Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - Sprinter - range
12 Oct 2006
By LUC BRITTEN
EIGHT years after the first model was launched in Australia, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter this week presents a new look, a wider range, more comfort, an optional new turbo-diesel V6 and standard fitment of the company’s "adaptive" ESP stability control across all models.
The rear-drive Sprinter, which represents a 1.8 billion euro investment by the Mercedes-Benz Vans business unit, also looks more rakish, with a corporate grille/headlight layout that connects visually with Benz sedans, and an upsweeping crease that begins at the front wheel arches and extends through to the tail-lights to distinguish it clearly from the previous model.
Mercedes-Benz will be offering the new Sprinter in a bewildering array of no less than 43 variants covering panel vans, cab-chassis and dual cab-chassis.
There are also three different wheelbases, four van lengths, three roof heights and GVM ratings from 3.55 to 5.0 tonnes.
Panel van capacity ranges from 7.5 to 17 cubic metres and the loading width through the sliding door is 1300mm, while the van interior offers as much as 1350mm between the wheel arches in single-tyre versions.
Mercedes quotes a maximum load capacity of 300kg for the standard roof and 150kg for the high roof. Cab-chassis versions have a maximum roof load capacity of 100kg.
The cab-chassis versions offer optional factory-supplied aluminium-platform trays with waterproof plywood floors in up to three lengths, from 2700 mm to 4300 mm.
What is really impressive about the Sprinter is the sedan-car comfort. In addition to ESP, all models are fitted with ABS brakes (with brake assist) and ASR traction control, not to mention power windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, remote control central locking, a driver's airbag, six-speed transmission, wide-angle mirrors, and 16-inch tyres and rims. Halogen headlights are standard, but the Sprinter is also now available with bi-Xenon lights.
Passengers in the stiffer, stronger, fully-trimmed cab are looked after by the higher-opening doors, while the driver benefits from a new tilt- and reach-adjustable steering column, and a sedan-like instrument display in an interior that has a profusion of storage areas, drink bottle holders and a glovebox that can now be air-conditioned. Luxury front seats, as well as a front suspension seat, are optional, both with a tilt-adjustable squab, inboard armrest and adjustable lumbar support.
Making the driver’s life easy are more car-like features such as optional rain sensors for the windscreen wipers and light-sensing headlights. Particularly useful for parcel deliveries is the optional power sliding side door, and the keyless entry system that senses when the driver is approaching and unlocks the doors, then re-locks them as the driver moves away from the vehicle.
The Sprinter’s 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine comes with a choice of three outputs: 65kW, 80kW and 110kW – the latter via a two-stage turbo Benz claims is a first for the commercial van segment. The new all-alloy 3.0-litre DOHC V6 turbo-diesel produces 135kW, along with a muscular 400Nm of torque and, like the four-cylinder engines, is Euro IV compliant. A significant feature is that all Sprinter engines are fitted with soot-trapping particulate filters.
All four-cylinder engines are available with automatic transmission, with a six-speed manual as standard. The V6 is available as an automatic only.
The electronic safety aids reflect Benz passenger-car technology with ESP (it reacts to varying load weights and distribution), while manual versions also have an AAS hill-start system to make take-offs easier while facing uphill.
Sprinter suspension comprises fibreglass reinforced plastic transverse leaf front springs and the leaf-spring rear suspension now has "further improved handling characteristics" according to Benz.
The Sprinter is fitted with 16-inch wheels and, in mid-2007, will be available with 285/65 R16 C "super single" tyres able to carry significant weight without taking up as much space as dual wheels. A driver's airbag is standard, but side airbags and window airbags are optional.
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