September 26, 2018

“Hey Mercedes!”

Connectivity is the watchword for the latest model Sprinter, launched in the UK last month. Simon Tooth reports.

The long-awaited new model Sprinter was launched in the UK last month. It’s a game-changer on many levels – front-wheel drive models available for the first time, the first series-production van with the 9G-TRONIC nine-speed auto transmission and what Mercedes is claiming to be the most advanced ‘connectivity solution’ ever fitted to a van. It also features voice-activated controls, responding to ‘Hey Mercedes’ followed by the command.

The familiar Sprinter model range remains with three wheelbases, four vehicle lengths, three roof heights, chassis, chassis crewcab and tourers. In a move that should appeal to motorhome builders, Sprinter will also be available as a ‘tractor head’ chassis – basically the front of a chassis cab that can be integrated into a full body conversion.

Across the range, power is supplied by Merc’s 2.1-litre diesel engine with three outputs – 114bhp, 143bhp and 165bhp – for rear-wheel and all-wheel drive models and two – 114bhp and 143 bhp – for front-wheel drive, although motorhome converters are also offered a 177bhp version. A 3.0-litre engine – the only V6 in the large van sector – is also an option with rear-wheel drive, handy for the range-topping 5.5-tonner. Front-wheelers will be offered in three gross weights, from 3.0-4.1-tonnes

Gearboxes are six-speed manuals or 7G-TRONIC auto for rear-wheelers and nine-speed auto for front-drives.

Provisional fuel consumption figures start at a whisker under 30mpg, rising to 41.5mpg, with CO2 between 178 and 253g/km. While rear-wheel drive models now get the advantage of 37,000-mile (two years) service intervals, the front-drives will be due for a service after 24,500 miles (two years).

Externally there’s not much beyond some tweaks to the front end to distinguish the new Sprinter. But the cab has undergone a transformation. Comfortable, well-built and carefully designed with plenty of storage, it takes van cabs a significant step closer to cars.

That feeling is reinforced still further with the presence of MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience, technology used in passenger cars and now fitted as standard across the Sprinter range. There’s a 7” touch screen (with a 10” option), steering wheel touch pads, USB and DAB radio. A high speed internet connection on-board opens up new dimensions of connectivity for both the driver and fleet manager.

There’s also a raft of safety features including Active Brake Assist with pedestrian protection and Attention Assist, which warns when a driver is showing signs of drowsiness.

On the road, the new Sprinter is as quiet as vans get with precise and light steering and reassuring torque at low speeds (at least on the mid-range engine we tested). It’s a package that should ensure it will remain a driver favourite.

The Sprinter range is priced from £24,350.