Review: Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo (2017)
Premium alternative to the standard camper, plush interior will sleep four, electric sliding door and tailgate fitted as standard.
High starting price, automatic only, quality of optional side awning could be better.
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The Mercedes-Benz V-Class Marco Polo is available from £53,180 for the entry-level V 220 d Sport. The V 220 d AMG Line is £55,320, the V 250 d Sport £55,055 and the V 250 d... Read more
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Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo (2017): At A Glance
The Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo is the premium alternative to the Volkswagen California and - like its German rival - provides a smart combination of upmarket family transport and five star accommodation.
Mercedes-Benz doesn't the enjoy the same camper van history as Volkswagen, but the Marco Polo more than makes up for lost time, with its interior and high levels of standard equipment providing a notable edge against the similarly priced Volkswagen California Ocean.
Converted by Westfalia - a German specialist that made its name by converting Volkswagen vans in the 1970s and 1980s - the Marco Polo provides a home from home experience, with kitchenette that features twin gas hob, running water and a fridge. The rear bench adjusts electrically into a flat and comfortable double bed, and two more can sleep in the raised roof, which is also electrically operated.
Like the California, the Marco Polo gets external connections for power and fresh water, with the latter providing a supply for the compact sink and taps located next to the gas hob. The leather interior also gets swivelling driver and passenger seats, a foldable table and three-zone climate control. A removable camping table plus two chairs, with storage bag, are located in the boot.
Everything is easy to use and find, with LED ambient lighting and soft closing cupboards and drawers giving the Marco Polo's living space a smart and modern feel. Both the side sliding door and tailgate are electric, while the options list includes an auxiliary heater that will provide warm air when you're parked up for the night. The split tailgate is also a useful feature, allowing you to access the boot in a car park when space is limited.
Under the bonnet of the Marco Polo is a 2.1-litre turbodiesel engine. The four-cylinder diesel is the same unit found in the V-Class and is available in two outputs – 163PS and 190PS - and both will officially return 44.8mpg. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard across the range.
Given its premium feel, beautifully crafted interior and high levels of standard equipment, the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo edges ahead of the Volkswagen California on almost every level. On the downside, there is no four-wheel drive option and some of the optional extras are a little disappointing in quality - the awning is particularly poor - but small niggles aside the Marco Polo is the best compact camper van money can buy.
Upmarket and packed with luxurious kit - which includes yacht-style wooden flooring - the Marco Polo feels every inch a Mercedes-Benz. The fit and finish of the interior is exquisite, and the car-like refinement makes a real difference.
What does a Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo (2017) cost?
Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo (2017): What's It Like Inside?
The Marco Polo will not disappoint those who've always yearned for a Mercedes-Benz they can genuinely live in. Capable of sleeping up to four adults, the Marco Polo provides five star comfort that will leave your campsite neighbours peering out of their tents with envy.
The interior layout is pretty much identical to the Volkswagen California Ocean but there are some notable differences that give the Marco Polo an edge, with plush leather seats, yacht-style wood flooring and electric tailgate and side door. The van also has electric hook-up and an internal water tank, which mean it really does feel like a home from home.
The living space can be set up in a matter of minutes, with the electronic pop-up roof and swivelling front seats taking just a few moments to organise. LED lights are scattered throughout the cabin and include coloured ambient lighting to give the interior a living room feel. Most of the windows are tinted, but if you want complete privacy then individual blinds will block out the world, while a cloth cover will obscure the windscreen and side windows.
The Marco Polo has two double beds. To get the first, you must electronically lower the second row of seats, while the second bed - provided in the pop-up roof - is the most spacious and comfortable. When not in use, the upper bed can be folded away. However, unlike the California, the upper bed isn't automatically held up by gas struts, which means you have to push it up with one hand and then clip it in place with the other, which is a little fiddly.
Operating the kitchen is easy, with the twin hob burner linked to a gas bottle that's situated in the boot. The fold out table, compact fridge and sink provide everything you need to store and prepare food. Running water is also supplied via a built-in water tank, which can easily be filled via an external filler cap. Waste water is collected in a separate tank that can then be emptied into a waste water tank.
Given its high price, standard equipment is understandably high, with tinted rear glass, leather upholstery, split tailgate and a camping table with two chairs. However, DAB audio is missing from the standard kit and the camping table and chairs sit in a compartment in the boot, which eats up large chunk of the Marco Polo's 670-litre capacity.
The options list is comprehensive, with navigation, electric seats and auxiliary air heater all available. You can also fit a water heater, although this unit will only pre-heat the engine coolant - it won't provide hot running water for the taps from the internal water tank. A roll-out side awning is also available, but feels somewhat like an aftermarket afterthought, owing to its poor quality and flimsy metal supports that have a tendency to rattle loudly as you drive along.
What's the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo (2017) like to drive?
Like the standard V-Class, the Marco Polo is a comfortable and refined long distance cruiser. The dashboard is carried over from the van-based MPV, with a smart layout and tablet-style screen sitting in the middle, while general visibility is good, thanks to the large windscreen and wide door mirrors.
The Marco Polo is offered with just one engine - a turbocharged 2.1-litre diesel - in two outputs levels: 163PS or 190PS. The entry-level 220d is more than up to the task of powering the 2.4 tonne Marco Polo along, with the four-cylinder diesel producing 380Nm of torque. Most of the acceleration is available from low down the rev range, which means the Marco Polo always has a useful glug of acceleration for pulling away from a junction or overtaking slow moving traffic.
As you might expect, the more powerful 250d is the more accomplished of the two powertrains, with 440Nm of torque available from 1400rpm. This means it is better for towing - the van will shift two tonnes when hooked to a braked trailer or caravan - although the front-wheels have a tendency to slip on wet grass or loose gravel. Unlike some of its rivals, Mercedes-Benz doesn't offer its camper with the option of four-wheel drive.
Both engines are refined and will return an advertised 44.8mpg. The ride is on the firm side of comfortable, but road and engine noise levels are well suppressed, which means the Marco Polo feels more like a large car than a crude van conversion. The 2.1-litre diesel engines are linked to a seven-speed G-Tronic Plus automatic gearbox. There are no manual options, but the automatic gearbox works well for the most part, with smooth changes and decent anticipation of the up and down shift on the motorway. That said, the 'box does have muddled moments on hilly A-roads, with a tendency to perform needless downshifts.
For the most part, however, the Marco Polo is quiet and pleasant to drive. It does a good job of hiding its considerable bulk, thanks to responsive steering and an automatic hill hold system that will prevent the van from rolling backwards when waiting at a junction or queuing in traffic on a steep hill. Parking is also easy, with the van's nimble steering and two metre height making it a stress free fit into most urban car parks.
Like the Mercedes-Benz car range, Command Online is available, with navigation and live traffic updates. The infotainment system is operated via a touchpad and rotary wheel, while a row of high quality switches - that wouldn't feel amiss in the S-Class – are situated below the screen to provide easy access to important controls. Cup holders are a rare commodity, however, with the plastic holders in the door bins prone to spilling drinks.
Safety equipment is well catered for with all vans getting a radar system that will warn the driver if they’re travelling too close to the vehicle in front. If the system thinks there is a risk of an accident, it will warn the driver and assist with braking to help prevent a rear end collision. The Marco Polo also gets parking sensors and a rear-view camera.