The new Mercedes Benz Sprinter certainly bristles with innovative technology, not only taking safety features to a new level, but also comfort and connectivity, as Van Ireland’s Phil Eaglestone reports.
A much anticipated opportunity to get behind the wheel of this third generation Sprinter came recently during what was the first UK’s unveiling of the van at a special Press Drive event in Warwickshire.
From our base at the Clayton Hotel in Birmingham, we had a choice of test routes taking us past some of the area’s top attractions such as Kenilworth Castle, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Warwick Castle and Chesterton Windmill – not that we had much time to concentrate on our surroundings; the ‘star’ was the van after all! And what a ‘star’.
While comfort and safety features are comparable to that found in a passenger car – as we quickly discovered along the way – perhaps one of the most important new features is its comprehensive internet connectivity.
Mercedes PRO connect enables assignments to be managed online and vehicle information such as location, fuel level or maintenance intervals to be retrieved almost in real time. Eight packages are available including Vehicle Supervision, Vehicle Operations, Fleet Communication, Maintenance Management and a Digital Driver’s Logbook.
For example, Vehicle Supervision displays all relevant vehicle data as well as the usage of the vehicle over a defined period, while Vehicle Operations accesses vehicle location and flags when it enters or leaves a defined area (geofencing). The Vehicle Management tool sends messages, addresses or contact details to the Mercedes PRO connect app and enables information about upcoming servicing to support maintenance management, and for the first 3 years the Mercedes PRO service “Live Traffic” is available for free with the navigation system.
With more than 1,700 different versions available, the new Sprinter can be want you want it to be – an ideal solution for courier services on the last mile delivery, for goods transport over longer distances or for service technicians using their vehicle as a mobile replacement parts store. The new Sprinter can also be put to work as a camper van or bus, and can even be used as an ambulance by rescue services.
Attractive and eye-catching on the outside, the interior is something else! The driver’s working environment is spacious, uncluttered, comfortable and above all, practical, with ergonomically shaped seats, keyless start and an improved air conditioning system, together with a touch-capable multifunction steering wheel, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen, alongside wireless charging for smartphones.
Out on the road, handling and performance was exceptional. With speed-sensitive electric power steering (EPS) as standard, other safety assistance systems available for the new Sprinter include a reversing camera showing its image in the rear-view mirror, a modern Parking package with a 360-degree view, a rain sensor and wipers with an integrated Wet Wiper system to ensure optimum visibility even during the wiping process.
Other standard safety features that combine to make this one of the safest large vans on the road include Distronic adaptive cruise control which enables you to set the desired speed from 12 mph upwards, and the system automatically maintains an adequate safety distance from the vehicle ahead. Then there is Traffic Sign Assist which draws additional attention to speed limits, no-entry and no-overtaking restrictions. How clever is that?
The well-proven drive concept with rear and all-wheel drive is now supplemented with a new front-wheel drive system; the payload of this version increases by 50 kg compared to rear-wheel drive. The FWD model also offers an 80mm lower loading sill which makes loading and unloading, as well as exiting and entering, considerably more convenient. The maximum load capacity is 17 m³, with tonnages up to 5.5 tonnes.
On the technical side, the new Sprinter includes two newly developed transmissions for front-wheel drive. The nine-speed automatic torque converter transmission is a first in the large van segment. The gear ranges are graduated to give an optimum balance between low consumption and agile handling. Other virtues include a low noise level and outstanding ride comfort. The new 6-speed manual transmission impresses with maximum gearshift comfort and no irritating vibrations of the shift lever.
For the Sprinter variants with a diesel engine and rear-wheel drive, maintenance intervals up to a maximum of 37,000 miles or two years are envisaged in the European markets. The newly introduced front-wheel drive variant is due for a service after a maximum of 24,500 miles or two years.The first two generations of the Sprinter attracted more than 3.4 million customers in 130 countries around the world, and with prices for this new model starting from £24,350 (ex VAT) for the entry-level version with front-wheel drive, we are sure that remarkable success story is set to continue.
Meanwhile, as part of the strategy of Mercedes-Benz for electrification of the commercial van fleet, a new eSprinter will enter the market in 2019 in the form of a 3.5-tonne panel van with high roof and a load capacity of up to 10.5 m3.
With a maximum range of up to 93 miles or maximum payload of over 1,000 kg, there will be a choice of two battery options. The charging time is around six hours, unless the eSprinter is charged at a DC fast charging station when after 45 minutes both battery capacities will be provided with 80 percent of their range again
Customers will have a choice of maximum speeds: a top speed of 49 mph in urban environments conserves energy reserves and increases range, or if more pace is required, top speeds of up to 75 mph should be possible