Driven - Apr 2019

2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Review

New Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Review

To someone who knows nothing about vehicles, the name ‘Sprinter’ would likely fit into the ‘sportscar’ category of their mental filing system, and as such, launching this particular Sprinter at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit makes complete sense. However, this parallel universe isn’t reality, so when one takes a look at the hard facts, a racing track really is an unlikely venue to host the launch of Mercedes-Benz’s latest iteration of their legendary commercial vehicle, the erm… Sprinter!

Lap times and clipping the apex were not on the agenda for the day, but rather hands-on demonstrations of the extensive safety features and driving aids that have now been developed specifically for the Sprinter, making use of certain sections of the track, as well as the skidpan where a slalom course was laid out.

The formalities kicked off with a novel and humorous enactment of a ‘nutty professor’ and his ravishing assistant envisioning the perfect vehicle for doing “things”. A nice twist to the usual death-by-PowerPoint presentations we are often subjected to, it gave a glimpse into the all-new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter’s standout features. At the end of the show, two vehicles emerged – a people carrier configured Sprinter and a freight carrier configured Sprinter.

Following this, we were then instructed to head off in groups which had already been assigned where we’d rotate through three different stations, all designed to give us an accurate representation of what the Sprinter stands for, as well as why it makes up such a significant majority share in its segment in South Africa.

Offering a complete transport and mobility solution, the Mercedes Benz Sprinter benefits from increased safety levels, improved total cost of ownership and enhanced Inkanyezi Taxi Specification.

An interesting one, that Inkanyezi derivative – set to continue its dominance of the long distance taxi market, Mercedes-Benz also hopes for it to make an entry into the everyday commuter sector having introduced three different grades with options ranging from three-point seatbelts and USB ports to air-conditioning and an electric sliding door.

By far, the most impressive set of skills in the new Sprinter’s arsenal is its array of safety features. Standard features include Cross Wind Assist and Hill Start Assist, as well as an impressive array of stability systems calibrated specifically for the Sprinter’s added weight and higher centre of gravity.

Perhaps the most impressive demonstration of this was down Kyalami’s famed mineshaft, where a series of cones were laid out and after a quick demonstration, we were then challenged to slalom between the cones as quickly and aggressively as possible. I am here writing this, so as you can imagine, all went well and the systems worked just as they were supposed to.

Visually, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has also benefitted from a makeover and as far as commercial vehicles go, it’s a rather handsome and clean looking thing. The dashboard layout has also been significantly changed and depending on how the vehicle is specced, it can even be had with a full leather steering wheel and Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX 7-inch infotainment system.

An interesting introduction to the range is the Sprinter 311 CDI which has a GVM of 3 490 kg, allowing drivers with a Code B license to drive them. In the past, only drivers with a Code C1 license could drive a Sprinter.

Mercedes-Benz has partnered up with six ISO 9001 approved bodybuilders who have to conform to strict rules, regulations and quality standards laid out by Mercedes-Benz. All 4×4 versions are now factory fitted with Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic AWD system.

A huge focus has been placed on improving the servicing process through the Mercedes-Benz dealer network, and flexible servicing hours with servicing bays dedicated to Sprinter customers are to be introduced at selected dealers in order to reduce downtime for businesses.

Mercedes-Benz claim to have reduced the total cost of ownership by reducing fuel consumption (8.5% fuel cost saving) and reducing maintenance costs by 4.5%. Emergency and breakdown support is also included, and it was noted that while the Sprinter’s main competitors are the Iveco Daily and Volkswagen Crafter, the goal was to make improvements over the previous generation Sprinter rather than compete with other vehicles within its segment.

After a day of putting the Sprinter to the test, it was quite clear as to why it is such a key player in its segment – the product is brilliant and there’s no denying that, but Mercedes-Benz also offers unrivaled support which makes the whole ownership experience hassle-free and cost-effective.

For more information visit the official Mercedes-Benz Commerical website here.