New Mercedes Sprinter driven
by Colin Windell, editor & publisher Autonews
Mercedes is set to launch a brand-new version of its popular Sprinter
medium van - and it's so advanced that many of its features come
straight from the company's luxury sedans. We drive it in Europe.
2007 Mercedes Sprinter
The new Sprinter is set to be launched in South Africa early next year,
but not all derivatives will be available from launch.
Gert Grobler, product manager for Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles at
DaimlerChrysler SA, says the selection will cover all fleet needs and
is based on current customer demand and feedback.
The Mercedes-Benz Vans business unit has invested some R13.5-billion in
the development of this new model, with 1 000 different versions on
offer when the various wheelbase versions, lengths, heights, weight
ratings, body types, engines and transmissions are added up.
The new Sprinter features dynamic styling melding typical design themes
of the Mercedes-Benz brand - for example the treatment of the headlamps
and radiator grille - with the hardheaded rational qualities required
in a van.
The sidewall line rises and widens from front to rear, resulting in a
dynamic side view that echoes the smaller Vito.
It eventually merges with the three-dimensionally shaped rear lights,
which are neatly integrated in the overall contours of the vehicle.
The sidewall line, together with the typical slanted lower window edge
and the slanted base of the B-pillar, give a dynamic sense of forward
movement and sculpted wheel arches accentuate the sense of
Aerodynamic optimisation of the exterior design using computer
simulations and wind tunnel tests has resulted in reduced drag and
reduced susceptibility to dirt accumulation. The drag coefficient (Cd)
of the closed-body versions of the new Sprinter is just 0,32.
It is available in three wheelbase versions (3 250/3 665/4 325 mm),
four lengths (in the case of closed-body versions) from 5 243 mm to 7
343 mm and with a choice of standard roof, high roof or the new
super-high roof. And with GVM ratings from 3 - 5 tons, caters for all
the main weight segments in its class.
The product range covers virtually all applications - the panel vans
alone offer load space from 7 m3 to 17 m³. It also achieves a
best-in-class loading width, for the large sliding door, of 1 300 mm
and a best-in-class loading width between the wheel arches in
single-tyred versions of up to 1 350 mm.
New standards in this class are also set by the Sprinter's standard
specification - among many other features, every model now comes with
electrically operated windows, radio remote control central locking,
driver's air bag, six-speed transmission, wide-angle mirrors and
Materials and build quality are likewise impressive and the new seats
are anatomically contoured and provide good support.
The driver's seat also has infinitely variable height adjustment.
Optionally, for example, for the parcel delivery sector, flip-up
co-driver seats are available along with a slide-lock door to the cargo
The steering wheel can now optionally be supplied in a height and
tilt-adjustable version. Extended longitudinal seat adjustment and more
headspace provide more room in all directions. The crew cab version has
Taking centre stage in the cockpit is the centre console, which
includes three DIN slots, a cup holder and a switch strip.
The instrument cluster includes speedometer and rev counter dials. If
the multifunction steering wheel is specified, a wide range of
additional information can be shown in the large displays of the
HighLine instrument cluster.
Driver convenience is provided by an all-new stowage concept that
includes door compartments for large drinks bottles, a spacious stowage
area on the instrument panel and stowage compartments above the
windscreen for driver and co-driver.
On vehicles with air-conditioning, the glove compartment can be
The standard-specification halogen H7 headlamps offer enhanced
performance and excellent light output and bi-xenon headlamps are
available as an option. They also incorporate an Add-Light system with
cornering light function - both of which are new to the van market in
Also optionally available is a rain/light sensor.
The sensor continuously adjusts the wiper interval depending on how wet
the windscreen is and the sensing system that automatically switches
the headlamps on and off monitors both the overall ambient light level
and the ambient light in front of the vehicle when deciding what
lighting is required.
The new exterior mirrors, with integrated wide-angle auxiliary mirrors
left and right, provide excellent rearward visibility on versions with
Parktronic specified, the rear distance indicator lights are
incorporated in the mirror.
The four radios available ex works for the Sprinter all include a CD or
DVD player and three of them come with a telephone keypad. The high-end
Sound 50 APS and COMAND systems also feature integrated navigation
systems - arrow-type navigation in the case of the Sound 50 and
map-based navigation in the case of COMAND.
Engine choices are the four-cylinder 2 148 cm³ OM 646 CDI turbo-diesel
engine in four output ratings, ranging from 65 kW to 110 kW. The
versions with two-stage turbo-charging are another first in the van
segment. The two turbo-chargers are mounted in series and develop high
power and torque in all rev ranges.
