by Michael Butler
Mercedes-Benz has been in the van business for over a century and has consistently been at the forefront of the passenger and cargo hauling industry. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has also become an iconic name amongst those in travel and tourism, as well as logistics, and countless other industries where transporting large numbers of people and their stuff is of paramount importance. The 2020 Sprinter Cargo Van comes in short and long-wheelbase configurations and is powered by either a force-fed four-cylinder gas engine or turbo diesel six-cylinder, both producing 188 horsepower, with varying torque outputs. Building refined and premium-feeling cars come naturally to this legendary manufacturer, and the Sprinter looks and feels more upmarket than its rivals such as the ancient GMC Savana Passenger Van, but the Ford Transit puts up a good fight.
The 2020 Sprinter Passenger Van goes mostly unchanged for 2020 after a fresh revision back in 2019.The only thing new for 2020 is the inclusion of the standard roof on passenger and crew models.
If you've been in the van game long enough, you'll be able to spot a Sprinter from a mile away, but if you're new to this segment, we doubt that it will really matter. Vans, after all, are built to perform a single function, and that is to transport goods and people en masse, and the better it does that, the more popular it will be. Looks, therefore, rank low on the scale of importance. That's not to say that the Sprinter Passenger Van is an ugly thing to look at. Its front end looks classy and is finished off with a three-pointed star, which is never a bad thing. Available exterior features include electrically folding exterior mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, an electrically operated sliding door, and fog lamps with cornering light function.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van's dimensions are split in two: the 144-inch wheelbase van is 233.5 inches long, sits 114.2 inches tall, and is 92.3 inches wide including the side mirrors. Curb weight for the SWB van is 5,609 lbs at its lightest, and 6,171 lbs in 4x4 trim. The 170-inch long-wheelbase van measures in with a total length of 274.3 inches and is 113.5 inches tall. In its lightest form, it weighs 6,173 pounds, going up to a maximum of 6,413 lbs for the diesel equipped van.
Who cares what color a van is, right? Well, Mercedes-Benz thinks it's quite important. There are over 20 colors to choose from, including no-cost options, premium colors, and premium metallic colors. After all, the Sprinter Passenger Van is transporting people with eyes, not cardboard boxes filled with facemasks. No-cost options for 2020 include Pebble Grey, Blue Grey, Steel Blue, as well as Aqua Green, Velvet Red, and Jupiter Red. For an additional $650, new owners can have their van in Grey White, Silver Grey, Vanda Blue, or more exotic colors such as Calcite Yellow, or Sunset Red. For an additional $1,035, Mercedes-Benz will color your Sprinter Passenger Van in colors such as Obsidian Black Metallic, Tenorite Grey Metallic, Selenite Grey Metallic, or Cavansite Blue Metallic.
The Sprinter Passenger Van will only ever be expected to carry between 12 and 15 people and a few of their belongings, and perhaps do some light towing work, which places a lower expectation on overall performance: as long as it can carry its load at legal speeds, the job is done. Mercedes-Benz offers the Sprinter Passenger Van with two engine options. The first is a force-fed four-cylinder gas engine producing 188 horsepower, which might not sound like a lot, but it delivers its power low down in the range. In this configuration, the Sprinter Passenger Van feels plucky enough for some light work and can keep up with traffic in town without issue, even when loaded with people. Out on the highway, it's a different matter: the Sprinter takes a long time to build up and maintain speed. The more powerful six-cylinder engine produces the same horsepower figure, but adds more torque, and in this guise feels fast enough, and has enough low-down power to get most jobs done without a hiccup. The maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.
