First Look – 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Futureproof Redesign for Fullsize Van
Mercedes-Benz revealed the next-generation 2019 Sprinter today in Duisburg, Germany, giving the U.S. market a look at the van that will arrive here by the end of 2018. The fullsize Sprinter, which is one of the U.S. market’s best-known commercial vehicles, retains a lot of the features that make it so popular as a fleet vehicle, while also debuting new technology that will root the van firmly in the 21st century. Mercedes-Benz USA representatives were quick to point out that the van debuting today was an international-market machine and that U.S. specs might differ, but we still have a good idea what to expect when Benz announces regional specifics later this year.
Revealed in Duisburg, home of one of Germany’s most modern and interconnected inland ports, the 2019 Sprinter will very likely mark the U.S. debut of Mercedes Pro connectivity. Mercedes Pro is the company’s new telematics system that allows fleet managers to view the location, maintenance schedules, and vehicle status of each machine in the fleet, and it permits drivers to unlock their vehicles remotely and monitor job routes from their cell phones.
The latter feature will be handy, Mercedes-Benz says, if a tradesman needs a parcel or supplies delivered to his vehicle on the jobsite. When the delivery arrives, the vehicle operator can unlock the Sprinter’s doors remotely, then lock them again after the supplies are loaded. Such a feature would be handy if the operator wants to take a lunch break or run other errands while waiting for the delivery.
Furthermore, the Sprinter will reap the benefits of a number of new technologies, such as an available 360-degree camera system, rear camera display in the rearview mirror, and active safety features. Mercedes will offer Distronic adaptive cruise control and forward collision monitoring for the first time on the Sprinter, reducing the driver’s workload in stop-and-go traffic. Active Lane Keep Assist is also available on the Sprinter, as is a Wet Wiper system that uses dozens of tiny wiper-mounted nozzles to pour washer fluid on the windshield just in front of the wiper. This preserves the driver’s vision in the moment between actuating the windshield washer and having the wiper pass over the fluid.
Powertrain details for the U.S. have yet to be finalized, but we expect the return of a lower-cost gasoline engine to our market, supplementing a carryover 3.0L diesel V-6. The gas engine will be mated to a nine-speed automatic, while the diesel will receive a well-regarded seven-speed (up from five in the current Sprinter V-6 diesel). There’s no word on the U.S. availability of the 2.1L I-4 that will be available in global markets; that engine was last sold here in the 2016 Sprinter. Still, the gas V-6 will offer a lower cost of entry for customers concerned with list price, and the diesel V-6’s newfound added gears could significantly improve its performance, fuel economy, and capability.
Furthermore, it’s likely that an all-electric Sprinter will arrive on our shores in a couple years. In Europe, the eSprinter will be sold after a thorough evaluation process to determine if a fleet would be better served by the all-electric powerplant or a conventional internal combustion engine. For example, fleets with longer drive routes or less accessibility to charging infrastructure would likely fall in the latter camp, while urban delivery companies might appreciate the zero emissions and off-peak charging an eSprinter would offer. We presume the same process will occur in U.S. dealerships to ensure all Sprinter customers are happy with their purchase.
In spite of those additions, a number of the Sprinter’s features will remain the same for the U.S. market. Domestic tastes dictate that the global Sprinter’s front-wheel-drive configuration will not make the jump to the States, as our Sprinter will remain rear-drive (with a 4x4 system available as an option). The lack of front-wheel drive means we’ll miss out on that configuration’s slightly lower load floor, improved maximum cargo space, and 110-pound–higher payload rating.
Then again, our Sprinter’s cargo dimensions should remain nearly identical to the 2018 model’s, allowing current owners to easily transition their vocation-specific upfits to the new vehicle with minimal cost. That might not be as easy were we to get the reshaped cargo space of the front-driver.
The new Sprinter is perhaps the most attractive and sleek van in its class (an admittedly low standard for a vehicle segment that prioritizes practicality over style). Nevertheless, the 2019 van impresses with its carlike front styling, with aggressive headlights bookending a grille with a prominent Mercedes-Benz star—optionally illuminated on higher-end models. LED headlamps are also available, giving the front end a smart, modern look that reminds us a lot of the C-Class sport sedan. The side and rear views are similar to the outgoing Sprinter (it’s hard to redesign something that resembles a 500 percent–scale refrigerator), but they do get a few creases that crisp up the look.
Inside, the Sprinter will be available with a number of upgrades over the current model, including an available widescreen infotainment display running the company’s Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment. The system, which can recognize natural speech and different accents, is able to compose text messages, plan navigation routes, and set the audio.
Materials quality of the new interior is also improved on all models—a moot point considering many of these new Sprinters will get coated in drywall joint compound and plumber’s putty within a month of their build dates. Still, drivers and riders alike will enjoy new features like an available wireless charging pad and plenty of USB outlets (including one for each row of seating on the passenger models).
With cutting-edge productivity technology, a huge range of body styles and powertrain variations, and attractive styling, the 2019 Sprinter should do well in the U.S. Compared against the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster vans, the new Sprinter is prettier and smarter, with more available tech than even some non-commercial vehicles. If it retains its predecessor’s composed driving dynamics and adds class-competitive pricing, it’ll surely be a hit. The Sprinter name is in no danger of being besmirched by this 2019 machine.