The time has finally come to say goodbye to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Over the course of the last year or so this giant white rolling sail has been utilized by the entire staff for various undertakings. Moving, camping, picking up lumber for a weekend project -- if the task couldn't be done with a car, the Sprinter was called upon. It seemed as though every weekend I was being asked to trade vehicles. "Hey Duane, care to trade the van for my S-Class, 3 Series, Land Rover, etc.? I need to haul a bed, pick up a couch, go surfing, etc." I t wasn't as easy to say no as you would think.
Everyone that drove the Sprinter said the same thing when returning the keys: "It was exactly what I needed." That sentence speaks to what is so great about the Sprinter. It's a purpose-built rig that exudes confidence. When the van is loaded and bumbling along the freeway, the suspension keeps the Sprinter's tires firmly planted on the road and the driver planted in the captain's chair. When navigating the hills and alleys of Los Angeles' South Bay area with a couch in the back, the seating position over the front wheels makes tight turns a piece of cake. That's something that couldn't be done in our last long-term work van, the Nissan NV, because of its long nose.
Before sending it back from where it came, I had one last special ride in store for my trusty white steed. I took friends on a trip to Kennedy Meadows Campground in the Sequoia National Forest, just northwest of where highway 14 becomes the 395. We began the climb up to the top of the plateau starting out at 89 feet above sea level, with three of my four passengers sitting comfortably on the bench seat. As we traveled the narrow, winding road, the Sprinter, loaded with all the comforts of glamping, happily chugged along the fresh asphalt, gaining elevation with every turn. Never once did the sweet little diesel motor falter. The gas pedal maintained its position under my foot, feeding the right amount of fuel to keep us moving at a consistent speed. The large van gracefully handled the corners with a comforting mountain on one side and "a hell of a long way down," as my friend so eloquently put it, on the other. I felt as though I could keep pressing the pedal, taking the corners faster and faster without entirely scaring the crap out of the passengers, or myself.
At an elevation of 6,214 feet, we rolled into camp just before lunch. As the rest of the group was eyeballing places to pitch their tents, commenting on slight inclines and ill-positioned rocks, I blew up my air mattress in the Sprinter behind the removable seat and voila, my accommodations for the weekend were set. For the right amount of money you can get a proper camper conversion done on your Sprinter, something my lady friend and I talked about for the ultimate go-(nearly)anywhere road trip machine. Without all the bells and whistles, it leaves a lot to be desired as a hotel on wheels. First and foremost, it's like sleeping in a fishbowl. The large windows, while fantastic on the road, became creepy black holes where my imagination led me to believe I was being spied on by a mountain serial killer preying on city folk. I would've liked to have curtains. And those large windows don't open, which means no airflow. When the morning sun hit the van it was like a sauna in there. Another issue was the lack of a 110v outlet, requiring the use of a hand pump for the air mattress. An outlet should be standard on a work truck if you ask me. Even with these minor annoyances, it was still easy to pack up, unload, live in, and pack back up.
Learn about the newly refreshed Mercedes-Benz Sprinter's available four-cylinder diesel HERE and read about the 2015 model's all-wheel-drive system HERE.
As we headed back down the hill after the trip, I wondered aloud how the Sprinter would handle such a steep grade. My friend reminded me of his keen observation on the way up: "That's a hell of a long way down." This time the drop was on his side, which made me feel a lot better about the situation. A simple left tap on the gear selector provided a smooth downshift when the grade got too steep or a sharp corner approached. The entire drivetrain did a brilliant job of keeping the Sprinter at a manageable speed and I quickly settled back into my comfort zone.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has been used for wide variety of tasks and it has handled them without breaking a sweat. As a daily driver, it leaves a lot to be desired , but in a capacity for which it was designed, it's hard to find anything better.
More on our long-term 2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500:
|Our Car |
|Service life || 20,328 mi |
|Average fuel economy || 18.6 mpg |
|CO2 emissions || 1.05 lb/mi |
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ || N/A |
|Energy consumption || 182 kW-hr/100mi |
|Unresolved problems || None |
|Maintenance cost || $1168.07 (2-oil change, ad-blue top-off, inspection; 1-fuel filter; ) |
|Normal-wear cost || $0 |