If you follow the path the Sprinter take taken since it first came to the United States in 2001, you know that it has had plenty of twists and turns. It first came here as a Freightliner, later as a Dodge, and eventually as a Mercedes-Benz (and Freightliner again). It makes the most sense to call it a Mercedes, though, because this really is the Mercedes-Benz of vans. Over the last 13 years, the Sprinter has established itself as the most refined in its class, with the nicest interior, excellent V-6 turbodiesel, and Mercedes-quality amenities. However, competitors from Europe are coming, such as the Ford Transit (in 2015) and the Fiat-sourced ProMaster (in 2014, like the new Sprinter). Is the redesigned Sprinter ready for the new competition?

To determine the answer to that question, we got behind the wheel of two different 2014 Sprinter 2500s. Both of them reflect the new look of the Sprinter, inside and out. The nose looks different now, even though it retains the front step that makes it easier to reach the windshield and engine bay. The Sprinter has a new grille, one that aligns its looks more with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz line. It's flanked by new headlights and sits below a hood that is now taller and designed to provide more protection for pedestrians.

But it's what's under that taller hood that serves as the biggest news for the Sprinter for 2014. Now it comes with a second engine, a 161-hp, 266-lb-ft 2.1-liter I-4 turbodiesel, which serves as the van's base engine. Unlike the returning 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel, with 188 hp and 325-lb-ft, the new four is backed by a seven-speed automatic. (The V-6 continues on essentially unchanged with a five-speed automatic.) We drove both Sprinters, empty and full of gear, and were pleasantly surprised by the amount of power the I-4 provided in the van. We knew the V-6 was an excellent engine, one well suited to the Sprinter. But how would the smaller diesel fare?

Surprisingly well, actually. Despite the difference in power -- the inline-four puts out 27 fewer hp and 59 lb-ft less -- there is plenty of power, and anyone spending day after day making deliveries would be happy with the power delivery. The seven-speed helps make the power discrepancy less noticeable. At the track, the four-cylinder van accelerated to 60 mph in 12.6 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 18.8 seconds at 70.9 mph. What is truly impressive about these numbers is that they really aren't that far off from those of the V-6-powered van, which hit 60 in 12.4 seconds and ran the quarter in 18.7 seconds at 71.8 mph. That also makes us wonder what the V-6 could do backed by the seven-speed automatic. The van stopped from 60 mph in 134 feet in the V-6-equipped model and 136 in one with the I-4. The other things drivers and fleet owners will like is the fuel economy of the smaller turbodiesel. While it isn't EPA rated, we could see van owners getting near 20 mpg around town.

The cabin now has new features that make it easier to get from Point A to Point B, such as a new navigation system, Bluetooth, and aux input as standard equipment. A rearview camera is optional. Above and beyond that, though, the seats are comfortable and the seating position for the driver is quite good. Even without the new technology, this would still be an excellent van to drive.

There are some downsides, though. Aside from the shallow shelves above the sunvisors, there isn't a lot of storage up front. The van could use a center console, in which you could securely stow a laptop or tablet. The other big shortcoming is price. This is the nicest van on the market, and that comes at a price. In the case of the two vans we drove, the one powered by the four-cylinder was more than $53,000 the V-6-powered 2500 cost nearly $60,000 as tested. But for businesses that can afford to add Sprinters to their fleets, the new changes will make owners -- and drivers -- happy.


2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500
  Passenger Van 144 Passenger Van 170
BASE PRICE $41,010 $46,495
PRICE AS TESTED $53,265 $59,495
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 12-pass, 3-door van Front-engine, RWD, 12-pass, 3-door van
ENGINE 2.1L/161-hp/266-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4 3.0L/188-hp/325-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 7-speed automatic 5-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5858 lb (53/47%) 6343 lb (53/47%)
WHEELBASE 144.3 in 170.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 232.5 x 79.7 x 107.5 in 273.2 x 79.7 x 107.5 in
0-60 MPH 12.6 sec 12.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 18.8 sec @ 70.9 mph 18.7 sec @ 71.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 136 ft 134 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.61 g (avg) 0.65 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON Not rated Not rated
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY Not rated Not rated
CO2 EMISSIONS Not rated Not rated