2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: Bringing tech to work
The year 2006 doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago until you start thinking about it: George W. Bush was still in the White House. Blu-Ray discs hit the market. Pixar’s first Cars movie premiered. It’s been a long twelve years since we last saw an all-new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but the 2018 (2019 for us here in the U.S.) third-generation Sprinter is here, looking similarly handsome from the outside and packed with new tech and forward thinking that belie its familiar appearance.
With an eye toward future growth in urban centers, online retail, and CEP (courier, express, and parcel) services, the new Sprinter is less an all-new vehicle than it is a platform for Mercedes-Benz to position itself as a leader in commercial fleet logistics support and technologies. The Sprinter’s dashboard and controls are updated to bring it in line with current-generation Mercedes vehicles, with the new van being second model to receive the company’s impressive MBUX multimedia system. That means a 10.25-inch touchscreen alternately controlled from the steering wheel or through voice activation. The setup also includes USB-C outlets, and iPad-quick graphics.
The cockpit has been optimized to serve what Mercedes sees as its role as a workplace rather than merely a driver’s seat. Safety technologies that until now had been appearing only in Mercedes-Benz cars and SUVs will be available on the new Sprinter. Active brake assist, lane keeping assist, and an optional parking package with a 360-degree camera are options, with crosswind assist and speed-sensitive electric power steering standard.
Connected work truck
Mercedes-Benz has designed the Sprinter to be part of the “Internet of Things” (we can’t stand the term either). To that end, the third-generation Sprinter’s great leap forward is its use of the Mercedes PRO connect system. PRO links fleet managers to all their vehicles, allowing them to reassign drivers on the fly and monitor everything from location (now accurate to just 10 feet) to fuel levels to maintenance schedules in real-time. Additional packages will be available to customize PRO to specific fleet needs: digital logbooks, fleet communication services, and more.
After a 2013 refresh, the cosmetics of the 2018 Sprinter remain relatively intact. The new van is much better looking in the face, but slightly more anonymous, too; it’ll be difficult to tell a third-generation Sprinter from a second-generation at a glance. Between optional lengths, tonnage requirements, heights, body types (passenger, panel van, pickup, chassis), and powertrains, Mercedes-Benz claims there are over 1,700 different configurations of the third-generation Sprinter. A front-wheel drive option is new to the European market, which will be able to haul an additional 110 pounds, and facilitate future installation of the electric drive system of the eVito (the electric Metris van not available in the US). A second bonus of the front-wheel drive Sprinter is that it allows a slight lower floor, increasing overall storage and making loading and unloading easier—no small thing if you’re making 100-150 stops a day.
Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that due to demand, the U.S. will get an optional gasoline engine. It’s safe to assume that the 3.0-liter diesel V6 will remain an option as well. Europe will see the 2.1-liter 4-cylinder and 3.0-liter 6-cylinder diesel engines, with the electric variant arriving next year. A 9-speed automatic transmission will be coming to North America, with the 7G-Tronic Plus and a new 6-speed manual available in other markets (the manual being available for front-wheel drive Sprinters). There’s no official word on when we might see the eSprinter in the United States, but reports have it as a near-certainty.
Mercedes-Benz is currently taking orders for the 2018 Sprinter with European deliveries beginning in June. Look for its U.S. arrival in the third quarter of 2018.