Carving a niche in the market since 2001, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has given commercial van buyers a very European and vastly different full-size van than its North American rivals.
Coming in three different body lengths for vans and unibody construction, a chassis cab model, a shuttle, and both cargo and passenger van models, the Sprinter stands apart from older-style body-on-frame based vans. Mercedes-Benz's common rail direct-injected turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V-6 with 188 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque propels all of them, though. That differs greatly from the massive V-6, V-8, and V-10 options available from other automakers, but Mercedes simply positions the Sprinter as an economical hauler that has up to 547 cubic feet of interior volume in its longest, tallest configuration -- vastly more than any of its competitors.
Starting around $35,000 for a standard length model, the Sprinter costs more than most its rivals and is limited to towing 5000 lbs in van configurations (7500 lbs in most 3500 and chassis cab configurations), which is significantly less than some of its larger-engine rivals. However, with flexibility and refinement deserving of the Mercedes-Benz badge, the Sprinter stands out as one of the few vehicles in its class with a driving experience completely recognizable as being from this century.
Body style: Five-door van
Engine: turbocharged diesel 3.0-liter V-6
Transmission: five-speed automatic
Models: Sprinter 2500, Sprinter 3500; standard roof, high roof; 144-inch wheelbase, 170-inch wheelbase, 170-inch wheelbase extended length; shuttle; chassis cab
After undergoing an extensive upgrade for 2008 and picking up the shuttle model for 2010, Mercedes-Benz has kept low-key on its full-sized van. Where older Dodge- and Freightliner Sprinters went to more plebeian dealerships for service, when the contract to build models for Chrysler and Mercedes' heavy trucks brand expired, the brand brought the Sprinter back to its own dealerships for sales and servicing. That means a waiting fleet manager can find himself in the same position for pampering and quality of service as someone picking up a $200,000 SLS sports car.
With 20 exterior colors from which to choose, the Sprinter has many more choices available than the average commercial van. Tall, upright panels and help make this van look narrow from the outside, but in reality the van's floor is 70.1 inches across at its widest point -- more than a foot more expansive than the Chevrolet Express. Large windows all around the vehicle add to the Sprinter's ease of use, and its short nose contributes to the Sprinter's excellent visibility. In 3500 models, a rear dually setup comes standard, and rugged external door hinges allow the Sprinter's rearmost doors to swing all the way back the its body.
Despite it being a Mercedes-Benz, don't expect soft-touch plastics, leather, and wood trim. Still, the Sprinter's interior comes off as wholly modern with a tilting and telescoping steering wheel and sturdy materials throughout. Mercedes offers a choice of stain-resistant cloth or vinyl seats (preferring to call the latter "leatherette"), and it can be optioned with features often unseen in cargo vans from suspension seats that are often only available in heavy-duty trucks, heated front seats, a partition with jumper seats in the back in cargo models, and even the same multifunction steering wheel available in Mercedes' cars. Additionally, with the exceptional interior height in high-roof models, even NBA stars should be able to stand upright in the Sprinter.
Performance & Handling
With only a 3.0-liter diesel V-6, don't expect quick acceleration. Expect competence. But with an engine smaller than anything else in its class and a 26.4-gallon fuel tank, expect fuel economy to be among the top and a fairly long driving range. In terms of handling, the Sprinter provides an experience similar to a smaller and, dare we say it, sportier vehicle. The ride for this massive van is compliant and well-sorted thanks to a host of Mercedes-Benz electronic aids.
The biggest Benz comes standard with Mercedes-Benz's Electronic Stability Program, Electronic Roll Mitigation Program, and Load Adaptive Control to balance the suspension under hauling weighty items. Parking sensors are available as well as a backup camera. The Sprinter comes with standard from driver and passenger dual-stage airbags, and side-mounted and head airbags are also available.
EPA Fuel Economy
- Cargo capacity
You Won't Like
- Sluggish acceleration
Very much the Mercedes-Benz of commercial vans
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