Powering the 2020 Mercedes Sprinter Passenger Van is a pair of low-power, but capable engines that get the job done. After all, when looking for a passenger van, the only thing that matters is that it can move at a reasonable pace. The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 188 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque between 2,500 and 3,500 rpm. This engine sends its power to the rear wheels via a 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission. Power is adequate, but traveling at higher speeds is an issue. For those who need to carry extra weight or tow goods at the back, the better option is the 3.0-liter turbo diesel six-cylinder engine which produces the same 188 hp, but gets 325 lb-ft of torque, available from only 1,400 rpm. That adds much more pulling power. Power is sent to the rear via a seven-speed transmission. The SWB van can also be specified with a 4x4 system when equipped with the V6 diesel.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van offers a suitably comfortable ride and behaves itself well on most road surfaces. Cruising around the city, the Sprinter Passenger Van will point and go where the driver wants, and the light steering makes driving through tight city streets a pleasure. On the highway, the Sprinter feels planted despite its height. Passengers in the rear should note that the rear bench sits directly atop the rear axle, and hitting bumps will see heads connect with the roof if seatbelts are not engaged. Going around fast bends reveals a bit of body roll, which is a given when looking at this van's dimensions and weight, but it never feels out of control, and the traction and stability control programs ensure that no serious spills occur.
Due to its classification as a van, the EPA doesn't offer any official gas mileage figures for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van, but according to independent sources, the Sprinter should see an average combined figure of between 17 and 19 miles per gallon. With a 22-gallon fuel tank fitted to the four-cylinder SWB van and a 24.5-gallon tank fitted in six-cylinder vans, the Sprinter Passenger van should have an approximate range of between 396 and 441 miles.
Passenger vans aren't exactly known for their luxurious accommodation; you usually get a set of basic seats, a few cupholders, and seatbelts, but the game has moved on in recent years, and people are expecting more than just the fundamentals. That is one of the biggest reasons why the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is as popular as it is: its interior is one of the most refined in its class, and has a quality feel that is lacking in some more basic offerings such as the GMC Savana Passenger Van. The high step-in level makes getting in and out easy, especially in the back, and once inside, the Sprinter Passenger Van offers good visibility out the front and behind the A-pillars, but after that, it becomes limited. With above-average build quality and refinement, the Sprinter is a pleasure to drive over long distances and should prove to be one of the most comfortable in its class.
The Sprinter Passenger Van is all about interior space. After all, its sole purpose in life is to transport large numbers of people back and forth from the airport to four-star hotels. SWB vans offer seating for 12, while LWB Vans get seating for 15. The driver and front passenger won't complain about 56.4 inches of headroom and 38.9 inches of legroom. There's also 67.4 inches of shoulder room and 63.7 inches of hip room on offer. The Sprinter Passenger Van will easily swallow its allotted amount of adults with room to spare. The 2500 trim van includes a four-seater bench in the third row which offers enough space for smaller adults, and in the front and in the second row it includes a three-seater bench. Getting in and out of the back of the Sprinter is taken care of via a large sliding door on the passenger side, but a driver's side door can also be selected. An optional electric sliding door on the right-hand side of the car is an option and features a soft-closing function.
While it may be one of the more refined and luxurious vehicles in its class, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van still only offers the basics when it comes to interior material choices and trims pieces. What you get is a vast swathe of black plastics that are admittedly put together well. As with its sedan and SUV siblings, this Merc features circular vents that are finished off in a brushed aluminum type plastic that adds some class to an otherwise darkened dashboard. Seat upholstery is offered in your choice of Maturin Black cloth, Caluma Black cloth, or Black leatherette.
The Sprinter Passenger Van was designed to carry people, but when the need arises, it can be turned into a regular cargo van with relative ease. The SWB model offers a total of 78.6 cubic feet trunk space behind the last row of seats. That number grows to a generous 111.2 cubic feet in the LWB van. Other important cargo measurements include a cargo width between wheelhouses of 53 inches, a max floor width of 69.8 inches, and an interior standing height of 75.5 inches. Small-item storage in the front is good thanks to a large glovebox and storage nook below the air vents. Front occupants get two cupholders, as well as a set of door pockets. There's also a set of seatback pockets for the second row.
One should be reminded that the Sprinter is a humble people transporter before anything else, and while it may be one of the more refined and luxurious passenger vans out there, it still can't hold a candle to even the entry-level Mercedes-Benz C-Class. With that being said, the 2020 Sprinter Passenger Van does include a few handy tools and tricks that make life a bit easier. Standard interior features include a 12V power outlet in the rear compartment, a rear window defroster, air conditioning, heat insulation for the front compartment, a warm/cool air duct to the rear compartment, coat hooks in the passenger compartment, as well as a weight-optimized plastic floor, and illuminated front exits. Optional extras include a phone charging pad in the front, a color display instrument cluster, and a leather steering wheel. Driver assistance features include a standard rearview camera and optional active distance assist and blindspot assist.
