The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has become an icon of the brand in its own unique way since it debuted in the North American market in the early 2000s. But rather than the lavish luxury and elegance that Mercedes-Benz passenger cars are known for, the Sprinter has established itself with a reputation for versatility, practicality and functionality.

Motor Trend video post-production manager Duane Sempson found out how handy the Sprinter could be as he moved into a new home. His new neighborhood is characterized by hilly, narrow streets, a common scenario in Southern California. From the outside, the large, tall Sprinter looks like it would be a handful to drive in such settings, but thanks to its short nose and tall, commanding driving position, forward visibility is excellent in the van.

Our long-term tester lacks the optional backup camera, making reversing a slightly less confident proposition. Sempson found he occasionally had to get out and visually survey the area behind the van before backing up. Unfortunately, our tester also lacked an audible reverse sensor, making either a spotter standing outside, or jumping out and eyeballing the distance the only practical option.

Configured in the unusual "crew" configuration, our long-termer combines aspects of both the passenger and cargo vans, with the driver and passenger front buckets accompanied by a three-across bench behind the front seats, but a cavernous cargo hold behind that. Although the second-row seat is theoretically "removable," Sempson found it helped to have an extra set of hands to remove the heavy, cumbersome bench, although with the Sprinter's generous cargo room behind the bench, the need to remove it was rare.

The Sprinter's 188-hp turbodiesel V-6 does not exactly provide giddy acceleration, the delivery of its 325 lb-ft of torque comes on smoothly and steadily, and provides ample power for getting the job done, even with a substantial payload. Securing cargo in the cavernous interior is easy with the built-in D-rings in the cargo area.

Sempson came to appreciate the Sprinter's honest, no-nonsense configuration, although acknowledged a backup camera or at least audible reverse sensor would be appreciated. What adventures await our long-term Sprinter next? It's anyone's guess. But with its haul-anything versatility and outstanding fuel economy relative to its gas-powered rivals, you can bet its assets will be employed again soon.

2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 Crew Van
Service life: 6 mo/9521 mi
Avg CO2 1.21 lb/mi
Energy cons: 184 kW-hr/100 mi
Unresolved problems: None
Maintenance cost: $460.59 (oil change, ad-blue top-off, inspection)
Normal-wear cost: $0
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ: N/A
Average Fuel Econ: 18.3 mpg