Review: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Proves an Easy Drive

October 26, 2020 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Mercedes-Benz is one of the top names in luxury autos, so it is no surprise that most people aren’t aware of how much business the German automaker does in commercial vehicles like the Sprinter van.

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van is one of the company’s most important commercial products in Europe. U.S. sales are now growing fast enough for Mercedes to have recently opened a factory to build the van in North Charleston, South Carolina. Sprinter sales rose 9 percent in the U.S. last year, and in this strange 2020 logged a 17 percent year-over-year increase in the third quarter.

Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, also is big into large trucks and owns the dominant Freightliner brand in the U.S.

Trucks.com checked out the new gasoline engine version of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. It’s a popular van that’s used for commercial and recreational purposes.

There’s a disconnect when you jump into the vehicle. While one can easily see the relationship to other Mercedes vehicles, this is a cargo van – not a luxury auto. You aren’t driving an S-Class sedan.

It’s noticeable right away. While the Sprinter van is remarkably agile and easy to drive for such a big vehicle, it doesn’t feel planted like a sport sedan. It’s noisy. And unloaded, it bounces down the road because the suspension is set for cargo. That settles down as more weight is loaded into the van.

But the big takeaway is that this is a van just about anyone can drive in a dense urban environment such as San Francisco. A driver can use street parking, as long as the gap is big enough to fit the 144-inch wheelbase of the configuration Trucks.com tested.

It can make reasonably tight turns and it drives up a 15 percent grade San Francisco hill with no trouble. This is a good urban van, ideal for delivery applications and for tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians.

The Trucks.com test vehicle was a Sprinter 2500 Crew Van with a 2-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine.

The turbocharged engine is new to the Sprinter line up. Previous versions had diesel engines but customers wanted a gasoline option. The engine produces up to 190 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to an excellent 9-speed automatic transmission that executes almost imperceptible gear shifts.

This is a great little motor. It easily powered the Sprinter up California’s famous Grapevine that separates the Los Angeles basin from the northern portion of the state. It had plenty of zip for highway on-ramps and passing. The van cruises the highway at well over most speed limits. But beware of wind gusts.

Other basics for this configuration include the 144-inch wheelbase, but a longer version is available. The test vehicle had a high roof. At 79 inches it adds 11 inches to the height of the vehicle, allowing for people to stand up and walk through the cargo area. The gross vehicle weight rating is 9,050 pounds. As a crew van, the Sprinter had seating for five. While there may be some applications for needing both rear cargo space and extensive seating capacity, most buyers will want to eliminate the second row to have more room in the back. That’s true whether you are hauling goods, supplies and tools for a trade, or converting the Sprinter to a recreational vehicle.

The Sprinter comes equipped with a 22-gallon fuel tank and you are going to need it. In 875 miles of mostly highway driving the van averaged about 17 mpg. Except for those using their Sprinters as RVs, most of these vans will have a high percentage of urban driving. The Sprinter, for example, is a popular vehicle for package delivery. But that type of stop and go driving will cut the fuel economy dramatically. As a commercial vehicle, the Sprinter van does not have an official EPA fuel economy rating.

For 2020, Sprinter Crew van’s starting price is $42,170 plus a $1,495 delivery fee. That prices it above rival offerings such as the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster. The test vehicle’s better options included a parking package with backup camera, armrests and a wood floor with six D-rings for anchoring goods. It doesn’t take a lot of options to push the price of a well-equipped Sprinter north of $50,000.

The driver convenience package the test Sprinter is a good add-on but adds about $1,200 to the price. The package includes blind spot assist, driver attention assist and cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel among other features.

The Sprinter is a roomy, remarkably agile cargo van with plenty of power. It works well for delivery and trades and makes an excellent base for a recreational vehicle. Expect sales to continue to grow, especially as e-commerce increases and there are more delivery vehicles on the road.

Amanda Ellis February 14, 2019
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