Mercedes-Benz has taken the wraps off its third-generation Sprinter light commercial vehicle, offering increased versatility, reduced operating costs and new levels of connectivity and technology. The van features new drivetrains, including an EV version, onboard internet connectivity and a host of driver-assistance systems, designed to boost safety and to reduce total cost of ownership.
For the first time, Mercedes will offer Sprinter with front-wheel drive, turning its 2.1-L, four-cylinder diesel engine through 90° and offering outputs of 114 and 143 bhp (85 and 107 kW). There will also be a 177-bhp (132-kW) version of the engine for motorhome use. The power will be transmitted through a six-speed manual gearbox or a new nine-speed automatic transmission. A four-cylinder petrol engine will also be offered in North America and Canada, driving through the nine-speed automatic box.
Rear-wheel-drive models continue, with the 2.1-L engine delivering 114, 143 or 163 bhp (122 kW). There is also the option of a 3.0-L V6 diesel engine in rear-drive vans, producing 190 bhp (142 kW). Rear-drive Sprinters can also be specified with a six-speed manual gearbox, or the company’s proven seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission.
As in the past, Mercedes will offer a four-wheel-drive version of Sprinter, which is based on the rear-wheel-drive van, so will use the same drivetrain options as the rear-drive models.
Mercedes has stretched the service intervals to reduce ownership costs, with rear-drive Sprinters requiring an oil change at 37,000-mile/two-years. Front-drive models will need to visit the dealer at 24,000-mile/two-years.
In 2019, Mercedes will launch a full EV version of the van, called eSprinter. Based on the 11-m3 (388 ft3) body with front-wheel drive, the eSprinter will use scalable battery packs mounted beneath the load floor. AC and DC charging will be available and Mercedes is claiming payloads of at least 1000 kg (2200 lb) for the electric van.
Front-wheel drive Sprinters will be available in three gross weights, from 3.0- to 4.1-t (3.3- to 4.5-ton), while rear-drive models will get a top weight of up to 5.5-t (6.1 ton). There will also be a super-single tire option for the heavier rear-drive vans, providing increased load capacity with smaller wheel-arch intrusions in the load area.
Mercedes will offer Sprinter vans with three wheelbases, three roof heights and four body lengths, taking maximum load volume to 17 m3 (600 ft3). Front-drive models will be around 50 kg (110 lb) lighter than RWD vans, maximizing payload potential and offering a load floor that is 80 mm (3.1 in) lower than the rear-driven vans. Single and crew cab chassis will also be available with a wide range of wheelbases for conversion. In addition, Mercedes will offer what it calls a “traction head,” basically the front section of a front-drive chassis, for conversion to motorhome or minibus body.
Digital tour de force
Mercedes-Benz claims that urbanization, digitalization and versatility were the main drivers in the design and development of the latest Sprinter. This has resulted in unprecedented connectivity, with an onboard internet connection and in-house development of tracking and telematics systems under the Mercedes PRO banner.
There will initially be eight location-based packages available from the factory, including vehicle supervision and operations, fleet communication, maintenance management and a driver’s digital logbook. Fleet managers will be able to communicate with the vehicle, to provide dynamic route guidance, alter delivery schedules and ensure that vehicles are operating at their optimum efficiency. These Mercedes PRO services will be available in 19 European markets from June and in the U.S. by the end of the fourth quarter.
“The services of Mercedes PRO connect work on the modular principle, so that fleet managers can choose precisely the connectivity services that make their day-to-day work and that of their drivers easier,” said Bjoern Sack, head of project connectivity.
“The Sprinter is the first vehicle to have the technical preconditions deeply integrated into the vehicle structure. This ensures maximum operational safety, and also that we can use
the recorded vehicle data to optimally adapt the packages to the needs of the fleet. In the future, this digital package will be continuously expanded with further releases.”
Mercedes will offer in-house telematics and navigation, which can be accessed through the recently launched MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) multi-media system, featuring a 10.25-in touchscreen and voice control. A high-speed LTE-capable internet connection is integrated into the van for use by the Mercedes PRO services or as a hotspot for connected personal devices. The vans will also offer wireless smartphone charging and 115/230V connections for charging of tools and laptops.
All vans except those with four-wheel drive are now equipped with speed-sensitive electric power steering as standard. Driver-assistance systems include the radar-based Distronic cruise control distance assistant, Active Brake Assist, Crosswind Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist. A Parking Pilot system can be specified that includes a 360° camera, to make maneuvering easier.
Mercedes-Benz has sold more than 3.4 million Sprinters around the world since the launch of the second-generation van in 1995. Sprinter is now built in two plants in Germany, in Charleston, SC, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The company will invest €200m by 2025 improving van production at these sites, as it aims to further build sales worldwide.
“Our Sprinter is indeed a global vehicle; in 2017 alone, unit sales stood at more than 200,000,” said head of vans Volker Mornhinweg. “Our customers are facing a very different playing field. Urban density is increasing, supply chains are becoming more complex, delivery times shorter and sustainability even more important. We want to provide our customers with comprehensive support as they navigate this environment, by providing reliable solutions that reach beyond the vehicle.
“We are using our position of strength for fundamental change, from purely a vehicle manufacturer to a provider of holistic transport and mobility solutions.”Continue reading »