It’s rare that a manufacturer releases details as well as pictures of a product it is still testing and plans to sell a year later. Usually, extreme care is taken to prevent outsiders (especially spy photographers!) from catching even a glimpse of a new model and if the model must be tested on public roads, it is done at night or is heavily disguised.
In a departure from its usually secretive attitude where future models are concerned, DaimlerChrysler has sent out pictures of its new compact van to be marketed under the Mercedes-Benz brand and even tells us what it will be called when it goes on sale in late 2001: Vaneo.
Preliminary details of the van indicate that it is 4.19 metres long, 1.74 metres wide and 1.83 metres high, which makes it shorter than a Nissan Serena but slightly wider. It is said to offer enough room for five adults and two children or two adults and a load of up to three cubic metres. Accesss to the rear is via either one or two sliding doors.
These few months, Vaneo prototypes have been undergoing cold weather tests in Sweden where the temperature is still – 35 degrees C. The tests have included tuning of electronic systems such as ABS, ASR (acceleration skid control) as well as ESP (Electronic Stability Program) under low-friction conditions – ranging from snow to sheet ice – both on the level and on hills.
For such tests, special tracks are set up and are prepared every year with snow and ice. Some of these test tracks are on frozen lakes. In addition, the cold start characteristics as well as the heating and ventilation system are also being tested under such extreme conditions.
Development engineers also test whether engine components and equipment are capable of doing what the customer would expect of them, even in the worst of winters. And some of these components can only be really tested under real extreme conditions.
In addition to stationary testing such as the measurement of forces under the influence of cold climates, large distances are driven on icy and snowy roads to assess all a vehicle’s components and systems while in motion.
The future Vaneo compact van is reported to have passed all the tests with flying colours, including handling trials involving extreme lane-change manoeuvres. That last note was added in to emphasise that Mercedes-Benz has ensured that the Vaneo won’t flip over if the driver tries to avoid a moose (an embarassment for the company when a Scandinavian tester simulated the move in an A-Class and it flipped over).
When you read about the Vaneo being launched next year, remember that you first read about it in AUTOWORLD.COM.MY.