The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has been a staple in the commercial vehicle industry since the first generation was introduced across Europe decades ago. Building upon Mercedes' substantial experience in the field of commercial vehicles, the Sprinter is offered as a cargo van with room for up to five passengers, a passenger van with space for up to 12 occupants, a minibus capable of seating 18 adults and a simple cab-chassis.
For the latest model year, the Sprinter gets an available super high roof option and more standard content. The lineup has also been upgraded with a go-anywhere four-wheel drive model.
The Sprinter's front end falls in line with members of Mercedes' passenger car lineup thanks in part to more dynamic headlights, LED daytime running lamps, a three-slat grille embellished by a large three-pointed star emblem and a more streamlined lower bumper. The back end remains largely the same but it is adorned by new emblems.
The Sprinter's cabin was designed to eliminate the fatigue that inevitably comes with driving long hours. Starting with a spacious cockpit and an ergonomic dashboard, engineers added height-adjustable seats with generous lumbar support, numerous storage bins and a legible instrument cluster consisting of three analog gauges and a digital screen that provides vital information about the truck and its surroundings.
Mercedes' MBrace2 infotainment system has not yet transitioned into the world of commercial vehicles but the Sprinter comes standard with a 5.8-inch touch screen that groups the truck's connectivity, navigation (if equipped) and entertainment functions into a single unit. The system includes Bluetooth connectivity, a telephone keypad, an auxiliary input and a SD card slot.
Consisting of one 2500 model and two 3500 variants, the Sprinter range is available in a dizzying array of configurations including two wheelbase lengths and three body lengths.
With a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,550 pounds, the smallest 2500 model features a 144-inch wheelbase while stretching 232.5 inches long and 96.3 inches tall. Customers after more can opt for a 170-inch long wheelbase, choose a total length of either 273.2 or 289.2 inches and a taller roof that raises the van's overall height to 107.5 inches.
The 2500 is capable of hauling anywhere between 2,948 and 3,479 pounds depending on length and height. Cargo capacity ranges from 318 to 547 cubic feet, and all variants regardless of size can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
3500 models are offered with the same wheelbase and overall length options as their 2500-badged counterparts but they can only be ordered with the 107.5-inch high roof and dual rear wheels. 3500 vans with a GVWR of 9,990 pounds can haul between 3,885 and 4,434 pounds and tow a maximum of 7,500 pounds when properly equipped. Cargo capacity ranges from 371 to 547 cubic feet.
Heavy-duty 3500 models with an 11,030-pound GVWR can haul between 4,936 and 5,485 pounds and tow up to 7,500 pounds. Cargo capacity is identical to that of the light-duty 3500 models.
Mercedes' Sprinter Preferred Upfitter Program enables customers to transform the cab-chassis model into a variety of purpose-built vehicles such as ambulances, tow trucks, moving vans, refrigerated vans or even luxuriously-appointed campers.
Under the Hood
The Sprinter comes standard with a detuned version of the 2.1-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel found under the hood of the GLK-Class crossover. Driven by gearwheels and a short chain, the oil-burner sends 161 horsepower and 265 lb-ft. of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. A two-stage turbocharger helps improve performance and reduce turbo lag.
Buyers after more power can order the van with a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel that sends 188 ponies and 325 lb-ft. of twist to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic gearbox.
V6-powered Sprinters can be ordered with four-wheel drive at an extra cost. Activated at the push of a button, the four-wheel drive system sends 35% of the engine's torque to the front wheels and 65% to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions. Buyers looking to venture even further off the beaten path can order an optional low range that reduces gearing by 42% when it is activated.
The Sprinter 4x4 stands out from its two-wheel drive sibling thanks to a noticeably raised ground clearance that improves the van's slope climbing ability by 20%.
In order to save every last drop of fuel, all Sprinters come standard with a power steering pump that only kicks in when needed, a low-friction rear axle, an alternator that primarily charges the battery when coasting or braking and an air conditioning compressor with a freewheel function.
Standard and Optional Equipment
All Sprinter models come standard with an adjustable steering wheel, A/C, a five-speaker audio system, a storage bin above the windshield, armrests on both front seats and a hydraulic jack.
The list of options includes a navigation system, a rear-view camera, bi-xenon headlights, fog lights, headlight washers, a heated windshield, Mercedes' PARKTRONIC park-assist and rain-sensing wipers.
The Sprinter comes standard with dual front airbags and a wide array of electronic driving aids including Mercedes' Brake Disc Drying technology, Roll Over Mitigation, Enhanced Understeering Control, Hydraulic Brake Assist and Acceleration Slip Regulation. Vans ordered with a trailer hitch come standard with Trailer Stability Assist.
All variants are available with a host of optional safety features such as Blind Spot Assist, Highbeam Assist, Collision Prevention Assist, a tire pressure monitoring system and Lane Keeping Assist. Window and thorax airbags round out the list of safety-related extra-cost add-ons.
The European-designed Sprinter is no longer an odd-ball on the commercial vehicle segment in the United States. Its main competitors are the Ford Transit and the Ram Promaster, two front-wheel drive vans also born in Europe, and the Nissan NV.
2500 buyers can also look at the outdated Chevrolet Express / GMC Savana duo and the Nissan NV200 / Chevrolet City Express.