A van for everyone

The third-generation Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has arrived in South Africa with the promise of being “100 percent for you”. GAVIN MYERS got behind the wheel at the launch

Can you believe the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter will be 25 years old in 2020? Since the debut of this vehicle range, more than 3,4 million Sprinters have been sold worldwide. The Sprinter has also racked up its fair share of accolades and achieved notable success – even in South Africa, where vans of any size have to try hard to be noticed.

Nadia Trimmel, vice president of Mercedes-Benz Vans, states that, locally, the Sprinter holds the largest market share of the large-van segment in the world.

A key reason for this is its appeal with operators in the long-distance minibus-taxi market, who, she says, have collectively clocked up more than 40-billion kilometres in 20 years of running the Sprinter.

The third-generation Sprinter includes a significant locally developed model in its line-up: the Sprinter Inkanyezi 22-seater, excluding the driver. Designed to meet the needs of the minibus-taxi market, the Sprinter Inkanyezi comes in three different grades with options ranging from the basics like three-point safety belts on every seat to passenger USB ports, free-flow rear air-conditioning, rear speakers and an electric sliding side door at the top end.

Overall, the Sprinter range consists of 12 panel van variants and eight freight carrier variants, beginning with the new 311 CDI 3,49-t gross vehicle mass (GVM) model that allows drivers with a Code B (Code 8) licence to drive it without worrying about licence or weight restrictions.

All the various models can be adapted to suit the user’s requirements. Trimmel explains: “The third generation Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is extremely versatile and modifications can be made effortlessly.

“With our VanPartners, which are approved body builders, the Sprinter helps to improve the lives of those with mobility impairments. All the Mercedes-Benz Vans approved VanPartners are authorised to carry out conversions to accommodate wheelchair users. Mercedes-Benz can assist with technical guidance and facilitation of the conversion.”

The VanPartners include Angelo Kater, BusTruck, Climatic Technologies, Fitment Zone and SA Van Conversions. All the partners are ISO 9001-certified and are able to convert the vehicles into ambulances, wheelchair-accessible vehicles, custom luxury lounges on wheels or go-anywhere family camper-vans and more.

“The third generation Sprinter lives up to its claim of being 100 percent for you,” Trimmel adds. “It is the most ideal vehicle to assist those with mobility impairments. With its spacious cabin, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter offers ample space for people who depend on mobility aids.”

The range of vehicles offers outstanding performance. The 311 models (3 490 and 3 550 kg) use the 84 kW/300 Nm version of the OM651 2,2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. Higher up the payload scale, the 316 (3 550 kg) and 516 (5 000 kg) models employ the 120 kW/380 Nm version of this engine.

Mercedes-Benz Vans claims that these high-output engines offer up 10 kW more than its predecessor, while returning an 8,5 percent improvement in fuel consumption and a 4,5 percent reduction of cents per kilometre.

At the top of the Sprinter pecking order are the 519 models (5 000 and 5 500 kg), which boast the three-litre V6 turbodiesel that produces 140 kW and 440 Nm. New six-speed manual and Mercedes-Benz’s 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmissions are available.

As you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, the new Sprinter is really rather nice to drive. The engines of the various versions are all punchy and smooth and, while the manual transmissions aren’t hard work, the 7G-Tronic is sure to find favour thanks to its quick response and seamless shifts. The ride is comfortable and refined, even when the vehicle is unladen.

The cabin is a similarly comfy place to be. Occupants sit in ergonomically designed seats and the minimalist design means the controls and switchgear are easy to operate. There’s a multitude of handy storage spaces.

Visibility, even in the panel van models, is very good too, giving the driver the confidence to manoeuvre the vehicle into and around crowded spaces easily. Manoeuvrability is even easier when the Sprinter is equipped with the Parking Package, which includes a 360° camera (you can also have a reversing camera mounted in the vehicle’s rear-view mirror).

This system is among the impressive safety and convenience equipment on offer with the new Sprinter. Buyers can optionally spec up to five airbags, LED headlamps, Distronic, Lane Keeping Assist and Active Distance Assist Distronic, which automatically regulates the distance from the vehicle ahead. If the vehicle in front slows down, the system will slow the Sprinter down – even to a complete stop if this is safe.

The standard assistance systems available for the new Sprinter include rain-sensing wipers, Active Brake Assist, which warns the driver of oncoming danger, as well as Cross Wind Assist and Hill Start Assist.

Moreover, the new Sprinter is one of few Mercedes-Benz vehicles locally with the advanced Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, which uses artificial intelligence to maximise driver convenience. It’s available with either a seven- or 10,25-inch HD display, controlled with touch-enabled steering wheel controls or an all-new voice control system.

Drivers will also appreciate the keyless start, wireless charging facilities and Type-C USB ports. No wonder Mercedes-Benz Vans proudly proclaims that the Sprinter offers a best-in-class range of features. The new Sprinter range starts from R461 783 and includes a five-year/100 000-km service plan (service intervals are 20 000 km), which is updatable to maintenance plans.

With the promise of performance, comfort and accessibility, the third-generation Sprinter should definitely be your first choice when purchasing a new vehicle!

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