The new top-of-the-line diesel engine is the OM 642, a 3-litre V6 unit
developing a maximum output of 135 kW, maximum torque of 400 Nm and
features an aluminium crankcase, a balancer shaft and two overhead
camshafts per cylinder bank.
All the diesel engines have Euro 4 or EU 4/III low emissions rating,
are equipped as standard with a particulate filter and can go 40 000 km
- equivalent to once round the world - on one oil change. With the help
of the Assyst maintenance computer, even longer oil-change intervals
The M 272 V6 petrol engine has a displacement of 3,5 litres delivering
a maximum output of 190 kW, and power is transferred to the rear wheels
via a five-speed automatic transmission.
This transmission is also optionally available for the diesel engines,
which are fitted as standard with a six-speed manual unit. Up to three
final-drive ratios are available for each model, allowing the Sprinter
to be closely matched to its application.
The rear-wheel-drive chassis is designed to cope with high engine power
and large payload variations. New transverse leaf springs made of
fibreglass-reinforced plastic are used at the front and new parabolic
springs are used at the rear.
All models including chassis versions are equipped as standard with a
new-generation Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) known as Adaptive
In addition to the usual parameters, this system is now also able to
determine the mass and the centre of gravity. This and other new
functions allow Adaptive ESP to intervene with even greater sensitivity
and precision in critical situations. Optionally, the Start-off Assist
system AAS can be integrated in Adaptive ESP.
This hill-start system prevents the vehicle from rolling downhill when
the driver switches from the brake pedal to the accelerator during a
hill start. To facilitate the manoeuvre, Start-off Assist maintains the
brake pressure for up to two seconds after the service brake has been
All Sprinter models are equipped as standard with 16 inch wheels, which
allows larger diameter brake discs to be fitted.
The disc brakes are ventilated at the front and solid at the rear on
models up to 3.88 ton permissible GVM, while the 4.6 ton and 5 ton
models get ventilated disc brakes both front and rear.
Safety specification includes three-point seat belts on all seats,
height-adjustable head restraints and belt force limiters. The driver's
seat and the outer co-driver's seat are also fitted with belt
tensioners. A front air bag for the driver is standard. A co-driver's
front air bag, thorax bags and window bags are optionally available.
The bench seats in the crew bus are equipped with quick-release latches
that allow them to be removed from the vehicle quickly and without
tools. The integrated seat belts remain on the seat when it is removed.
Mercedes-Benz builds the Sprinter at its factories in Düsseldorf
(panel vans and crew buses) and Ludwigsfelde near Berlin (pickups,
The latter factory, in the old East Germany, has been significantly
upgraded for the Sprinter and will produce the Crafter for Volkswagen
and the Dodge Sprinter for the US market.
As one of the first journalists to visit the ?new? plant, it was
difficult not to be impressed by the cleanliness and productivity
stats. With new jobs created to cater for Sprinter production, the
plant is gearing for a full three-shift cycle before the end of the
On the road
Imagine, if you will, an E Class Mercedes-Benz passenger car, only five
times larger - this gives some indication of what driving the new
Sprinter is like.
With the more upright steering wheel, positioned very much the same as
in a passenger car, the opulent dashboard that mimics the passenger
range, and the multi-way seating, even the biggest of the Sprinters
becomes easy to deal with; even on the ?wrong? side of the road.
While not overly testing, our road route near to Vienna in Austria
provided a good mix of freeway, main, country and small village roads
with speeds on open sections limited more by tough Austrian enforcement
than anything else - except for the V6 diesel which was to governed to
90 km/h to prevent costly over-enthusiasm.
Perhaps more illuminating was the opportunity to test the Sprinters at
a driver training facility where the new level of electronics could be
safely pushed to their limits.
The most impressive of these came with the combination of anti-lock
brakes and anti-skid control working in tandem with the centre of
gravity sensor to keep the vehicle in an upright posture in hard
This prevents both roll-over as well as terminal understeer or
oversteer - the latter rather difficult to induce, even though the
vehicles are rear driven.
Slalom tests also produced no untoward reactions and heavy braking
(from 90 km/h) kept stopping distances to within passenger car limits,
even with a load of nearly a ton on board.
Prices of the new vehicles, even including all the new electronic
devices, are not expected to rise dramatically over those of the
Oh, and one more thought.
What have Ferrari and the 2006 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van in common?
They are the only two vehicles that get a 360-degree rotation in the
phosphate tank in the paint shop - a process that ensures every surface
is comprehensively coated and allows for a 12-year warranty for
corrosion perforation on the Sprinter.