2017 Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo Review
Stuart Martin’s 2017 Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In A Nutshell: Versatile family van that has many of the Vito’s work attributes, with the space and ability to take a small family somewhere away from it all for more than just the day.
2017 Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo
Price $69,990 Warranty 3 years/200,000 km Engine (tested) 2.1l 4-cylinder diesel Power 120kW Torque 380Nm Transmission 7-speed auto Drive rear-wheel drive Dimensions 5140mm (l); 1928mm (excl. mirrors); 1980mm (h) Turning circle 11.8m Towing weight 2500kg Kerb weight 2380kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 70 litres Spare full-size steel Thirst 6.3 l/100km combined cycle Fuel diesel
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TRADING OFF Australia’s love affair with RVs, Mercedes-Benz has launched its Marco Polo Activity onto the local market, priced from $69,990+ORC. The Marco Polo offers driver and passenger seats that can swivel, and a rear three-bench seat that be removed to make a large storage space, or folded down to form a bed.
We let our Stuart Martin spend a week with the thing to see if it makes sense as a weekday workhorse and weekend camper.
What’s The Interior Like In The Marco Polo?
Spacious within its considerable road footprint, the Marco Polo offers a robust cabin floor that feels capable of withstanding a family weekend away. The test vehicle had the optional leather trim package (at $1409) but was not fitted with the third row, which adds $1500 to the asking price.
In place of the third row is a flip-up bench that forms part of the downstairs bed when the bench seat (which has drawers in its base) is folded into place, all of which is enough to accommodate my 191cm frame. The firm seat cushioning isn’t to all tastes for a bed but is well-suited to its duty as a passenger seat, able to slide fore and aft in order to complete its dual duties.
This is one of the useability issues the Marco Polo suffers – perhaps still tight with newness, the sliding mechanism is operated by a lever at the side of the bench but it is a heavy and awkward manoeuvre to bring the seat into position for each of its duties. The same can be said for the small pop-up table, which doubles as a centre console with cupholders for the rear occupants – it too can be cumbersome in its movement fore and aft.
The function of raising the table is easier to use, delivering a small tabletop once the two wings are brought out, as well as offering a step for access to the pop-up roof bed.
The front bucket seats are more comfortable than appearances suggest, with the added ability to spin around, providing additional downstairs seating when in “camp” mode. This function could also be a little smoother in operation – one lever releases the seat and allows it to swing on its base, but the fore-aft slider also needs to be employed to allow the turn to be unimpeded by the B-pillar and the steering wheel.
The latter is leather-wrapped and reach-and-rake adjustable, a bonus for the driver in terms of driving position and getting it out of the way for the seat pivot. Overall the bucket seat system is an awkward operation that would be better if the one lever controlled all actions.
Less awkward is the operation of the pop-top roof, which requires two clips being undone above the front occupants and struts do the rest, taking the 200-kg rated double bed with it or leaving the sleeping quarters in place if two tethers are removed.
The rooftop quarters get zipper-held ventilation flaps, as well as small mesh vents nearer the roof and ceiling-mounted LED reading lights on goosenecks fed by a standard two-battery electrical system.
Also on the features list is an auxiliary heater that is effective in keeping the chilly night air at bay, but it’s small operating panel is low on the centre stack and difficult to operate. There’s also manual air conditioning – not climate control – with rear vents, all of which toils diligently to cool the large interior space.
The infotainment system is old-school – a four-speaker system with USB and Bluetooth for phone and music input with satnav on the small non-touchscreen display. The rear passenger space has 12-volt outlets, cupholders and acres of legroom, all accessed by sliding doors on either side, which offer an ample aperture.
The test vehicle had optional (at $2264) powered-sliding doors, but there’s no scope for moving glass in the doors in either guise beyond the electric pop-out windows either side of the load space. The windows are all equipped with curtains for privacy and do an effective job, so much so you’ll want to remember to stow them all prior to driving.
