Over the last couple of months we have reported rather extensively on the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and have had an in-depth look at the technology that will be incorporated into this vehicle. Earlier this month Reuben van Niekerk was finally afforded an opportunity in the driver’s seat.
With its clear yet sensuous design, the Sprinter combines the attributes of a modern vehicle with functional requirements. As part of the van family, common features with the V-Class are much more apparent than those of the commercial vehicle sector. Previously hard contours have been changed into soft and flowing lines.
Improvements to the drivetrain result in an engine and transmission portfolio that meets all expectations in terms of exemplary economy and powerful driving characteristics.
Highlights include two newly developed transmissions for front-wheel drive. The 9-speed automatic torque convertor transmission is a first in the large van segment, while the newly developed six manual transmission impresses with good gearshift comfort and no irritating vibrations of the shift lever.
The well-proven 7G-Tronic automatic transmission is available on all diesel-powered rear-wheel drive variants and all all-wheel drive variants.
The most powerful diesel engine with a displacement of 3,0-litres delivers 140kW and 440Nm between 1600 and 2600rpm. It impresses with oodles of torque, but also with its smooth and quiet characteristics that translate into maximum ride comfort.
The 2,1 litre 4-cylinder engine that is offered in conjunction with rear-wheel drive is available in 85kW, 105kW and 120kW versions. In conjunction with front-wheel drive, the outputs range from 84kW to 105kW and 130kW, the most powerful version exclusively reserved for the camper van segment. The engines are torquey with a good spread of power across the rev range.
Well-proven BlueTec technology helps to reduce emissions. Thanks to Selective Catalytic Reduction including AdBlue as an exhaust after-treatment process, the proportion of nitrogen oxide after combustion falls by over 80 per cent.
The exact engines that will be available when the Sprinter makes its way to South Africa next year are still to be confirmed, but no matter what local product planners decide on, even in the bottom of the range the Sprinter is well powered and refined.
In the logistics and transport world of the future, variability and the availability of customer specific solutions are the essential success factor. Just offering customers a good vehicle is no longer enough. As an all-rounder, the Sprinter must be more than just the sum of its parts. With an unprecedented number of variants, new connectivity services and a new telematics generation, it is a tailor-made end-to-end system meeting an enormous range of commercial transport and mobility requirements.
Together with the new telematics generation, the new connectivity solutions of Mercedes PRO connect provide the perfect basis for all conceivable logistical and transport requirements, from the complex management of a large fleet to a small company fleet.
Sliding into the driver seat, one doesn’t feel that you are about to pilot a vehicle of this size. Switchgear is very similar to that of a Mercedes passenger car, and systems like the MBUX, which is a new system that is being launched concurrently with the A-Class, ensure a premium look and feel.
The newly designed seats are comfortable and allow a posture that relieves back strain and can be precisely adjusted to suit the needs of the driver. Electrically adjusted front seats with a memory function are new in the Sprinter segment, and store the seat and exterior mirror settings for up to three drivers.
The MBUX multimedia system has a 10.25-inch display and is controlled either via the touch-capable steering wheel controls, the touchscreen or a completely new voice control system. The voice control system was developed in conjunction with Nuance and is certainly one of the best systems we have experienced in any vehicle to date. The system picks up keywords from general conversation and identifies them as commands that are executed flawlessly. For example, if you say, ‘Hey Mercedes, I am hungry” the system will return a list of restaurants; or, “The fuel tank is empty” will return a list of filling stations. Text messages can also be dictated and are reliably recognised. A high-speed Internet connection can be used for the connectivity services of Mercedes Pro or as a hotspot for mobile devices.
Innovative safety and assistance systems kick in should the vehicle and its driver find themselves in critical situations, ranging from the Distronic radar-based distance control system to Active Brake Assist, and Active Lane Keeping Assist to Attention Assist. Crosswind Assist is fitted as standard, while Traffic Sign Assist draws added attention to speed limits, a feature that proved very useful on highways of the Netherlands where the speed limits seem to be different every couple of kilometres. An optional parking package includes a 360 degree camera to give the driver all-round visibility, and makes parking the vehicle a breeze.
These days passengers want more than merely to be brought safely from A to B – they also have high comfort expectations. Driving time becomes quality time, during which passengers can read a book, answer emails or go online shopping, as the new Sprinter brings digitilisation into the passenger compartment. USB charging points provide power for smartphones, laptops or tablets, while an optional Wi-Fi hotspot keeps passengers connected with the digital world outside. All of this centres on the MBUX multimedia system controlled via touchscreens or the multifunction steering wheel. The seats, too, with their extensive equipment variants, offer excellent comfort.
The boom in the courier, express and parcel services segments has its own unique challenges. Many small steps made over the last mile by couriers and delivery services, select the route, drive there, climb out, fetch the package from the load compartment, hand it over to the customer or bring it back to the van for redelivery and climb back in again. They go through this process up to 180 times a day. On that basis, it’s clear that minor improvements can result in major conveniences. The Sprinter addresses this in many of its details. The front-wheel drive comes with a 80mm lower load compartment, which means the size of the load compartment can be increased without an increase in height. More importantly, it is also easier for the driver to climb in and out of the load compartment, even without a step.
In the crafts and construction sectors things can get really tough. This is where the Sprinter has to deliver the qualities that have defined it from the very start: robustness, reliability and economy. Roofers, tilers and joiners seek maximum payload and integrated shelving solutions for mobile workshops. Painters and decorators need optimised load capacity for getting ladders and equipment to the job. Driving to a building site involves motorways and main roads, but the last hundred metres or so are often on unsurfaced terrain. The Sprinter is able to mould into and successfully conquer all these challenges
For example, a metal cargo floor is part of the standard equipment, but there is also the choice of a heavy-duty floor, and a new, lightweight plastic floor and internal roof-rack allows the transport of long bulky items safely inside without taking up valuable floor space
Vehicles are indispensable to most trades and construction companies. Nothing would happen without them, which is why maintenance and repair management is key. Services like Mercedes PRO connect enable forward planning of maintenance work, thus avoiding vehicle downtime.
Available for the new Sprinter under Mercedes PRO connect are eight connectivity packages that add value. They enable fleet managers to maintain an overview of their fleet at all times, raising efficiency and lowering administrative effort, while easing the everyday workload for the driver.
Whether you need a panel van, Tourer, pickup, chassis with single or crewcab, Sprinter bus or commercial tractor head, the new Sprinter can be configured into more than 1 700 different variants. There is a choice of six bodies, four body lengths, three load compartment heights, and a tonnage spectrum ranging from 3,0 to 5,5 tonnes.
The new Sprinter is as multifaceted as its customers, from classic courier services for last-mile delivery, to the building trades seeking a robust base vehicle, to service technicians who use their van as a mobile replacement parts store. It can also be put to work as a camper van, shuttle bus or rescue vehicle. Almost anyone seeking a transport solution will be able to find the right combination with the new Sprinter, from the base configuration for tough jobs to high-end variants where intelligent telematics solutions with high-resolution touchscreens and premium materials shape the overall customer experience.