Sprinting to stay up front
Commanding around 40 per cent of the Australian heavy van market Mercedes-Benz takes big steps to ensure its domination with the new Sprinter range released in October.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has never been short in its appeal to a wide market ranging from sectors as diverse as tradies, couriers, grey nomads and emergency services. This third generation range incorporates significant engineering advancements combined with some contemporary styling and subtle ergonomic improvements, which will see the three-pointed star continue to lead the way in large van sales.
Front wheel drive now joins the already available rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options with the dual bonuses of an additional 50kgs of payload and an 80mm lower loading sill at the rear. The front-wheel drive Sprinters have the option of either the new six-speed manual transmission or the new nine speed torque converter automatic transmission. Still available in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants is the seven speed 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission which can be left to do its own shifting or can also now be controlled by the driver using the “Drive Select” mode with steering wheel shift paddles similar to those found in high performance cars.
As with the transmissions and final drives there are a number of engine options available with the top performer being the turbocharged six cylinder 3.0 litre diesel which delivers 140kW of power and 440Nm of torque between 1,600 and 2,600rpm.
The four cylinder engines displace just 2.1 litres and are available in a choice of three outputs: 84 kW, 105 kW or 120 kW in the conventional rear wheel drive configuration and the new front wheel drive variants have outputs available at 84 kW or 105 kW. For the rapidly expanding motorhome segment a 130 kW version is also available.
In Europe the expansion of the new Sprinter range translates to more than 1,700 different variants each of which can be created by combining body types, drive configurations, cab designs, body lengths, load weight capacities and load compartment heights. If Australia only gets a fraction of the available combinations buyers will still be able to specify, in significant detail, to ensure they get the best vehicle for their own applications across a wide range of transport sectors from construction site vehicles and delivery vans to the luxuriously equipped minibus. It is slated to join the line-up early in 2019.
The maximum load volume available is 17 cubic metres with Gross Vehicle Weight ratings of up to five tonnes. Interior lighting can be optioned up with LED lighting strips to ensure optimum visibility in the load compartment. The van rear doors can now be opened around to the side walls even more readily than the previous models.
In keeping with its reputation for safety innovation, Mercedes-Benz has equipped the new Sprinter with safety features that were previously the preserve of passenger cars. The standard safety equipment for vans includes Active Brake Assist, Blind Spot Assist, reversing camera, Lane Keeping Assist, ATTENTION ASSIST and front and window airbags for driver and passenger. A wide range of optional safety and assistance systems are also available including the radar-based distance control system DISTRONIC, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and the Parking Package with a 360 degree camera which brings the new Sprinter into the realms of semi-autonomy in terms of ease of parking. Crosswind Assist continues on board as standard and adds to the safety of large slab-sided vehicles such as vans especially at higher speeds on freeways.
Ergonomically the new Sprinter’s interiors build on the high standards set by its predecessors and its parent company’s prestige passenger cars. Additional new equipment features, such as Keyless Start, means no more fumbling for keys. As long as the fob is within the vehicle the engine will start at the touch of a button. The newly designed seats allow a posture that relieves back strain, and can be precisely adjusted to suit the needs of individual drivers, improving visibility and comfort and reducing fatigue. The optional electrically adjustable front seats with a memory function are new in the Sprinter segment and operate by storing the seat and exterior mirror settings for up to three different drivers. This is a great convenience in pool vehicles that may be operated by several different drivers.
The new multimedia systems are sophisticated yet simple to use. The MBUX multimedia system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) has a 7” HD display as standard with an optional 10.25” alternative head unit, and is controlled either via the touch-capable steering wheel controls, the touchscreen itself or a completely new voice control system. With satellite navigation on board this is operated by keywords such as “Hey Mercedes”, and also registers turns of phrase used in everyday speech. Telematics packages similar to those developed for Mercedes-Benz trucks will also be part of the offering with the new Sprinter range.
Sprinter prototypes built across the three engines and seven transmissions have been tested over nine million kilometres in such diverse and extreme locations as Finland, the Andes Mountains and the deserts of the United States.