The ubiquitous Sprinter has earned its place in the big van hall of fame. And the latest generation will help keep it in the vanguard, says Dan Gilkes
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter needs little introduction. Even those not directly involved in transport or logistics know the Sprinter name, which has almost become as synonymous with the large van market as Ford’s Transit.
The latest model is no exception. Launched last year, the changes may have been hard to spot from outside the van. Take a look inside though and the big Merc had taken a giant step forward.
Operators have plenty of choice, with a range of front-, rear- and all-wheel drive vans and chassis on offer. Merc’s proven 2.2-litre diesel engine is offered with 112hp and 143hp in front-wheel drive, or 112hp, 143hp and 163hp in rear-driven vans. Those opting for a rear-wheel drive Sprinter can also choose a 3.0-litre V6 engine, delivering 190hp and a heady 440Nm of torque.
Gross weights range from 3.0-tonnes to 5.0-tonnes, though unsurprisingly the biggest choice is at 3.5-tonnes. Front-driven van are offered with a six-speed manual or a nine-speed automatic transmission, while rear-drive vans come with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed auto. The V6 engine gets the seven-speed auto box as standard.
With four body lengths and three roof heights in the panel van line-up, pretty much every van user should be able to find a model to suit their individual needs. That said, this L3H2 van, with rear-wheel drive and the 2.2-litre engine with manual gearbox, is probably one of the UK favourites. Admittedly, most customers would be likely to tick the 143hp box, but our test van’s 163hp engine delivers a very relaxed drive.
Not only does the 163hp engine have more power, but it also boasts 360Nm of torque, against the 143hp engine’s 330Nm, both available from just 1,400rpm. This makes for easy acceleration and very relaxed motorway cruising at sensible speeds.
The higher horsepower need not have too detrimental an effect at the fuel pumps either. On a reasonably quick run up the M1 motorway, from Mercedes’ Milton Keynes head office to Nottinghamshire, the big Merc delivered a remarkable 37.1mpg average, if the dash readout is to be believed. Even working back through the city and on more rural roads only dropped the average to around 35mpg, which for a van of this size is impressive.
However, while the driveline is certainly up there with the best, it’s what’s happened in the cab that will grab the most attention. We’ve already outlined the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), that uses a combination of crystal-clear multimedia touchscreens, steering wheel-mounted controls and the “Hey Mercedes” voice control system to operate infotainment and other vehicle functions. However, if you haven’t yet tried it, it is certainly worth a trip to the local dealer to put MBUX through its paces.
What’s more, MBUX is not just for show, it really works. While driving through the centre of Nottingham I simply said: “Hey Mercedes, set navigation to Milton Keynes,” and it happened.
That’s not the only technology present in the latest Sprinter. Under the body the van comes with Active Brake Assist, Attention Assist, Crosswind Assist, Headlight Assistant and Hill-Start Assist as standard. There are a host of other driver and safety systems on offer in the options list too.
The vans also come with a built-in SIM card now, making it easy to connect to a range of Mercedes PRO services, from integrated telematics to eco and safe driver monitoring.
Of course, a base model price of more than £34,000 for this van is a bit of an eye-opener, and that’s before the press office had ticked the box on a further £4,500 of options. But that has to be seen against strong residuals, those impressive fuel figures and service intervals of up to 37,000-miles or two years. Judging by the number of Sprinters on that trip up the M1, it’s a winning combination.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter L3H2 RWD
BASIC PRICE £34,060
ENGINE 4-cyl 2,143cc POWER 163bhp @ 3,800 TORQUE 360Nm @ 1,400-2,400
GVW 3,500 KERB WEIGHT 2,422 PAYLOAD 1,078 MAX TRAILER WEIGHT 2,000
LOAD SPACE LENGTH 4,307 LOAD SPACE WIDTH 1,787 LOAD SPACE HEIGHT 2,009 WIDTH BETWEEN W/ARCHES 1,350 LOAD VOLUME 14
Fuel tank capacity 71 Combined fuel consumption 35.3mpg Carbon dioxide emissions 207g/km Oil Change 2 year/37,000 miles WARRANTY 3 year/unlimited miles