2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter First Test
The New Sprinter Gets More Amenities and a New Engine
The Euro-centric Sprinter has been in the U.S. since 2001, when its appearance was unlike anything else on the road. While things have stayed basically the same for a long time, in the near future, the Sprinter will soon have other competition from Europe, and the rivalry it currently has with the Transit and Ducato (aka Ram ProMaster) shifts here.
But the Sprinter has some advantages that the other vans will have to deal with. For starters, it truly is the Mercedes-Benz of vans. The Sprinter is the most refined in its class. It has the nicest interior, is powered by an excellent V-6 turbodiesel, and the interior is filled with Mercedes-quality features.
Is the Sprinter ready to take on its familiar rivals? To find out, we got behind the wheel of two different 2014 Sprinter 2500s. With the new model year, the Sprinter has a new look, inside and out. The changes to the outside are subtle, but if you look closely, you can see that the nose looks different. The Sprinter has a new grille, one that looks like an oversized version of the grille you would see on a Mercedes-Benz sedan or SUV. It’s flanked by new headlights and sits below a hood that is now taller and designed to provide more protection for pedestrians. One of the key elements the van keeps is the front step that makes it easier to reach the windshield and engine bay for cleaning and maintenance.
Under the new hood is big news for the Sprinter for 2014. For the first time in the U.S. it will be available with a second engine: a 161-hp, 266-lb-ft 2.1-liter I-4 turbodiesel, similar to the engine that is an option in the GLK sport/utility. And with its introduction it becomes the van’s base engine. The new engine is backed by a seven-speed automatic, a move that more closely aligns this Sprinter with the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup. (The returning 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel, with 188 hp and 325-lb-ft, continues on essentially unchanged with a five-speed automatic.) We had the opportunity to drive Sprinters powered by both engines, and drove both of them empty and full of gear. We were fairly sure the V-6 Sprinter would continue to impress (and it did), but were more skeptical about the I-4’s performance in such a large vehicle.
We shouldn’t have worried. We came away from the experience pleasantly surprised by the amount of power the I-4 provided. With the four it did surprisingly well. Despite the difference in power—the inline-four falls short of the V-6 by 27 hp and 59 lb-ft—there is plenty of power, and anyone whose job it is to make deliveries would be happy with the smaller engine. The 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 if it were backed by the seven-speed automatic. The van stopped from 60 mph in 134 feet in the V-6-equipped model and in feet 136 in the one with the I-4. Considering the acceleration and braking aren’t that different, the base price is lower, and the fuel economy is better, fleet owners will likely see this as an appealing purchase. While these vans aren’t rated by the EPA, we could see owners getting near 20 mpg around town with the four.
This is a comfortable van to spend long stretches of time in, too: the seats feel like they are designed for long-haul use and the seating position for the driver is quite good. New features in the interior include a new navigation system, Bluetooth, and aux input—all standard. A rearview camera is optional.
But it isn’t all perfection in this van, and there are some places where competitors could find some advantages of their own. There aren’t enough storage areas in the front. There are some shallow shelves above the sunvisors, but the lack of a center console means the driver doesn’t have a convenient spot where he or she can hide a laptop without risking it sliding back (and maybe hit the driver in the head) when the vehicle accelerates. The other big shortcoming: price. This is the Mercedes-Benz of vans, and it has the Mercedes-Benz of prices. The four-cylinder van we drove was more than $53,000, and the V-6-powered 2500 cost nearly $60,000 as tested. But for those who can afford it, the new changes will be a pleasant surprise.
|2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500|
|Passenger Van 144||Passenger Van 170|
|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|