By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor - Updated Date: 6/4/2012
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter commercial van looks to challenge the monopoly held by Ford and Chevy by offering more features, more options, and better fuel economy. The Sprinter brings to market a very European idea of what a commercial vehicle should be. Unlike its American counterparts, the Sprinter's silhouette favors the vertical over the horizontal, with roof extensions that allow a 6-foot tall individual to stand upright inside the cargo bay. In passenger van form, the 2012 Sprinter provides seating options with an emphasis on safety, comfort and versatility, offering everything from a traditional passenger van to a shuttle-style MiniBus with sideways seating and dual-door passenger entry. But, the greatest differentiator between the Sprinter and its domestic rivals can be found under the hood, where a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 provides the grunt of a big V8 with the fuel economy of a miserly 6-cylinder engine.You'll Like This Car If...
Whether you're in the business of moving people or cargo, you'll love the Sprinter's tall, versatile cargo bay, its numerous configurations (short or long wheelbase, extended top, 2500 or 3500 chassis choice) and best of all, its 24-mpg fuel-economy rating (FYI: that's Mercedes' figures, not the EPAs.)You May Not Like This Car If...
The 2012 Sprinter's Mercedes-Benz heritage means its doesn't come cheap. Finding a place to service the Sprinter won't be as convenient as with a Ford or Chevy van, and parts are likely to be more expensive as well.What's New for 2012
There are no major changes for 2012. However, a stunning concept styled by Becker Automotive Design of Ventura, CA and shown at this year's New York auto show reveals the length of customizing possibilities for the Sprinter, especially when money is no option.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van is surprisingly capable considering both its size and the rather small displacement of its 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 engine. But, what the diesel lacks in horsepower, it more than makes up for in torque, which is what you really need to pull a heavy vehicle like the Sprinter. Acceleration isn't quick, but it is steady and predictable. We're impressed at how quiet the Sprinter's diesel engine is, even under full throttle. Mercedes has tuned the Sprinter's suspension to be as smooth as possible while still delivering some stiffness in the areas of body lean and roll. The steering is a bit heavy to our senses, but it's not so difficult as to require bulging biceps to turn the wheel. Despite its size, the 2012 MB Sprinter possesses a rather tight turning radius, an attribute most delivery drivers will hold in high regard.Favorite Features
The 3.0-liter V6 offers impressive pulling power and even more impressive fuel economy in a package requiring less maintenance and providing a longer life than the traditional gasoline-powered engine.
Pre-packaged configurations for Hotel, Airport, Commuter and Paratransit make it easy to tailor Mercedes' 2012 Sprinter to your customer's needs.
From behind the steering wheel, the Sprinter's Mercedes-Benz heritage is evident. The steering wheel, dash and instruments are clearly MBs, as are the excellent high-back seats. Safety, an attribute on which Mercedes-Benz prides itself, is evident in the Sprinter's available front-seat-mounted thorax and side-curtain airbags. The Sprinter's massive cargo bay can be configured to serve as a rolling workshop, a flat-floored carryall, or as an 18-passenger shuttle. There is also a MiniBus package with varying interior layouts including airport shuttle (sideways seating and interior luggage rack), hotel shuttle (center isle and paired seating with rear bench), and wheelchair accessible shuttle (open space between seats for wheelchair access and anchoring).Exterior
While its fair to say the 2012 Sprinter van isn't going to be winning any concours d'elegance events, its beauty lies more with its functionality rather than its esthetic attributes. Owners can choose between a 144-inch and 170-inch wheelbase, as well as an extended rear and a dually rear axles. If the standard roof height that provides 65-inches of interior ceiling space won't suffice, the high-roof option adds another 13 inches. The Cargo-version Sprinter vans feature full metal side panels and sliding side doors, while the Crew Van offers a glass window in the sliding door and solid panels from the door rearward. The Sprinter passenger and MiniBus models offer massive side windows providing excellent outward visibility all around. Mercedes-Benz also offers a ridiculously varied number of paint colors from Arctic White to the vivid Calcite Yellow.Notable Standard Equipment
Standard equipment for the 2012 Sprinter varies depending on the model (Cargo, Crew or Passenger), but every van includes a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, electronic traction and stability control, front airbags, air conditioning, height-adjustable steering wheel, 270-degree opening rear doors, power windows and locks, 16-inch wheels, hill start assist, remote unlocking fob, and a tire pressure monitor. The passenger vans add tinted windows, additional rear speakers, luxury interior trim and more seats.Notable Optional Equipment
Optional equipment on the 2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van includes side-curtain airbags, front-seat thorax side airbags, an electrically heated windshield, 16-inch alloy wheels, AM/FM/CD radio with Bluetooth hands free phone connectivity, cruise control, luxury driver and passenger seat (includes additional adjustments and manual lumbar support), front and rear park assist, rear backup camera, extendable and heated side mirrors, and a rear sunroof. The MiniBus packages include specially configured vans dubbed Airport, Commuter, Hotel and Paratransit, while the Cargo and Crew Vans offer a number of work-oriented options including tie-downs, rack systems, partitions, additional lighting and power outlets, side wall paneling, and floor coverings.Under the Hood
3.0-liter turbodiesel V6
188 horsepower @ 3,800 rpm
325 lb-ft of torque @ 1,400-2,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A (Mercedes-Benz estimate: 24 mpg)
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van with the short wheelbase and standard roof has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $37,000. A fully-loaded model can easily push into the $50,000 range, and a fully optioned MiniBus can push past $80,000. Compared to the Ford E-Series or Chevrolet Express, the Sprinter might not seem a bargain, but when you add in all the advantages of the various platforms, seating configurations, and the savings from the diesel engine, the Sprinter's extra cost might make sense for fleet managers looking to maximize their truck's potential.