The long-awaited Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has made its debut! CHARLEEN CLARKE travelled to Duisburg, Germany, for the world premiere of this highly anticipated new van.
“The new Sprinter is to conventional vans what the smartphone is to a plain old mobile phone.” That was how Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, described the new Sprinter in Duisburg. He’s spot on right on a number of counts … and these are the reasons why.
• It looks a whole lot better
Remember the mobile phone of old? It looked like a brick? The new Sprinter has absolutely nothing in common with those old phones. Instead, it looks sleek and modern. In fact, while the back of the new Sprinter isn’t that different (compared to its predecessor), the front is prettier and less utilitarian.
It looks surprisingly similar to the concept vehicle that we first saw in 2017. There is just one similarity to the looks of those old phones – the new Sprinter is available in cream (like the world’s first mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, launched in 1983).
• It’s lighter
The mobile phones of old didn’t just look like bricks; they also weighed almost as much. The new Sprinter, on the other hand, has been on a serious diet and it’s lighter and more efficient than ever before.
This is especially the case with the all-new front-wheel drive derivative. When it is empty, the panel van weighs in at a mere 1 990 kg, meaning it’s akin to the supermodel of vans. The front-wheel drive model can load 50 kg of extra payload (versus the rear-wheel drive).
Much like the modern mobile phone, the new Sprinter is also easier to use. In fact, the front-wheel drive derivative has a loading sill that is 80 mm lower than that of the rear-wheel drive. Plus, the interior door height has increased by 80 mm (meaning bulky goods are so much easier to stow on board).
• It’s less utilitarian
There was absolutely nothing pretty about those old mobile phones. In fact, they were quite ghastly to look at. Modern smartphones, on the other hand, are stylish and elegant – and the same can be said of the new Sprinter’s interior, which is decidedly passenger car-like.
One of the many highlights of the interior is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) intelligent multimedia system, which wowed the crowds at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas during January this year. It is making its debut this year in both the new A-Class and the Sprinter (you see, the van’s interior really IS car like!) The MBUX system – which features a 10,25-inch HD display – can be controlled via steering wheel controls, the touchscreen or a completely new voice-control system. It is flipping cool!
Other highlights include new ergonomically shaped seats, the keyless start and an improved air-conditioning system. People carriers will also feature more comfortable seats, cupholders, USB ports and storage space for – you guessed it –smartphones.
• Customers are spoilt for choice
When mobile phones first came out, we had very little choice. Now, we’re inundated with choices. Mercedes-Benz has adopted the same approach, even eclipsing mobile telephone producers. As already stated, Mercedes-Benz has augmented the tried-and-tested, rear-wheel and all-wheel drive variants with front-wheel drive.
In addition, there are a staggering number of options in terms of powertrain, wheelbase, transmission variants, roof heights and engines. In fact, the Sprinter will be offered in more than 1 700 basic variants! One of these is an electric vehicle, which will be launched overseas next year (sadly there are no plans to bring it to South Africa).
• It oozes technology
My first mobile phone, a Nokia, could do two things: make/receive phone calls and send/receive SMSes. Actually, it could do a third thing: irritate me (I abhorred lugging the huge thing around with me). The new Sprinter, on the other hand, can do so much. It’s connected to the internet all the time, and people-carrier derivatives will feature a WiFi hotspot.
Further, the new Sprinter comes with Mercedes PRO connect, which is making its world debut in this new van. PRO connect is über smart because it will make fleet managers and drivers so much more efficient (the driver can access PRO connect via an app).
Eight different packages will be available at launch. They include programmes to help with service/maintenance, fleet management in general, navigation, efficient driving, communication between manager and driver, records and even remote locking and unlocking of the vehicle.
Also noteworthy are the many safety features of the new Sprinter, including brake assist systems, lane-keeping assistance, Blind Spot Assist, Attention Assist and radar-based Distronic.
• It’s efficient
Those early mobile phones were as efficient as Jacob Zuma’s mathematical skills. The 8000x, for instance, took a whopping ten hours to charge! The new Sprinter, on the other hand, takes efficiency to a whole new level. Mercedes-Benz Vans has improved the powertrain in many respects for the third generation of the Sprinter – while the diesel engines are largely unchanged, there are two new transmissions for front-wheel drive derivatives: a nine-speed automatic and six-speed manual. We’ll be putting these to the test in April … watch this space for feedback on the actual driving experience!