With over eight million kilometres of testing, the new Sprinter is set to remain dominant in the large van segment – Words by Chris Mullett.
Stand by for a reshuffle in the large van segment as Mercedes-Benz comes in with new additions to its safety arsenal to set a benchmark for single vehicle and fleet owners alike.
The Sprinter has a new face to bring its appearance more in line with current thinking in the car design studios, but the bit that does all the work, as in the van body itself, remains largely unchanged. The interior also looks virtually identical to its predecessor, but there are trim level upgrades and also improvements to the entertainment, Bluetooth connectivity and mapping systems.
The mechanical changes bring in a choice of four engines, ranging from 70 and 95 kW through to 120 and 140 kW, but these engines remain currently at Euro V emissions levels, negating the need for AdBlue to lift compliance up to Euro VI standards. Torque ratings vary accordingly, from 250 Nm and 305 Nm, through to 360Nm and 440 Nm respectively.
When we hit Euro VI in this country you’ll be filling up with AdBlue (also known on the US market as Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)). This will result in a further tank just for the DEF, which is injected into the exhaust system. It all happens seamlessly, but it will mean checking two tanks during your visit to the bowser, rather than just the one distillate pump.
When questioned on why Mercedes-Benz had not jumped straight into Euro VI with the launch of the latest version of the Sprinter, the company suggested the reasoning hinged on the slow rollout of the AdBlue/DEF infrastructure by most of the fuel companies. Until there’s an AdBlue bowser adjoining each distillate outlet, they probably have a valid point.
The switch to Euro VI is also a trigger point for the chassis/cab to move from a five-speed fluid automatic to the new seven-speed auto announced for selected models in the van range. Despite some forced questioning of senior executives to find an answer as to why the chassis/cab version had to remain with a five-speed, when driveline lengths and engines are common with the van, it would appear that head office in Germany is not bending over backwards to move ahead of the next big technology jump with the introduction of Euro VI.
The seven-speed automatic transmission (7G-TRONIC PLUS), as reported in previous issues of Delivery, is an absolute cracker of a gearbox. Way ahead of anything else on the light commercial vehicle market, its introduction has also come with a revision of rear axle ratios to improve fuel economy. As an example, the Sprinter 313CD drops numerically from 4.182:1 to a new ratio of 3.692:2, bringing with it a reduction of 400 rpm when cruising at 100 km/h.
Power is transferred to the wheels via a torque converter with integrated lockup clutch. The lockup clutch minimises power loss or slip across the torque converter and can engage in all gears, depending on engine speed and load. The fifth gear ratio is a direct drive, with sixth and seventh being overdriven ratios to maximise fuel economy.
If you believe in putting your drivers in the safest light commercial available, you’ll be impressed by the inclusion now of the following systems, which make their world debut in the Sprinter: Crosswind Assist, Collision Prevention Assist and Blind Spot Assist. Other new features are Highbeam Assist and Lane Keeping Assist. In addition, Mercedes-Benz has improved the Sprinter’s handling by lowering the chassis. This in turn has reduced the van’s drag and fuel consumption and makes it easier to load and unload cargo.
BlueEFFICIENCY is the term Mercedes-Benz applies to its quest to reduce parasitic power loss caused by ancillary equipment draining power off the engine and thereby increasing fuel consumption.
For Sprinter, this means the BlueEFFICIENCY package brings with it an ECO power steering pump (an hydraulic steering pump with variable volumetric flow rate), plus an electrically controlled fuel pump that delivers only the required quantity of fuel for lower power consumption, together with higher control levels for better generator management, which transform part of the available kinetic energy during braking into electrical energy.
The new ADAPTIVE ESP® 9i replaces the ADAPTIVE ESP 8.1 and improves brake performance in critical situations by incorporating the new functions of Brake Disc Wipe and Electronic Brake Prefill.
Brake Disc Wipe increases the brake response time in wet conditions by applying light braking pressure to each brake unit at regular intervals to wipe the film of water off the brake disc. By maintaining full braking power immediately it reduces overall stopping distance if emergency braking occurs.
Electronic Brake Prefill ensures that brakes respond rapidly. If the accelerator pedal is released suddenly and quickly, the brake pads will automatically be gently applied so as to eliminate, in advance, the air gap between the brake pad and disc. If emergency braking then occurs, brake application time will be reduced since the friction surfaces of the pads and discs will already be in contact, reducing the overall stopping distance.
ADAPTIVE ESP® on the Mercedes‐Benz Vans product range is a critical vehicle safety handling system that detects the current vehicle load and dynamically calculates the centre of gravity, and then uses these additional parameters during intervention by the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®)
ADAPTIVE ESP® uses the steering angle sensor and wheel speed sensor to calculate the direction in which the driver wishes to steer. The signals from the yaw‐rate and lateral‐acceleration sensors allow ADAPTIVE ESP® to work out if the vehicle is ‘on the right course’ and assist the driver if instability is detected. In critical situations, ADAPTIVE ESP® actively intervenes in the brake system by selectively braking of each wheel, and, in the engine management, to restore direction stability and ‘steer’ the vehicle in the desired direction. This system is also instrumental in providing safe braking for the van or chassis/cab when coupled to a trailer to prevent unintentional trailer swing.
There’s also been some considerable work going on behind the scenes to provide for bodybuilders and van converters, such as when a vehicle is fitted out as an ambulance or motorhome. As most electrical systems these days operate through a CANBUS unit, Mercedes-Benz offers a direct electronic coupling unit that removes the need for an auto-electrician to connect individual items to independent power supplies.
The unit is capable of independent control of a wide array of options, such as flashing headlights and indicators as with emergency vehicle use, automatic increase of engine rpm when using the standard PTO unit to power ancillary equipment, and even remote engine start and shut down.
Sprinter offers a great diversity of choice, with GVMs ranging from 3,550 kg to 5,000 kg, plus downrating for car driving licence requirements to 4,495 kg. Pricing ranges across the various models from $44,290 through to $69,480, largely unchanged from the previous level. The Sprinter Transfer Minibus is priced at $72,718.
One final point relates to the upcoming cancellation of the Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz joint venture that sees the VW Crafter made alongside the Sprinter in the Mercedes-Benz factories.
Mercedes-Benz has stated that it will no longer build the VW Crafter, prompting VW to forecast it will produce a new van in conjunction with MAN from 2016. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz and Renault continue to identify new projects together, announcing that Nissan (Renault’s alliance partner) will be producing a version of the NV350 Urvan to be badged as a Fuso product in selected export markets.