Aside from the improved efficiency and cleanliness of the engines, not a lot has changed with regards to driving characteristics. Customers still get to choose from versions of Mercedes’ doughty 2.1-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel, an engine which has forged a strong good reputation for its combination of performance, economy and refinement and, almost uniquely for a four cylinder LCV diesel, is fitted with balancer shafts to eliminate vibration.
As with previous Sprinter models, this unit comes in three states of tune, the options beginning with the 95bhp entry level version. Though this version has a useful 184lb/ft of torque, it has only a single-stage turbocharger that can’t match the smoothness or response offered by the twin-turbo that’s fitted to the 129 and 163bhp versions of this engine. These respectively deliver either 225 or 266lb/ft of pulling power, enough to deal with increased towing weights that in the case of the 3.5 tonne model that most businesses buy have risen to the same figure, 3.5 tonnes.
Unusually for a van in this sector, there’s also a 190bhp V6 CDI diesel option offering a massive 325lb/ft slug of torque so potent that it must be channelled through a redesigned version of the 6-speed manual gearbox.
As you would expect for a van range like the Sprinter, customer choice is virtually limitless, but the van encompasses a price range of between £21,000 and £35,000, which is a little more than what you’d pay for the likes of a Ford Transit, or Vauxhall Movano, but experience has shown that the Sprinter tends to make up for this over its whole life due to better reliability and beefier residuals.
Mercedes’ appetite for innovation is apparent in the development of this latest version, most notably in the fitment of the sort of safety features that not so very long ago were the preserve of luxury saloons.
The Sprinter is available with Crosswind Assist, which is fitted as standard, and collision prevention assist and Blind Spot Assist, which are both optional. Other key safety features are Highbeam Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.
This latest Sprinter is the world’s first van to meet Euro6 emissions rules, future-proofing it better than any of its rivals. The combination of highly efficient diesel engines, the optimised powertrain, a longer axle ratio, improved ancillary components and the BlueEFFICIENCY PLUS efficiency package has reduced fuel consumption to a minimum of 44.4 mpg (NEDC combined), which is a record value for the Sprinter segment.
However, the Sprinter is extremely economical not only as a result of its high fuel efficiency, but also because it comes with the ASSYST maintenance calculation system as standard in Europe. Thanks to this system, the van’s maintenance intervals, which were already long, have been extended to up to 37,000 miles, helping cut operator maintenance budgets significantly.
The Sprinter founded its reputation on solid practicality and the latest model is no exception. The rear doors can be swung through 270-degrees and latched against the sides and the rear door aperture is 1565mm in width, while its height is either 1540 or 1840mm, depending upon your choice of roof height. Ultimate loading capacity does, of course, depend upon your choice between four body lengths.
There’s the Short one that has a loadspace length of 2600mm, the Medium version that boosts this to 3265mm and the long or extra long options with their extended overhangs that boost total loadspace length to either 4300mm or an enormous 4700mm.
The compact and long options sit on a standard wheelbase of 3,250mm or 3,665mm but the lengthiest long or extra long models get an extension between the wheels to 4,325mm. Near vertical interior walls and levelled-off wheelarches mean that you can make the very most of the space on offer.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van has become the byword for excellence in the LCV sector but that excellence tends to come at a price. Sales have remained strong across Europe as operators realise that making false economies in this sector is a mistake they’re not keen on making and the Sprinter’s market positioning will doubtless be improved by this latest model. To be honest, not a lot needed doing to retain its position, but Mercedes remains an engineering-led company and it’s a welcome boost to see engine efficiency improve.
The addition of some welcome additional standard safety features will doubtless boost appeal to owner operators while the interior has also been incrementally improved with more comfortable seating.
If you wanted the best van on the market, the choice was always rather easy. Some things just don’t change.