Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: Benchmark in its vehicle class, with new weight variant and more powerful engines

by Giuseppe Milazzo Van

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: Benchmark in its vehicle class, with new weight variant and more powerful engines
  • Vans for the world: six locations on three continents
  • The Sprinter’s variety is unrivalled
  • Comfortable cockpit, high level of safety
  • The Sprinter crewbus now has more seats
  • An extra variant with a gross vehicle weight of 5.5 t
  • Euro 6/VI emissions level for all models, modified designations
  • More power and torque for the four-cylinder CDI

It is the benchmark in its vehicle class: large vans with a gross vehicle weight of around 3.5 t are widely called Sprinter. This flagship model from Mercedes-Benz Vans has given its name to an entire vehicle class. The first generation was unveiled 21 years ago, and today more than three million Sprinter are on the road in over 130 countries of the world. Now a variant with a permissible gross vehicle weight of 5.5 t has been added to the already varied product portfolio of the successful Sprinter. At the same time, Mercedes-Benz has revised the diesel engines for the Sprinter and in Europe all variants now comply with the Euro 6/VI emissions standard. The performance of the two engines at the lower end of the range has been considerably increased too.

Vans for the world: six locations on three continents

The Sprinter is not only sold all over the world, it is also produced all over the world. The lead plant is Düsseldorf, where the closed panel van and crewbus versions of the Sprinter leave the production lines in six-figure numbers each year. Mercedes-Benz produces the chassis in Ludwigsfelde near Berlin. The other Sprinter production locations are in Buenos Aires/Argentina, Charleston in South Carolina/USA, Fuzhou/China and Nizhny Novgorod/Russia. The same, high Mercedes-Benz quality standards are applied throughout.

After Germany the USA is now the second-largest sales market for the Sprinter. Because the successful European concept also impresses American customers, the number of outlets selling and servicing the vehicle has grown to 280 nationwide. The plan is to build on this success: to service the North American market even better, a full production plant is presently being constructed for the Sprinter in Charleston, South Carolina. Construction began this summer.

The Sprinter’s variety is unrivalled

Key factors in the success of the Sprinter include its tailor-made concept and continuous further development – the Sprinter never stands still. Panel van, crewbus, pickup, chassis – this roughly sums up the range of Sprinter models. The closely tiered line-up meets practically all requirements and is unrivalled in this segment: there are three wheelbase, four length and three height variants, rear axles with single, twin or super-single tyres, gross weights now ranging from 3.0 t to 5.5 t plus numerous body, equipment and drive system variants ex factory. The portfolio is rounded out by an effective management of external body and conversion solutions. These are produced by certified body specialists and converters.

The Sprinter is also perfect for special-purpose bodies. The chassis is available with a cab, with a crewcab and as a chassis with cowl, i.e. without a cab. There is also the low frame chassis, unique for vans with rear-wheel drive: in this case the frame is lowered by 205 mm behind the cab.

Comfortable cockpit, high level of safety

Another of the Sprinter’s outstanding attributes is its spacious, comfortably appointed cab. Mercedes-Benz has continuously improved and refined the cab over the years, and also constantly upgraded the standard equipment.

The Sprinter is not only comfortable, its driver and passengers also feel safe when on board. Safety is priority number one for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. This encompasses the whole range from driver-fitness safety thanks to outstanding ergonomics to car-like handling characteristics and passive safety features. Avoiding accidents is paramount: the first generation already set standards for active safety back in 1995. Since then the Sprinter has been the uninterrupted trailblazer in this discipline – most recently with five new assistance systems in the new Sprinter launched in 2013. With the Sprinter, safety technology has also become a sales argument in the van sector.

Solutions range from Crosswind Assist to COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST, Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist through to High Beam Assist.

