2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Vans
Review of: 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Vans 2500 V6 144"
2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: New engine for a hard worker
By Jil McIntosh
Feb. 13, 2014
Mercedes-Benz essentially redefined the work van segment when it introduced the Sprinter (badged as a Dodge, since the company owned Chrysler at the time). Owners loved it for its car-like handling and the fact that most people could stand up inside it, which not only increased its capacity, but helped cut down on back injuries when loading it.
But with the introduction of the Nissan NV and Ram ProMaster, and Ford’s upcoming full-size Transit, the Sprinter is no longer alone in the “European-style van” segment. The Sprinter’s switch to the Mercedes badge, and to service at Mercedes-Benz dealerships, might also be an issue for some owners. To address operating and ownership costs—the primary concern for any fleet owner—Mercedes has updated the Sprinter for 2014, including a new standard four-cylinder diesel, alongside the previous V6 diesel that now becomes an option. There are also some styling changes, new options, and new packaging.
Pros & Cons
- + Driving position
- - Price of options
- - Traction
- - Secondary controls
Although it’s still essentially a big box, the Sprinter gets better-looking with a new hood and grille, and headlamps that swing up from the grille into the fenders, bringing it more in line with some of Mercedes’ car designs. Bi-xenon headlamps with LED running lights are available as an option.
The Sprinter cargo van is available in 2500 or 3500 capacity, in 144- or 170-inch wheelbase lengths, in three body lengths, and with standard, high, or super-high roof. There’s also a 2500 passenger van and 3500 chassis cab. Base price is $39,900 for the four-cylinder cargo van, and $42,900 for the V6 (a gasoline engine isn’t available).
I had the shorter-wheelbase, but topped with a high roof, which adds $2,500. Several other options, including a cargo partition, comfort seat, auxiliary heater, driver assistance and convenience packages, and navigation system brought my tester to $48,390 before freight and taxes.
The cabin looks better, too, thanks to such updates as a new steering wheel, improved standard radio package, and a fancier gearshift surround. There’s no reason why a work vehicle can’t look good, too.
But it’s still about getting the job done, and the Sprinter is jammed with useful touches, including a new lidded cubby in the centre dash (part of the Convenience Package option), deep upper dash pockets with cupholders, large map pockets, and a clip on the centre stack for securely holding papers. I also had washable interior trim, a $480 option, which made for easy clean-up when road salt built up on the floor.
The only place where it falls down is in the centre stack controls, which are undoubtedly very familiar to European drivers, but not to North American ones. The vent mode is the strangest, consisting of a large dial that you turn to line up tiny arrows for the defroster, dash and floor vents. It’s difficult to tell at a glance where you’ve set it, and every setting still sent air out of the dash vents even when I didn’t want it.
The cargo area is designed for easy upfitting, with numerous slots and attachment points for shelving, and cargo tie-downs in the floor. The rear doors open straight out. Flip the hinge and they can be folded completely back against the body, held in place with magnets, for easy loading or backing up to a dock.
My tester was optioned with a new $1,950 driving assistance package, which added heated power mirrors, heat-insulating glass, automatic headlamps with high-beam assist, automatic wipers, two reading lamps, and three warning systems for lane departure, front collision, and blind spot. Even though the mirrors had convex “spotters” at the bottom, I still appreciated the blind spot warning in traffic.
The new navigation system is a Becker Map Pilot, which uses a navigation box that plugs into a slot in the locking glove box and displays the map in the radio display. It can be moved from vehicle to vehicle, a handy feature for fleets where trucks may only occasionally stray from known territory. Unfortunately, someone had forgotten to put the unit in my tester, so I can’t report on how it works.
A roof-mounted rearview camera is also available—mine wasn’t optioned with it—that now shows guidelines in the display. Pre-installation wiring is available, so fleets can add the camera later on without expensive upfitting.
The new engine is a 2.1-litre four-cylinder mated to a seven-speed automatic. It’s a slick, gutsy little unit that produces 161 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, which kicks in at just 1,400 rpm. That’s less than the V6, of course, but I never felt that it was overworked, even when I had the van loaded with building supplies.
The official fuel figures are 9.9 L/100 km in the city and 7.6 on the highway, while in combined driving in bitterly cold weather, I averaged 11.8. I found that pretty impressive for something this size, especially since it offers good acceleration and smooth performance.
Right now, rear-wheel-drive is the only configuration, but an all-wheel model will be coming sometime in 2015.
It still tends to feel more like a big car than an oversized truck, which has always been part of its charm. That easy-to-drive characteristic is exactly what you want when you’re behind the wheel the entire day.
It’s hard for me to assess value on a work van, because there are so many variables that differ from personal vehicles: mileage driven, capacity, fleet discounts, maintenance, and depreciation aren’t always the same.
Looking strictly at purchase price, the Sprinter’s base $39,900 is the highest right now, compared with the Ram ProMaster at $31,495 in gasoline and $37,495 in diesel, and the gasoline-only Nissan NV, which starts at $30,998. It’s a bit too early to see how resale values will play out against the Sprinter’s, which are still relatively high, and how Ford will price its upcoming Transit.
I thought highly of the Sprinter when it first came out, and I still do. It’s great to drive, especially with this new four-cylinder diesel. It’s now facing competition it never had before, and these new vans will take their toll, but you’ll still see this Mercedes hard at work just about everywhere no matter what.