Everything in our house or office arrive in a van or a truck – it’s a simple but often overlooked fact. The advent of online shopping and our global need to purchase when the mood takes us and then have our goods delivered to our door, has seen a marked rise in our national commercial van fleet, the convenience and functionality of these large rectangular load-luggers ticking as well as carrying all the boxes.
Akin to their car offerings, Mercedes-Benz go about things in their own, sometimes idiosyncratic way. Having been introduced to their new Sprinter in Dusseldorf in February, some of us Irish motoring journalists got the chance to sample its talents on the roads of Holland, where in various formats we got to do more than just shake hands with the third generation of a very important player in the working sector of Irish motoring.
To the uninitiated, vans are just mobile rectangular metal boxes, with limited comfort, even less limited view, jamming up streets and changing direction like a flea on acid, their drivers running to their own tune and rules. While a smidgeon of all of this is true, as it is with all road users, the world of the van has most certainly moved on. And while everything to the rear of the cabin is all about space, the driver’s lot has improved considerably, with advances in technology and connectivity now an integral part of their vehicle management.
A true multi-tasker, the van is vital to those in construction, trade industries, tourism, (camper and bus), Authority and Emergency Services. Their individual and bespoke needs require very different talents from a manufacturer and with its some 1,700 variations, this new Sprinter is certainly putting itself out there.
Put the letters CEP into your motoring lexicon, the ever-increasing rise in online shopping adding to the Courier, Express and Parcel service demand requiring large vans like the Sprinter to satisfy the voracious demand. Germany has seen their parcel delivery hitting three billion in 2016 and expect to break four billion by 2021. Christmas past here has shown Ireland not to be shopping-shy as vans delivered to the deserving and the desperate as never before.
The Van has evolved
This latest Sprinter carries all the hallmarks of a current Mercedes-Benz automobile. Sitting into the new cabin, the ergonomics get you at Hello. The seat and driving position is up front and clear good, the frontal view is excellent and the mirrors, akin to portable TV screens are above reproach. While all our test Sprinters were well toyed-up, the overall opinion was one of big improvement in all the major aspects required of a player in the large van sector.
Safety and assistance systems abound on this 2018 offering, with the option of connectivity on a NASA scale truly as impressive as the sheer civility of the overall package. Park all the prejudices about the driving experience being austere and some form of mobile penance, this latest Sprinter is a revelation.
Some of the assistance and control systems available for the new Sprinter include a reversing camera showing its image in the rear-view mirror, a Parking Package with a 360-degree all-round view, and a rain sensor with an integrated Wet Wiper System. Here the washer fluid is passed through the wiper arms, sprayed directly ahead of the wiper blades and wiped away with no delay – very neat and tidy.
2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter features:
- Three wheelbase lengths
- Three body heights
- Four body lengths
- Front Wheel Drive comes with Maximum wheelbase of 3,924mm
- Rear Wheel Drive comes with Maximum wheelbase of 4,325mm
- Load height maximum from 1,719mm to 2,243mm
- Load width maximum is 1,787mm
- Load length maximum ranges from 2,732mm to 4,810mm at floor level
- Load volumeranges from 7.8 cubic metres to 17.0 cubic metres
- Load arearanges from 3.9 metres square to 7.6 metres square
- Five weight classes: 3.0, 3.5, 4.1, 5.0 and 5.5 tonnes
- Towing capacityup to 3.5 tonnes
Sprinter Front-Wheel Drive
Available for the first time in front wheel drive, as well its normal rear-wheel propulsion, the 2018 Sprinter can be configured into some 1,700 variants, effectively satisfying the need to haul all manner of product, be it crate or pallet; people to places, to the pub or the Palace, its range of tonnage from 2.5 to 8.75, including trailer. It comes in Panel van, Tourer, pickup, chassis, bus as body types, three drive configurations of front, rear and all-wheel drive.
Compared to its rear-wheel drive equivalent, the new front-wheel drive can carry some 50kgs more and is a convenient 80mm lower for those multiple loading and unloading tasks. Out on the road, with 250kg on board, I found the 140bhp, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, 6-speed manual, very capable, with positive steering and coming with lane departure warning, blind spot warning in each mirror and crosswind assist, all contributed to make my progress through the suburbs of Amsterdam and its intermix of mopeds and cyclists, stress free.