The Sprinter crewbus now has more seats

For share taxis, school transport, sports clubs and regular rural bus services, the number of seats in the classic Sprinter crewbus sometimes proved to be inadequate. A Sprinter crewbus with extra seats now closes the gap. At 7.3 m in length and with a high roof, it is based on the extra-long version of the panel van. There is a model available with 16 passenger seats (Sprinter Tourer 16+1, 4.6 t permissible gross vehicle weight) and another with 19 passenger seats (Sprinter Tourer 19+1, 5.0 t permissible gross vehicle weight). From the interior trim and ceiling to the seat covers, the interior corresponds to that of the familiar Sprinter crewbus. Passengers enter the Sprinter through the sliding door, which is supplemented by an electrically-powered step. Depending on the field of application, the Sprinter can be supplied either with seats only or with a separate luggage compartment as an option. The seats have adjustable backrests as standard. They are optionally available with a rugged artificial leather cover instead of fabric. What is more, the Sprinter can be equipped with air conditioning in the passenger compartment as well as luggage racks including air ducts, ventilation nozzles and reading lamps. The Sprinter is suitably powered by the four-cylinder CDI engine rated at 120 kW (163 hp). As an alternative to the standard six-speed manual transmission, there is an automatic transmission with torque converter. Sales and service are provided through the Mercedes-Benz Vans network.

An extra variant with a gross vehicle weight of 5.5 t

Sometimes a little more is needed. Courier, express and parcel services, logistics, the trades, service providers, construction companies, local authorities, fire and rescue services or bus companies – they all require maximum payload in order to master their given tasks as effectively as possible. The previous maximum permissible gross vehicle weight of 5.0 t for the Sprinter could therefore prove a little tight in these and other sectors.

Till recently the solution was load uprating. Following individual examination of the body solution by Mercedes-Benz Vans, an increase in the permissible gross vehicle weight from 5.0 t to a maximum of 5.3 t was possible with a certificate of non-objection. The new solution for maximum payload is the Sprinter with a permissible gross vehicle weight of 5.5 t.

This new weight variant from Mercedes-Benz Vans closes the gap between the brand’s vans and its light-duty trucks. The Sprinter with a gross vehicle weight of 5.5 t offers the payload of a light-duty truck. At the same time, it benefits from the convenient entrance, seat positioning and driving dynamics of a van. As such, the new version of the Sprinter is ideal for small and medium-sized companies in the trades and for industrial use, for fleet customers in the areas of parcel services, car rental, trade and commerce, and for the emergency services.

5.5 t variant: the Sprinter with a gross vehicle weight of 5.0 t provides the technical basis

The Sprinter with a gross vehicle weight of 5.5 t is based on the components employed to date for the 5.0 t variant. In view of the Sprinter’s robust basic design, there was no need for the engineers to develop a new chassis or a new frame. Rather, they exploited the potential offered by the existing self-supporting integral frame.

Modifications to the bodyshell are restricted to the front end. These primarily concern stiffening, new consoles bolted onto the damper struts, reinforcements and additional welding spots on the strike plates of the longitudinal frame members.

In adapting the chassis and suspension to the higher permissible gross vehicle weight, the Mercedes-Benz engineers had recourse to an excellent stock of Sprinter components, comprising springs, shock absorbers and stabilisers for high weights and loads.

The higher permissible gross vehicle weight is accompanied by a rise in permissible axle loads. The maximum permissible front axle load on the Sprinter rises from 2000 kg for the previous reinforced variant to a level of 2100 kg. The maximum rear axle load increases from 3500 kg to 3600 kg. This provides the Sprinter with adequate axle load reserves, even in the event of uneven weight distribution.

5.5 t variant: payload rises by around 450 kg

The increase in permissible gross vehicle weight from 5.0 t to 5.5 t benefits the vehicle’s payload which rises by around 450 kg on all variants, thereby attaining a record level in certain vehicle configurations.

The Sprinter as a chassis with cab achieves a very substantial load-bearing capacity of around 3460 kg. As a panel van with standard wheelbase, the Sprinter with four-cylinder diesel engine attains a payload of up to 3150 kg – no other panel van in this weight class is able to carry a higher load.

With a permissible gross vehicle weight of 5.5 t, the Sprinter as a chassis is more than ever the prime choice for bodybuilders who place great emphasis on payload. As a chassis with cab and a long wheelbase of 4325 mm, for example, the Sprinter is able to carry conversion solutions of up to 5023 mm in length and 2488 mm in width when making full use of the permissible overhang of 2200 mm.

