A mix of technology and load hauling capability makes the latest Sprinter a remarkable van, says Dan Gilkes.
A quick drive up the M1 motorway, from Mercedes’ Milton Keynes base to just north of Nottingham, quickly reinforces just how popular the firm’s Sprinter van is with long haul van fleets. At the same time, probably 90% of the LCVs that deliver to our office during the week also wear the three-pointed star.
Indeed, with the latest generation, Mercedes-Benz aims to offer something for everyone when it comes to larger vans. Sprinter can be had with front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Gross weights range from 3.0-tonnes through to 5.0-tonnes and load volumes rise from 7.8-15.5m3.
Yet, for anyone who might think that this diversity of models could lead to Mercedes taking its eye off the ball when it comes to the essential van, think again. The rear-wheel drive L3H2 316CDI is core Sprinter territory and it is better than ever.
With a gross weight of 3.5-tonnes, this 14m3 van delivers a healthy 1,078kg of load capacity. There are larger panel vans around of course, the L4 Sprinter offers 15.5m3 of volume and some competitors go right up to 17m3, but for everyday usability, the 316CDI will hit the spot for many.
Likewise, you can opt for Merc’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, if you really need 190hp. For most though, this 163hp version of the venerable 2.1-litre four-cylinder offers the perfect mix of power and economy. On that northbound motorway trip, it showed an incredible 37.1mpg on the dashboard readout, which only dropped to 35mpg with some city and inter-urban driving added into the mix.
What’s under the bonnet is almost a secondary consideration with today’s Sprinter though, as it is in the cab that the van leaves its competitors trailing. We’ve mentioned the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) before, but the combination of clear 7-inch touchscreen with the “Hey Mercedes…” vocal commands and intuitive controls on the steering wheel, make the big Merc a pleasure to operate.
All Sprinters now come with a built-in SIM card too, providing a conduit for a host of additional Mercedes PRO services, from integrated telematics to eco and safety monitoring.
Admittedly, the press office had seen fit to specify almost £4,500 of optional extras on the test van, but even in standard trim the Sprinter is well equipped. That standard specification includes a host of safety and assistance tech, from Active Brake Assist and Crosswind Assist, to Headlight Assistant and Hill-Start Assist. Plus, if you want to stretch your budget further, your local Mercedes will be more than happy to talk through a massive list of options.
With long service intervals, decent fuel economy, a reassuring warranty and the availability of extended hours support, it is little wonder that high-mileage fleets turn to the big Mercedes. The good news for their drivers is that there are few better vans to drive.
However you specify the van, the latest-generation Sprinter is a heavy LCV at the very top of its game.