The European-styled Mercedes-Benz Sprinter commercial van had been a stand-alone in the U.S. commercial van segment since its introduction to the North American market in 2001. But the competition’s latest segment entries, namely the 2014 Ford Transit (see http://www.sae.org/mags/tbe/11653) and the 2014 Ram ProMaster (see http://www.sae.org/mags/tbe/11779), have changed the landscape.
“We are no longer the exception. We are no longer the oddball,” Claus Tritt, General Manager of Commercial Vans for Mercedes-Benz USA, said about the Sprinter during a media briefing at the automaker’s Ann Arbor, MI, technical center on May 6.
Tritt said the Sprinter is a benchmark vehicle and that designation “comes with obligations.” A prime obligatory is improving the product, and the 2014 Sprinter’s upgrades include a new standard engine, interior revisions, and the availability of advanced safety technologies.
The 2014 Sprinter offers two engine choices. The van’s new standard engine is a 2.1-L four-cylinder diesel engine producing an estimated 161 hp (120 kW) at 3800 rpm and 265 lb·ft (359 N·m) between 1400-2400 rpm. It uses a 2000-bar (29-ksi) piezo injection system and a two-stage exhaust gas turbocharger system.
The four-cylinder diesel engine, which also will power the Mercedes-Benz GLK luxury compact SUV and the E-Class AWD sedan in the U.S., will be mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The powerplant’s clean diesel technologies include an exhaust gas recirculation system with two-stage cooling, an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) catalyst, as well as a diesel particular filter.
According to Walther Bloch, Mercedes-Benz USA’s Department Manager for Sprinter Engineering Support at the NAFTA Regional Upfitter Center in South Carolina: “This is the latest revision of an engine that has been used for a couple of years in Europe on different vehicle applications.”
Compared to the optional 3.0-L V6 turbodiesel that produces 188 hp (140 kW) at 3800 rpm and 325 lb·ft (441 N·m) between 1400-2400 rpm, the four-cylinder turbodiesel achieves an up to 18% improvement in fuel economy. The V6, which mates to a five-speed automatic transmission, had been the Sprinter’s lone engine offering. Since the 2010 model year, the V6 has had SCR technology.
Sprinter’s exterior alterations are front-end concentrated and were done in part to meet European criteria for pedestrian protection. “The hood was raised, and the whole front end was increased by approximately 60 mm,” Bloch said, referencing the more upright stance of the grille, the lower airdam, and new designs for bumper, headlamps, and fenders.
Interior revisions include a new ergonomic steering wheel, a different seat cover fabric, and a new standard audio head unit featuring a 5.8-in color display screen with Bluetooth connectivity, USB connection, auxiliary input, and iPod integration. A Becker Map Pilot navigation unit is a new optional feature. The Map Pilot box can be removed, so fleet owners can switch the navigation unit from vehicle to vehicle.
The van can be fitted with various advanced safety technologies, including collision prevention assist, blind spot assist, highbeam assist, and lane-keeping assist. Those four features, which have been available on select Mercedes-Benz light-duty passenger vehicles, are new to the Sprinter and are available as optional equipment.
Sprinter can be configured as a crew van, passenger van, cargo van, cab chassis, or minibus.
The crew van and passenger van—both with 8550 lb GVWR—are available in two wheelbases and two roof heights. The cargo van is available in three body lengths, two wheelbases, and two wheelbases with GVWRs of 8550 lb, 9990 lb, and 11,030 lb.
The cab chassis with a GVWR of 11,030 lb is offered in two wheelbases. The minibus, which offers as many as 18 seats, is offered in a single wheelbase with a GVWR of 11,030 lb.
Start of production for the 2014 Sprinter is slated for July 2013 with U.S. sales targeted for the fall of 2013. Pricing for the commercial van will be announced at a later date.