The biggest name in the practical van game is no doubt Ford. For good reason too, they’re the ones that pioneered the concept of light, ultra-practical commercial vehicles. In fact, they’ve built a cult following around it.
Mercedes-Benz, then, decided for themselves that they want a piece of that cake. Introducing the Mercedes-Benz TN, which after 18 years of production, became obsolete. To replace it, Mercedes-Benz produced the Sprinter, a stylish alternative in a market largely crowded by boxy panel vans.
Cue the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
And clearly, it’s a recipe that has worked, evident from being 22 years in production. People loved the practicality that only a van can provide, and the quality that only the three-pointed star can promise. In fact, its popularity now is comparable to the legendary Ford Transit.
Its so popular, that even some people are dedicated to provide Sprinter for commercial use, such as Sprint van hire. And since Mercedes has developed such a capable, versatile chassis, there’s almost always a variant that’ll suit your need.
From the exterior, there’s nothing much to say, the Sprinter remains faithful to the classic panel van design. Albeit it’s curvier, and actually a stylish looker in terms of vans.
What really matters though, is under the bonnet. The Sprinter can boast one of the most powerful van engines around. The 3.0-litre V6 CDI diesel that pushes out 190 horses and 440 Nm of torque.
Even if you opt for the multitude of 2.2-litre 4 cylinder turbodiesels available, it’ll provide more than enough grunt. In addition to that, Mercedes has provided a good selection of gearboxes, from 6 speed manual to the well regarded 7G-TRONIC 7 speed automatic. Depending on how you spec your Sprinter, there’s different gearboxes and engines available to you.
With the 7-speed automatic gearbox, drivers will find the Sprinter a breeze to drive around town. In addition, the Sprinter rides high up, offering a commanding view of the surrounding with excellent visibility. The Mercedes refinement shows in the engines they make, as even their diesels are incredibly smooth, with road noise kept to a minimum.
The suspension is well sorted out too. The Sprinter irons out bumps and crevasses on the road, even when empty. All of that comes in tandem to create a van with unparalleled driving quality. One that’ll not tire out the drivers, one important point that many neglect.
However, if you live in somewhere where the going gets tough, fret not. Mercedes offers a 4×4 option for any body styles available in the Sprinter range, although it limits the engine and transmission option. It’s not your typical AWD package that is barely worth the time either, as this is one capable platform.
The 4×4 Sprinters can deal with properly tough terrain, especially if you spec in the low range transfer case. While it’s not like Mercedes’s 4Matic with variable torque split, it can switch from front wheel drive to four wheel drive in a single button press.
In addition, over the years, Mercedes has racked up a reputation for their reliability. Ranking top three among the big players, Volkswagen and Ford, is quite a feat.
Safety and Interior
While the Sprinter is a rear-wheel drive van, and most operators might be afraid of the traits and perks of rear-wheel drive, especially when there’s no load, Mercedes has packed the Sprinter full of safety technology.
That includes a plethora of electronic assists, like stability control, brake control, et cetera. In addition, the Sprinter features a neat feature known as adaptive braking. In the event of harsh braking, the brakes of the Sprinter will flash to warn unwary drivers on the road.
The cabin of the Sprinter is basic and functional. In place of leather, plastics and fabrics are used instead. While its not luxurious, it’s certainly able to cope with daily strain, unlike leather. Furthermore, plastic and fabric are cheap to look after and maintain in a good state.
Because it’s a Mercedes, there’s no shortage of novelty. A host of options are available, from Bluetooth and Sat Nav, to cruise control and rear cameras. In addition, there’s plenty of breathing space and internal storage in the Sprinter.
In terms of storage capacity, the Sprinter is right up there with the big players. In addition to the normal Sprinter offering, you can opt for a high roof and longer wheelbase for additional cargo volume.
Not only is the Sprinter capable in moving cargo, it can tow as well. With a towing capacity of 2,000 kg, it can surprise even surprise you. Mercedes has also implemented trailer stability assist as standard to complement the towing ability of the Sprinter.
Another display of Mercedes’s psychotic emphasis on safety is their clever Crosswind Assist, a standard feature. At speeds exceeding 50 mph, tall vans might start to experience crosswinds, especially on the motorway. To counter this, the assist will apply gentle braking to correct the course and prevent unintentional lane departure, aiding with stability as well.
There’s a reason why the Sprinter is commonly used by couriers and ambulances. The German quality, reliability, refinement, engineering, and attention to detail. However, with that, there’s a big flaw to the Sprinter.
And that is the price. The Sprinter is specifically priced for the premium segment of the commercial market. Despite that, the Sprinter still makes it as the 4th best selling van in 2016. With the addition of a 4×4 chassis, the Sprinter is shaping up to be one hell of a competition.