravelle Limousine and the Mercedes V-class have been enormously successful. Forget about the commercial origins and you end up with a vehicle that makes an interesting used buy.
In October 2004, the 218bhp 3.2-litre V6 engine was replaced by a larger V6 unit with 231bhp.