Out on the open road, the national, secondary and motorway route to Rotterdam was a doddle, the crosswind assist light on the console flashing numerous times as it covertly kept the Sprinter on line.
Sprinter 3.0, V6 automatic
My return journey to Amsterdam was in the 3-litre, 190bhp, V6, with 440Nm of torque. Driven through their 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission, (the front-wheel drive gets a 9-speed), which was super-smooth and responsive, to the point where one can be assured that anyone who drives this model will not go manual again – the business.
As with the front-wheel drive, other than a small bit of wind noise on the open road, (it was blowing a tad), the new Sprinter is effectively serene. The convenience of keyless entry, electronic handbrake and push-button Start, USB’s, stowage and cubbies, bring real civility to the Sprinter experience.
Mercedes Sprinter front-wheel drive (FWD) engines:
- 114hp 300Nm
- 143hp 330Nm
- 177hp 400Nm
Mercedes Sprinter rear-wheel drive (RWD) engines:
- 114hp 300Nm
- 143hp 330Nm
- 163hp 360Nm
- 190hp 440Nm - V6 variant
eSprinter - doing the business silently
The new eSprinter will be available as a panel van with high roof. Its electric drive system has an output of 84 kW and up to 300Nm of torque.
With a permissible gross vehicle weight of 3500 kilograms, a vehicle length of 5932 millimetres, a wheelbase of 3924 millimetres and a maximum load capacity of 10.5 m3, the eSprinter has sufficient space for a wide range of transport requirements.
With an installed battery capacity of 55 kWh, the range of the new eSprinter is around 150 kilometres, even under unfavourable conditions such as low ambient temperatures and a full load.
The batteries can be fully charged in eight hours at a charge column or a wallbox with a maximum power of 7.2 kW. In this configuration the maximum payload is around 900 kilograms, mainly aimed at customers who also use their vehicles over longer distances in urban areas but rarely load them to the payload limit.
A second battery capacity option above all meets inner-city operating requirements where range is of secondary importance but payload capacity is a decisive criterion. In this case the installed battery capacity is 41 kWh, and the range is around 115 kilometres.
In return the maximum payload increases by around 140 kilograms to around 1040 kilograms. The charging time is around six hours, unless the eSprinter is charged at a DC fast charging station, then when using the corresponding charging capacity, after 45 minutes both battery capacities will be provided with 80 percent of their range again.
Mercedes-Benz User Xperience – MBUX - more than an anagram
The new Sprinter really shows how tech and torque can easily live together, in the level of connectivity it offers the new owner. Whereas heretofore customers have added outsourced telematics as part of their fleet management tool-kit, Mercedes Pro connect and MBUX bring S-Class premium, normally found in the top office, right down to tarmac, where date, day, time and place are the key factors in providing service.
Customers can choose Mercedes PRO connect as an ex factory feature, with its eight packages with central fleet, vehicle, driver and location-based services. These include Vehicle Supervision, Vehicle Operations, Fleet Communication, Maintenance and Repair Management and a digital Driver's Logbook. The new services can be used with the completely new MBUX, (Mercedes-Benz User Xperience), multimedia system, which uses an up to 10.25-inch HD display, (7.0-inch is standard), touchscreen control and voice control, which had no issue with my border brogue.
The touchscreen has great graphics and as most of us already know how to swipe, tap and pinch, the additional convenience of uttering ‘Hey Mercedes’ and asking for the nearest Chinese take-away, the nearest pharmacy or your place of work, results in the polite lady replying with a list of options for your consideration. With each user able to set up their own user profile, the MBUX system welcomes personalisation to the van world in the politest way imaginable.
The 2018 Sprinter arrives on Irish tarmac in June. With its new front-wheel drive option, great cabin, convenience and connectivity systems, the already established talent and name of Sprinter is sure to go up a gear. The aforementioned CEP fleets can certainly look to the new Sprinter as their one-stop shop for size, drivetrain and now with their factory-fit telematics and connectivity of Mercedes Pro connect and MBUX. Prices will begin from €21,950 excluding taxes and charges – a figure their commercial vehicles sales manager, Fergus Conheady says: “is one that puts the new Sprinter comfortably within the budget of the majority of van buyers".