For a number of years, Mercedes-Benz has led the way with safety features and technology on their commercial vehicles.
Mercedes moved first with the transition from Euro-4 to Euro-5, introducing a cleaner Sprinter model ahead of the 2009 type approval deadline and nearly 18 months before the 2011 deadline for registrations. Once again, Mercedes has made the decision to launch early, leading the way for Euro-6 vans with the arrival of the new Sprinter way ahead of the type approval deadline for Euro-5 on 31 August 2015 and the cut-off for registrations on 31 December 2015.
New Sprinter models will use a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, injecting AdBlue into the exhaust gases, to meet particulate levels and the more stringent NOx emissions. Euro-6 emission limits for NOx are 80% lower, while hydrocarbons are required to fall by 70% and particulates by 50%. Mercedes says it has called upon 10 years of experience with SCR systems in larger commercial vehicles to adapt its engines, as well as having to meet similar requirements in the United States for EPA10 regulations on the current Sprinter.
The AdBlue system will add 30kg to the kerbweight of the new Sprinter, with the 18-litre tank providing up to 3732 miles (6,000km) of driving at a rate of 5% of fuel consumption. The AdBlue tank is located out of sight, in the front right portion of the bonnet, but drivers will be reminded of the need to top-up 622 miles (1,000km) before the tank runs dry. Failure to heed the warning will see power reduced by 25% with 435 miles (700km) left in reserve, before finally being limited to 12mph when the tank capacity falls below 125 miles (200km). Euro-6 models will be labelled BlueTec to signify their exhaust after treatment system when deliveries begin in September, and Mercedes claims the most efficient new models will consume up to one litre less fuel over 60 miles than its predecessors.
Out on the roads, any changes are unnoticeable, with the same range of power and torque outputs. Power still arrives promptly from the moment you press the accelerator, and that additional weight over the front axle has done little to alter the Sprinter’s handling characteristics. The chassis is also 30mm lower to the ground, but the new Sprinter’s road manners are undistinguishable from the current model. The uninitiated would think they were merely driving a face lifted model.
Engine updates are just part of the new Sprinter package, which also includes changes to the radiator grille and headlights. The front end is now more vertical, with the three grille slats now becoming perforated to aid cooling. The headlights have also been redesigned, becoming squarer and larger, while the bumper has been slightly re-shaped to fit in with the latest evolution in Mercedes’ commercial vehicle design.
Changes on the inside are at a minimum, but the Sprinter gets a firmer seat and more durable cloth, while the increased thickness of the steering wheel is barely noticeable unlike the accents of chrome which appear throughout the cabin. The radio and Bluetooth system have also been upgraded along with a new Becker navigation system.
The highlight of the new Sprinter is undoubtedly its safety technology, with five new impressive systems debuting for light commercial vehicles in the next generation model.
In 2000 the driver airbag was made standard equipment on the Sprinter van. ESP followed in 2002, and the system was further enhanced in 2006 with a new adaptive ESP system installed as standard across the range. Now in 2013, a new standard safety system has arrived, Cross Wind Assist. It works by deploying the adaptive ESP to correct the vehicle in the event of a sudden gust of wind. Since ESP is standard fit on Sprinter, the sensors required to measure the yaw rate and lateral acceleration are already present, so the ESP sensors just have to determine the strength and angle of crosswinds or sudden gusts. When we tested the Sprinter we found the system brilliantly effective, maintaining the vehicle’s line by as much as half a lane’s width when compared to a van without the system.
The Adaptive Brake Assist system is equally as impressive, although due to the cost of the on-board radar proximity technology it is not a standard option. It is also an adapted form of the truck and passenger car systems, which alerts the driver when there is a danger of a rear-end collision, but, rather than brake for the driver as it does when installed in trucks, the van system merely assists with breaking force. But with around one out of every four light commercial vehicle accidents involving a rear-end collision, Adaptive Brake Assist could be a valuable addition.
Other options include Blind Spot Assist, High Beam Assist (to help with dipping headlights) and Lane Keeping Assist, the latter of which scans the road for markings and alerts you with an audible signal when nearing the edges of the marked lanes. It’s an intelligent feature but one that quickly becomes tiresome. Fortunately it can be disengaged via a button on the dash.
When it comes down to the driving you would hardly know this was a new model, but that is not the point of this next generation Sprinter. AdBlue will add fractionally to running costs, however, Euro-6 vans will be greener and more fuel efficient. And unlike their truck equivalents, Euro-6 models won’t cost the earth either. Entry-level 210 CDI model Sprinters start at £20,825, an increase of 1% over the current list price. If you’re still not sold on running AdBlue, an uprated, greener Euro-5 model will be available with the new design and safety spec.