By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
Once seen as awkward and overpriced, the 2014 Sprinter from Mercedes-Benz has become the norm. Serving everyone from shuttle services to fleet managers, the Sprinter has become the new darling of the service industry. Its tall roof, short hood and fuel-efficient diesel engine choices trump the competition in almost every category, save for towing and payload. Similar looking vans from Nissan, Ford and Ram have already debuted, but none have the Sprinter's proven track record. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter can be configured to seat up to 18 passengers or serve as a rolling repair shop. The optional extended-height roof creates enough room to allow someone 6-foot-3 to stand completely upright, while the standard loading floor height is among the lowest in the segment.
If you need to find the most economical way to move people or cargo, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is tough to top. With a range of roof, chassis and configuration options, not to mention two diesel engine choices, the Sprinter can tackle any job.
If you're looking for a low entry-level price point, the Sprinter can't oblige. Less expensive vans from Nissan, Chevy and GMC undercut the Sprinter and all of them offer powerful gasoline engines. The Ram Promaster rivals the Sprinter on almost every level, costs less and offers both gasoline and diesel engines.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is all-new this year, with new exterior and interior styling, a new standard 4-cylinder diesel engine with a 7-speed automatic transmission and additional accident-avoidance safety equipment. There is more high-end optional equipment too, such as an available onboard navigation radio by Becker.
Driving Impressions The 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van surprised us with its maneuverability and ease of operation. The new 4-cylinder turbodiesel may be fine for lighter loads, but we still prefer the torque...... served up by the available 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. Although it lacks the robust horsepower of a gasoline engine, the combination of low-end torque, rear-axle gearing, and new 7-speed automatic transmission (4-cylinder) help move the Sprinter quickly both from a dead stop and when passing. Mercedes has perfected the turbocharged diesel engine, and both units work quietly and efficiently in the Sprinter, even under full throttle. Suspension settings are tuned to deliver the smoothest ride possible without allowing the tall Sprinter to wallow or lean when cornering. We found the Sprinters turning radius impressively small, a fact many delivery drivers will likely appreciate as well.
TURBODIESEL ENGINE OPTIONS
Whether it's the standard 2.1-liter 4-cylinder or the tried-and-true 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel, the Sprinter is equipped with engines that deliver strong pulling power, good fuel economy and proven longevity.
FOUR NEW ASSISTANCE SYSTEMS
To better help avoid accidents, the Sprinter can be equipped with Collision Prevention Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Highbeam Assist, and Lane Keeping Assist.
From behind the steering wheel, the Sprinter's Mercedes-Benz heritage is evident. The new steering wheel, dash and instruments are distinctly MBs, as are the supportive high-back seats. Safety, an attribute on which Mercedes-Benz prides itself, is evident in the Sprinter's available front-seat and side-curtain airbags. The Sprinter's cavernous cargo bay can be configured to serve as a rolling workshop, a flat-floored carryall, or as a 12-passenger shuttle. There's 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 it's fair to say it isn't going to win any concours d'elegance events, the Sprinter's beauty lies in its functionality. Owners can choose between a 144-inch and 170-inch wheelbase, as well as an extended rear and cab chassis dualie rear axle. If the standard 65-inch interior celling height won't suffice, the high-roof option adds another 13 inches. The Sprinter Cargo Van features 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. Passenger and MiniBus models incorporate large side windows for unimpeded outward visibility.
Though most standard content varies by model (Cargo, Crew, or Passenger), all 2014 Sprinter vans come equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, hill-start assist control, air conditioning, a 5-speaker audio system (13 in the Passenger Van), 270-degree-opening rear doors, power windows and door locks and remote keyless entry. The 5-passenger Crew Van includes a 3-spot rear bench seat, while Passenger Vans feature four rows of seats for a maximum occupancy of 12. The Passenger Van also adds rear ventilation ducts, privacy glass, and rear interior trim. Cargo Van models can be had in heavy-duty 3500 configuration, which ups the payload capacity and weight rating.
The options list for every Cargo, Crew, and Passenger Van includes a rear backup camera, cruise control, a heated windshield, 16-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded audio system with Becker MAP PILOT navigation, high/low beam xenon headlights (a class exclusive), front-seat lumbar support, and front and rear sonar proximity sensors that alert the driver to nearby objects while parking. Cargo and Crew versions offer a variety of work-related features such as a spring-loaded rear bumper step, D-ring cargo straps, rack systems, additional bulkheads, a roof fan, cargo area lighting and 12-volt power outlets, and rubber floor coverings.
Unlike its competitors, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is available only with diesel engines. Standard is a new 2.1-liter turbodiesel mated to a new 7-speed automatic transmission. The larger 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 coupled with a smooth-shifting 5-speed automatic deliver a more satisfying mix of power, efficiency and refinement. While the rear-wheel-drive platform provides ample traction in most driving conditions, those who frequently encounter extreme weather might express a preference for an all-wheel-drive-equipped Chevrolet Express or GMC Savana.
2.1-liter turbodiesel inline-4
161 horsepower @ 3,800
265 lb-ft of torque @ 1,400-2,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: NA
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: NA
A base 2014 Mercedes-Benz 2500 Sprinter Cargo Van carries a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $37,000. The Crew Van starts around $39,000, with the 12-seat Passenger Van checking in just north of $41,000. Fully optioned long-wheelbase versions fitted with the high-roof can easily surpass $50,000, while loaded MiniBus models can push into the $80,000 range. In contrast, starting prices for the more traditional – albeit outdated – Ford and GM vans range from roughly $27,750 to $30,000. The Sprinter's closest competitors at the moment are the Nissan NV, which begins at $27,500 and tops out close to $44,000, while the Ram Promaster starts just under $30,000. In terms of resale, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz is expected to hold above-average 5-year residuals, on par with the Nissan NV and far exceeding the values set by the Ford E-Series and Chevrolet Express.