It is not often I get the chance as an automobile journalist to drive a few commercial vehicles, but when I do it is always interesting. So I was quite excited to get a chance to drive a simply huge, brand new Mercedes Benz Sprinter van. Previously sold under the Dodge brand with a Ram grille, the Mercedes-Benz built Sprinter is a back for 2013 as a proper Mercedes with three pointed star and all.
Manufactured in Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde in Germany, Mercedes-Benz Sprinters are offered in 2500 and 3500 models with a 3.88, 4.53 or 5.0 ton Gross vehicle weights and in three different body styles: Cargo van, Passenger Van and Cab chassis. The Sprinter can be Standard (19’4″), Long (22’8″) or Extra-Long (24’1″), with a 12′ or 14’2″ wheelbase.
Stand out features include rear doors that swing open 270 degrees and lock to the body sides. The sliding door on the passenger’s side is the widest in its class at 4’3.2″. Optionally, the Cargo van can be equipped with a second sliding door on the driver’s side, something no competitor has. All doors are flush with the floor for easy loading and the high roof versions mean interior height in the rear load area is increased from 5’5″ to a whopping 6’4″! This means you can stand up and walk around the vehicle from the front driver seat cabin without going outside.
The Sprinter is powered by a 3.0-litre, V6 turbodiesel engine with direct injection and BlueTEC technology providing the Sprinter with 188 horsepower and an excellent 325 lb-ft of torque at just 1,400 rpm. Gearbox is a 5-speed automatic transmission, very interestingly with manual mode. Fuel economy for this class of vehicle is about 13 L/100 km according to driving conditions and style. Despite its huge length, the power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering has a class-leading 47’6.9″ turning circle and proves nimble and surprisingly nimble.
Commercial driver will love the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter’s premium interior. As well as a tilt/telescopic steering wheel and as standard air conditioning, firm-supportive seats with a height-adjustable cushion are standard along with a reclining driver’s seat. Heated seats are available, but for Canada with its cold winters, I think heated seats should really be as standard as the huge interior of this van does get very cold.
The cockpit is well designed and roomy, most controls are good, but a few minor niggles- the shift lever is tricky to manipulate and the stereo, and minor dash center consoles are very small and hard to operate if you are wearing gloves on a cold winters days. I think the buttons/controls need to be chunkier along with the cup holders. The assortment of storage compartments around the cockpit, and above the windshield is good, but cargo nets and lockable covers for tools etc would be a good option.
Safety is superb, with driver and front passenger airbags plus available side airbags and curtain airbags to maximize thorax and head protection. Of note and very impressive is the new electronic stability program called Adaptive ESP, which integrates the attributes of the antilock braking system (ABS), acceleration skid control (ASR), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BAS) and start-off assist (AAS). This handling stability aid uses a number of parameters in critical situations to activate the brakes on individual wheels as well as adjusting engine output to stabilize the vehicle in the event of unsafe situations.
The optional Parktronic system makes parking manoeuvres easier by alerting drivers of any object in front or behind the Sprinter through visual and auditory warnings. A rear-view camera with 7-inch monitor is also available, but in my opinion these features should really be as standard equipment as there is no rear visibility at all with solid rear doors and this is a huge vehicle destined for crowded delivery routes.
Being a Mercedes with all the engineering and quality means the cost compared top domestic rival will be higher. The base MSRP of $42,900 is expensive, but the higher value at resale, decent fuel economy, high vehicle dynamics and safety are well worth it. Highly recommended.
2013 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 Van. Priced from $42,900.