Smart Thinking

Sprinter’s dual cab brings Mercedes-Benz safety to your light commercial fleet

Yes, it’s big. When you see the Sprinter dual cab for the first time it seems to tower over its smaller competitors, being longer, wider and higher than anything originating from Japan or Thailand.

The wide opening doors give great access to the front section, and, with bucket seats for the driver and passenger, it’s possible to easily walk across the cab to exit on the nearside door, rather than climb out into the passing traffic. The space between the two individual front seats also provides access through into the rear section of the cabin, or, for those that like the added convenience, it forms the ideal location for a compact fridge unit.

The seat positioning for the driver is excellent, and vision through the large windscreen about as good as it gets. Also impressive is the view alongside the vehicle afforded by the large door mirrors. These are vibration free and don’t seem to contain any blind spots, either on a freeway or when competing in the urban jungle.

If you’ve been looking closely for a large dual-cab ute, you will already be aware that there are many similarities between the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the Volkswagen Crafter – even to the extent of being made in the same factory in Germany where VW badges and the three-pointed star seem to follow each other down the production line.CARS_VANS_Mercedes-Benz-Sprinter-Dual-cab_3

Although the styling and design looks similar, and the dashboard is almost identical, the differences come under the bonnet in the overall drivetrain configuration. Although both products are front-engined and rear-wheel-drive, the VW versions feature their own engine and transmission, as do those of Mercedes-Benz.

Our test vehicle was the Sprinter 316 MWB Dual Cab Chassis with a factory tray. With a GVM of 3.55 tonnes, it’s well under the threshold of needing a light rigid truck licence, meaning this highly impressive ute can be driven by the holder of a standard car licence. If you need more payload, there are higher weight versions available as you move up the tree into the domain of the medium rigid truck licence requirement.

There is of course a certain image benefit from having the Mercedes-Benz badge on the bonnet. For a delivery vehicle driver it’s probably the equivalent to receiving the Golden Globe Award of courier work, showing your mates that the boss thinks enough of your efforts to put you in the best possible transport on the market.

The 316 comes in medium wheelbase dimensions as a single cab or dual cab, and leads buyers into a range of higher weight options that include the Sprinter 516 in medium wheelbase and long wheelbase, again in both body configurations of single and dual cab. For those wanting more power and performance, the range peaks out with the 519 LWB, which, like the 516, comes with a GVM of 4.49 tonnes for car licence driver rating, or, for those wanting more payload, a 5.0-tonne rating. Again, it’s available in MWB and LWB chassis configurations.

Although Delivery is well accustomed to the Sprinter and Crafter, this was the first time we had experienced the five-speed automatic transmission behind the 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, common-rail injected diesel with twin turbocharging.

This drivetrain is excellent. The engine power delivery is smooth and the five-speed automatic ratios compliment the engine power and torque performance. With 163 hp and a peak torque output of 360 Nm, this Euro 5 emissions level engine is an ideal size for the 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight.

These latest European small capacity diesel engines have really raised the bar when it comes to performance, lower emissions and overall cost of ownership. Gone are the days of oil drain intervals every 5,000 km. The four-cylinder twin turbocharged diesel in this version of the Sprinter only needs to visit the dealership for service once every 30,000 km, or 12 months.CARS_VANS_Mercedes-Benz-Sprinter-Dual-cab_4

Thanks to the Mercedes-Benz BlueEFFICIENCY technology for common-rail, high-pressure injection, the fuel consumption runs along the same lines as the minimal thirst of the current C and E-Class car range.

Safety standards also follow those of the passenger car division, with driver and passenger airbags, window airbags, and thorax airbags for the driver and passenger.

Mercedes-Benz is now incorporating some safety features that simply do not exist in the specifications of its competitors. One of these is Adaptive ESP 9i, which adds brake disc wipe and electronic brake pre-fill to the standard braking system.

Brake Disc Wiping increases the efficiency of the braking reaction in heavy rain. This function briefly brings the brake pads close to the brake disc at defined intervals without the driver noticing, preventing the formation of a film of water. The first group adapts braking pressure and brake-booster pressure to the driving and system status. For instance, if the driver suddenly takes his/her foot off the accelerator pedal, Electronic Brake Prefill applies pilot pressure in the braking system and brings the brake pads into contact with the discs. xIf emergency braking follows, these preliminary steps reduce the total braking distance. Further examples for brake and boost assist functions are the Hydraulic Brake Boost and the Hydraulic Brake Assist.

The incorporation of Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones should be mandatory for all vehicles these days, and the Sprinter already has that requirement covered. So too is the fitment of cruise control with an upper speed limiter that MB calls SPEEDTRONIC, fast becoming a compulsory item for anyone driving in Melbourne where tolerance for even a very slight excursion over the stated speed limit is treated severely.

All the controls are easy to reach and use, with the single column stalk on the left of the steering wheel handling the controls for direction indicators and windscreen wipers and washers. The cruise-control/upper-speed-limiter column stalk is mounted higher, again to the left of the wheel.

What defines the Sprinter to be worthy of some serious consideration, if you are in the market for a crew cab, is the amount of available space, not only in the front, but also for big blokes in the rear. The bench seat has enough headroom and shoulder room for guys in the local footie club. The seat base also hinges up to provide a large storage area beneath, large enough to cope with gumboots, rainwear and even toolboxes.

Delivery chose the inner city peak hour of Melbourne for the start of its evaluation, and continued to drive through the suburbs out to Doncaster where we simulated dropping parcels at the Westfield loading dock. Access for even a large vehicle in the situations is not compromised, and, although the driver is limited to accessing typical underground car parking areas, we didn’t find a loading dock we couldn’t enter throughout the entire evaluation.CARS_VANS_Mercedes-Benz-Sprinter-Dual-cab_2

As we have mentioned, the ratio matching of the transmission to the performance and torque capabilities of the engine are first class. Also noteworthy is the comfort level, which is similar to car-like in standards and all-round visibility.

MB supplies a steel dropside body for those who don’t have their own specific bodywork in mind, and this is well designed with concealed locking systems for each dropside and rear panel. That said, there’s obviously every opportunity for a customer to fit task specific bodywork, whether that might be a small fridge van body or larger pantech’.

The big gain for local councils that are in the market for a handy crew cab comes in the form of the passenger spaciousness. All the large crew cabs in this market segment, from IVECO with the Daily or Fiat with the Ducato, compete on equal terms, with far more appeal than anything designed in Japan.

The choice of additional options covers some fairly wide areas, with bodywork features such as the dropside tray including a headboard protection screen that safeguards the rear window from damage. There’s also a ladder rack carry frame, Bi-Xenon headlamps with a cornering function, a suspension seat for driver and/or passenger, plus additional pulley options already mounted on the engine for those running a chiller/fridge unit.

Finally, there’s one more option that might just tip the scales in favour of the Mercedes-Benz. All Sprinter cab/chassis models are available with an all-wheel drive option.

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