Once the destination has been reached, the side awning (a $682 addition) offers extra shelter, although it’s not built for taller folk. Pegs and ropes to tie it down are a must-do in anything than dead-calm conditions and the winding handle comes perilously close to the side panel, as do the awning legs if they’ve not been properly stowed by a previous user and anyone beyond 180cm tall will need to crouch a little underneath the verandah.
Aftermarket crews are offering annexes and awnings to further improve the functions of the ‘Benz van – including rear drawer set-ups containing cooktops and sinks.
What’s The Marco Polo Like On The Road?
The addition of the pop-top roof is the first thing noticed from behind the wheel, particularly if you’ve recently driven a normal Mercedes-Benz workhorse van. The extra weight in the roof was obvious – but the once accustomed to the increased lean in the corners, it wasn’t a concern and the camper is able to maintain a reasonable rate on a country road.
It is powered by the familiar LCV powerplant, a 2.1-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder producing 120kW and 380Nm and using the AdBlue emissions control system, delivering drive to the rear wheels by way of a standard seven-speed automatic.
The official fuel economy claim from the manufacturer is 6.3 litres per 100 km on the combined cycle, rising to 7.4 on the urban test and dropping to 5.7 on the extra-urban cycle.
The test vehicle had been optioned up to the 18-inch alloy wheels, which smartens up the look but comes with 45-profile tyres. While the ride quality itself is good, it would perhaps be worthwhile to give the ride quality a little more emphasis and retain the standard 16-inch alloys with 205/65 rubber.
Our time in the camper resulted in 532km being covered at an average of 21km/h, with the trip computer showing 10.8 litres coming from the 70-litre tank for every 100km. The driver can use the paddle shifters and the manual shift mode to make better use of the torque and hold a gear, which might help the fuel economy and will also save the brakes, which can feel a little pressured by long steep descents.
The driver gets automatic headlights, an auto-dimming centre mirror and good heated and power-adjustable exterior mirrors, but still has to put up with a foot-operated park brake and the gear selector on the steering column (neutral was selected instead of the indicators).
Suprisingly easy to use on a daily basis – even the school run – the 2380kg Benz has a tight turning circle that helps manoeuvre the 5.14 m long, 1.93 m wide bus in and out of carparks. A monocoque-bodied frame, the Marco Polo weighs an extra 120kg over its Valente cousin. M-B lists the Gross Vehicle Mass at 3100 kg, the Gross Combination Mass at 5600 kg and the braked towing capacity at 2500 kg.
A once a year service interval – or every 25,000 km if you are covering serious territory on a regular basis – and backing by a 3-year 200,000 km warranty is all good without being class-leading.
What Safety Features Does The Marco Polo Offer?
The Marco Polo does betray its commercial origins to some extent when it comes to the safety features list. That said, Benz is big on the engineering and equipment side of active and passive safety, but only for the front occupants.
The airbag count stands at six – dual front, front side and curtain airbags for the two front seats, but that’s where it ends, leaving the second (and optionally available third) row with only the structural beams and seatbelts in which to place faith in an accident, yet it still manages to retain the five-star ANCAP rating.
That’s better than many – or most even – but still falls short of the top-spec people movers on offer in the market today. Where the Marco Polo makes up ground is in the active safety area, with stability and traction control, as well as front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Within that electronic arsenal is the crosswind assist function, which is a welcome back-up in windy driving conditions given the large slab-sided nature of the vehicle and the extra weight in the roof that can sometimes make its presence felt.
The test vehicle had a few options – chief among them being the Driving Assistance Package, which adds Collision Prevention Assist, Blind Spot and Lane Keeping Assist and rain sensing wiper function for $1345, while the LED intelligent headlight system adds $2545.
The model is available in a number of other incarnations in its home market, including the Mercedes-Benz 4-Matic all-wheel drive system, something that might not get it to the end of a serious 4WD track but would help get a little further away from it all during inclement weather.
So, what do we think of the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo?
The Marco Polo is spacious, comfortable and solid with a level of versatility that endears it to the occupants, but aftermarket money on top of the serious asking price is needed to equip it for anything other than short-term use and there are some kinks to iron out before it can be considered 100% user friendly.