All-new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is born to run in SA

The retiring Sprinter – generation 2 – was in production for over a decade, so potential buyers will have high expectations of its all-new 2019 replacement. Is Sprinter Mk 3 made of the right stuff?

Handy Andy, Five Roses, StaSoft - Words we use when describing not just one specific product, but a whole class of products. These proper nouns have become common nouns, your grammar teacher would have said.

So, you probably wouldn’t be upset if you ordered Five Roses and get Lipton tea or if the StaSoft was sold out and you had to buy Comfort.

For the companies who manufacture these products it’s branding nirvana. Does it happen in the automotive world? Not really. There’s Jeep and Land Rover that can be interchanged with "4x4", but it seems a little ignorant. Some people would also call any chromed cruiser bike with a V-twin engine a Harley, but that also shows a lack of understanding.

Class captain

What about the Sprinter then, the subject of this report? Maybe not quite, but it gets damn close. If you wanted to describe a large minibus or panel van, you can say "Sprinter" and most people will have a fair idea of what you’re on about. Daily or Crafter? Not so much, methinks.

So if it’s the king of the heap, it had better deliver the goods. (Sorry.) Fortunately for Mercedes-Benz South Africa, who has to sell whatever Germany sends them – good or bad – it’s a great product.It starts with the solid feel and appearance everything has: body panels, bumpers, doors, seats, dashboard and switchgear. It’s so well made and bolted together that it outclasses its smaller siblings, the V-Class and Vito, and for similar money.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter range

Shapes and sizes

In broad terms, the Sprinter range is divided into four categories: Panel Van, Freight Carrier, Tourer and the Inkanyezi large taxi.

The Panel Van is available in three vehicle lengths: standard, long and extra-long and with a standard or high roof. The load compartment has a volume of up to 15.5m3 and a maximum payload of 2675kg.

The Sprinter Freight Carrier can be ordered in one of two vehicle lengths, standard and long, in single cab or double cab. It also has a 2675kg payload in the 5000kg weight variant, just like the Panel Van.

The Sprinter Inkanyezi is available in three vehicle lengths – standard, long and extra-long – and two roof heights: standard and high roof. Seating capacity of up to 22 passengers is available.

Similarly to the Tourer, the Inkanyezi has to be customised by a Mercedes-Benz Van Partner body builder (the kind that builds truck bodies – not the gym bros).

Mercedes has introduced a special low-mass Sprinter, with a GVM under 3.5t. This is a smart move, because you don’t need a Code 10 (Code C1) licence to drive it.

So, what else can you do with a Sprinter? The answer is: almost anything you want.

Using Mercedes South Africa's approved body builders, your imagination can run wild. At the media launch in Johannesburg Mercedes displayed an ambulance, a luxury motorhome and a limo.

I’ll have a trans-continental party bus with a 10 000 watt sound system, thank you.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter



Safe as houses

So, besides a myriad of bodies and good build quality, what else does the all-new Sprinter range bring? The answer is lots of safety tech – some of it as standard equipment, some as optional extras. Which Sprinter you buy largely determines how many life-preserving gadgets you get as standard.

The following items are built into every vehicle in the range: Cross-wind assist, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, a driver airbag, a heated exterior mirror and a third brake-light. 

Among the optional safety items – some available for the first time – are Active Brake Assist, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, reversing camera, 360?-degree camera system, Active Lane-Keep Assist and LED headlights. 

The DISTRONIC system automatically regulates the distance from the vehicle ahead. In the event of the vehicle in front decreasing speed, the system will slow the vehicle down up to a complete stop, which was demonstrated to us on the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. We also experienced the new Sprinter’s highly effective stability control system that kept the vehicle’s course true in exciting swerve and slalom tests.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Lower fuel consumption

For potential owners of Sprinter type vehicles, fuel consumption is a deal maker or breaker. Mercedes-Benz SA says the new Sprinter 516 CDI uses 8.5 per cent less diesel than its predecessor, which is a significant saving. The 516 uses a 2.2-litre turbodiesel with a maximum output of 120kW and 380Nm. The same engine is available in some of the smaller Sprinters (like the 311 CDI), where it’s rated at a maximum of 84kW and 300Nm.

A 3-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel is available in some variants and pushes out 140kW and 440Nm.  Though none of these figures are impressive on paper, the vehicles felt anything but sluggish. Fuel tank capacity is either 71 or 93 litres.

It’s interesting to note that Mercedes-Benz SA has reduced the prescribed service intervals from 40 000 to 20 000km. A company spokesperson said this is because of the country’s punishing conditions, especially the dusty environments the vehicles operate in.

Pricing

The Sprinter’s standard issue transmission is a six-speed manual, but for R28 525 (excl. VAT) buyers can have a 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic gearbox fitted.

Great news for those who will undertake expeditions in their Sprinters is that it’s available with all-wheel drive for a premium of about R140 000.

While we’re on the numbers; the Sprinter range starts at R461 783 and goes up to R815 925.

These prices exclude CO2 tax and 15% VAT. Keep in mind that you have to budget for body-building if you will be using your Sprinter as a people mover.

To have a taxi built you will have to add about R200 000 to the base price.

For more info, visit the website here

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