Sprinter pushes for pole position
Much fuss has been made about the all-new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but, while the world’s press has been able to offer readers tantalising bits of information about its design and technology, we haven’t been able to get behind the wheel – until now, that is…
FOCUS editor Gavin Myers has just returned from driving the new Sprinter in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and can report that the new model has seemingly broken the mould that has traditionally encapsulated the large-van segment.
With 1 700 variants on offer, the new Sprinter’s architecture is based on a modular system – allowing for all manner of drivetrains and chassis configurations.
Engines range from Euro-3 to Euro-6 units and can be combined with a range of manual and automatic gearboxes that drive the front, rear, or all wheels.
Of course, the exact combinations depend on the market, but South Africa will undoubtedly receive the Euro-3 engines, which are available only with rear-wheel drive.
Operators benefit from increased loading capacity and functionality. For example, on the panel-van variants the wheel arches can be loaded. Likewise, passenger transporters benefit from USB charge sockets, cup holders, an in-vehicle internet hotspot and improved ventilation.
In designing the new Sprinter, Mercedes-Benz has placed great emphasis on making the driving experience as easy on the vehicle’s crew as possible. This has meant high levels of ergonomics and comfort, as well as the integration of what is, undoubtedly, going to set the standard for in-vehicle connectivity: the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) system.
The touch-screen MBUX takes pride of place in the Sprinter’s dashboard and turns the vehicle into the driver’s virtual assistant. It is available with a ten-inch screen and operates in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz’s new-generation multifunction steering wheel and voice control – meaning the system can be precisely controlled without the driver needing to lift a hand from the wheel.
The system includes features such as a message centre for communication with the company’s fleet manager, access to a host of vehicle data, a detailed satellite navigation system and convenient search functionality that could give Google a run for its money.
Importantly, a range of high-tech safety systems have been introduced to the Sprinter, such as lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and a parking package with a 360° view.
Initial impressions are that the new Sprinter offers a class-leading package – powerful and efficient engines, impressive flexibility and load-carrying ability as well as technology designed to make the driver’s job easier and more efficient.
Look out for the full report in issue 5 of FOCUS, which will be out in early May.