2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 Cargo Van. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Peter Bleakney
When it comes to diesel-powered Euro commercial vans, Mercedes-Benz has had it pretty good here in North America for many years. The second-generation Mercedes Sprinter van (née Dodge Sprinter) has been with us since 2008, and up until very recently has seen no competition to speak of. It occupied its own niche, offering myriad configurations along with lower running costs at a price point above the Chevy, GMC and Ford crowd.
Sixty percent of Sprinters sold go to the construction segment (carpenters, plumbers, HVAC, etc), and while this Euro-sophisticate costs about ten grand more than it competitors, it has been named Vincentric’s Lowest Total Cost of Ownership in Class for four years running, Best Fleet Value in Canada for 2012 and 2013, and it just scored the 2014 Canadian Black Book’s Best Retained Value Award. The Sprinter’s fuel economy, long service intervals and high residual value play into its favour.
Still, the Sprinter grabs less than ten percent of the market, and now it has the transplanted diesel Fiat Ducato van (Ram ProMaster) to contend with, along with the Nissan NV and upcoming 2015 Ford Transit that arrives this summer with diesel and EcoBoost gas power. Like the Mercedes, the Ford and Nissan have a box frame and rear-wheel drive. The Fiat-derived-Ram is front-drive with unibody construction, and it gets available diesel power this summer. The Nissan is available only with a gasoline V6 or V8.
For 2014, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter gets a significant refresh. The interior is redesigned, offering better ergonomics and materials along with a number of available driver assist systems. The snout got reworked too. The grille is taller, the hood is raised and the headlights (optional bi-xenon) are more sharply contoured.
The most significant change is found under the hood. The base engine is now a 2.1L turbodiesel “Bluetec” inline-four that makes 161 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to a seven-speed 7GTronic Plus transmission. For those who need more grunt, the 188 hp, 325 lb-ft 3.0L turbodiesel V6 and five-speed auto carry forward.
For most applications, this robust four-pot will be just fine.
The 2014 Sprinter starts at $39,900 and is available from the factory in two wheelbases (144-inch and 170-inch), three body lengths, two chassis ratings (2500 and 3500), three GVWR’s, two engines, three roof heights (standard, high and super high) and it can be ordered as a passenger van, cargo van, crew van, minibus or just the cab on chassis.
I snagged a 2500 144 Cargo Van with high roof (starting $42,400) to move my son and all his stuff into a new apartment. This is an impressive drivetrain. Two-stage turbochargering means there’s bags of torque just off idle, and even when loaded up with furniture this big ol’ box never felt bogged down.
Much credit goes to the seven speed tranny that shifts smoothly and keeps the engine in its relatively narrow power band.
This four-cylinder diesel is all about saving fuel. Mercedes trumpets 7.7 L/100 km highway, and while these ratings are usually wildly optimistic, I did see a bona fide 8.0 L/100 km after one jaunt on some 90 km/h secondary roads with a bit of highway thrown in.
Around town the mileage jumped to around 13 L/100 km.
2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 Cargo Van cargo area & front seats. Click image to enlarge
This Sprinter is a pretty easy rig to drive. The hydraulic steering has better feel than many cars I’ve driven lately, and its tight turning circle adds to in-town maneuverability. It feels quite “Euro” on the road – as planted and buttoned down as one could hope from such an upright piece of rolling architecture.
The high seats, low cowl and huge windshield make for a panoramic forward view. The lower sections of the rearview mirrors are convex to cover the blind spots.
Helping in this regard was the camera and radar-based $1,950 Driving Assistance Package that adds blind spot warning, lane departure warning and collision warning with brake assist. All very nice, but what I could have really used was a back-up camera, as would many who have to back up to loading docks.