5.5 t variant: low cargo space sill, convenient entrance, high comfort

In contrast to light-duty trucks, the Sprinter with a gross vehicle weight of 5.5 t is also available from Mercedes-Benz as a panel van in numerous lengths and heights. In unladen state, the panel van’s cargo space is only around 700 mm above road level, making it easily accessible for loading and unloading. The same applies to the pickup which is available ex factory. The pickup’s load area in empty state is only 1012 mm above the road. Bodybuilders benefit from a favourable level for the top edge of the frame, approximately 780 mm above road level. This firmly sets the Sprinter apart from light-duty trucks as well as other vans with a conventional frame design.

The Sprinter additionally benefits from its design as a short-nosed vehicle. This results in a convenient, low entrance behind the front axle and a comfortable cab with a passenger-car feel and unhindered through-cab access. Additional merits are dynamic handling akin to a passenger car and high ride comfort thanks to the seat positioning behind the front axle. With a body width of only 1933 mm, the Sprinter panel van as a 5.5 t variant is as agile as its lighter counterparts and slips effortlessly through narrow spots.

There is also news on the Sprinter’s core segment: the variants with a permissible gross vehicle weight of 3.5 t are now optionally available with springs made of glass-fibre-reinforced plastic on the rear axle in place of steel springs. This choice reduces the weight by up to 12 kg and increases the payload accordingly, depending on the chosen equipment. A glass-fibre-reinforced plastic transverse leaf spring has been deployed on the front axle of the Sprinter since the first generation.

Euro 6/VI emissions level for all models, modified designations

As a world first in the van segment, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has optionally been available with diesel engines complying with the Euro VI emissions level from the summer of 2013, the V6 even featuring this Euro VI technology as standard. Mercedes-Benz has now switched the entire Sprinter range in Europe to Euro 6/VI. This means to minimise emissions all diesel engines now feature SCR technology with AdBlue injection. This is an effective form of exhaust gas cleaning.

To coincide with this change, Mercedes-Benz has modified the model designations. The previously employed BlueTEC designation for the Sprinter with diesel engines complying with emissions level Euro 6/VI has been replaced by the familiar CDI designation.

More power and torque for the four-cylinder CDI

At the same time, Mercedes-Benz Vans has adapted the Sprinter’s power variants to its customers’ changing requirements. The changes concern the two lowest engine variants of the four-cylinder OM 651 with a displacement of 2.15 l.

The new entry-level engine variant now has an output rating of 84 kW (114 hp). This represents a substantial 20 percent increase in output and torque compared with the previous entry-level engine. At 300 Nm, the pulling power, which is important in daily traffic, approaches the level attained by the previously next-highest rated engine variant. This mid-range variant of the four-cylinder CDI engines has also undergone a marked upgrade, with output and torque both rising by around 10 percent to 105 kW (143 hp) and 330 Nm.

As a result, the Sprinter boasts high torque in these two newly defined power levels. Peak torque is on tap from both engines at an engine speed of 1200 rpm, providing for high flexibility and tractive power even at very low revs. In combination with an unchanged rated speed of 3800 rpm, the Sprinter offers exceptionally good driveability and an unusually large usable engine speed range in both engine variants.

These features also characterise the most powerful four-cylinder engine rated at 120 kW (163 hp). This engine remains on offer unchanged, as does the V6 CDI, which is without parallel in the van segment. The broad engine range results in a clear and logical constellation of four CDI engine variants complying with the Euro 6/VI emissions level.

As previously, all of the engine variants are paired with the ECO Gear six-speed manual transmission as standard. The 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission with torque converter is available as an option. As an alternative to the high-traction rear-wheel drive, Mercedes-Benz offers the Sprinter 4x4 with manually selectable all-wheel drive and optionally with gear reduction in the permissible gross vehicle weight range from 3.5 t to 5.0 t.

The Sprinter also remains optionally available in one petrol and one natural gas variant (choice of monovalent/bivalent). These are both based on a four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 1.8 l. Output (115 kW/156 hp) and torque (240 Nm) are identical.

No matter which transmission customers choose, the advantages are a wide ratio spread and dynamic starting with a high ratio in top gear for fuel-efficient, quiet, low-emission driving at high speeds. Maximum economy also means extremely long, wear-dependent service intervals of up to 60 000 km.

Whether it is the engine, transmission, driven rear axle or the all-wheel drive, all components of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter bear the Mercedes star – they are provided from a single source and are perfectly co-ordinated with one another.

Find out more about the Sprinter range by clicking here

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