Unless you're operating a party-bus type business, you will most likely not need a massively technical infotainment system. As with its contemporaries, the 2020 Sprinter Passenger van only offers the bare essentials in base form. What you get is a small LCD screen with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth streaming, and a single USB charging port. Sound is channeled through a standard sound system with five front speakers and eight speakers at the back. For those who are looking for more, Mercedes-Benz offers optional navigation, satellite radio, and a seven-inch infotainment display. The Premium Plus package adds on top of that an intelligent navigation system, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless phone charging, and free map updates for three years.
There are currently no recalls issued for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van. Mercedes will cover its Sprinter Passenger Van with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a five-year/100,000-mile corrosion and drivetrain warranty, as well as three years or 36,000 miles of roadside assistance.
As a van, the Sprinter misses out on the opportunity to prove itself on the crash test course, and so neither the NHTSA or IIHS has put one through its paces, which seems mighty odd when you consider the fact that it was designed for the pure and simple reason of transporting up to 15 humans at a time. The good news here is that Mercedes-Benz has upped the Sprinter's safety game by quite a substantial margin thanks to the addition of a bunch of optional driver assistance tech. With Mercedes-Benz's reputation for building ultra-safe cars, we wouldn't worry too much about the Sprinter Passenger Van.
For a simple box on wheels designed as a human sardine can, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van does come with its fair share of safety systems and equipment, both traditional and modern. All Sprinter Passenger Vans come with standard longitudinal member reinforcement to protect its precious cargo in the event of a side-on collision, and there's also a set of ABS-equipped brakes, and a traction and stability control system onboard. A rearview camera and tire pressure monitoring are included, too. You'll have to look at the options list if you're serious about safety, however: optional safety features include blind-spot assist and attention assist as part of the Driver Convenience Package, Active brake and lane keep assist on the Premium Package, as well as intelligent navigation and traffic assist on the Premium Plus Package.
Let's be honest here; we don't think that anyone truly gets excited when shopping around for a passenger van. They might get excited about the possibilities the van will unlock for their business, but the physical act of owning and driving one doesn't stir the soul in quite the same way as buying a two-seater sports car does. This, however, does not detract from the fact that the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van is one of the best vehicles in its class for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's one of the better-looking vans out there and makes most American offerings look drab, to say the least. Secondly, its range of gas and diesel engines offer good power and acceptable gas mileage figures. When it comes to the interior, the Sprinter can't be beaten; it is more refined and comfortable than most. It drives well, and there's lots of space inside, so what more could you need?
The three-pointed star on the front of the Sprinter Passenger Van not only brings with it class-leading quality, but also an increase in asking price. When compared to rivals such as the GMC Savana Passenger Van, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van starts at over $5,000 more. The base model of the Sprinter Passenger range is the 1500 SWB van powered by the 2.0-liter four-pot engine. This van starts off with an MSRP of $41,095, which excludes registration, tax, and a destination fee of $1,495. The more capable, higher-payload 2500 increases the price to $42,320. The LWB Sprinter starts at $54,700, and the SWB 4x4 tops things off with an asking price of $55,195.
For 2020, Mercedes-Benz offers the Sprinter Passenger Van in two different trim levels, 1500 and 2500, each of which are divided into separate configurations including SWB, LWB, and the SWB 4x4 configuration. SWB derivatives are powered by a 188-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sends its power to the rear via a nine-speed transmission. Also on offer in the SWB format is the 4x4 Sprinter Passenger van that is powered by a turbo-diesel six-cylinder engine and, as the name suggests, throws a 4x4 system into the mix. The LWB van is exclusively available with the turbo diesel engine.
Features that come standard across the range include a weight-optimized plastic floor, illuminated front exits, a 12V power outlet, in the rear compartment, a rear window defroster, and air conditioning. The infotainment system includes AM/FM radio and Bluetooth streaming, as well as a 13-speaker sound system.
The 2500 model adds a fourth-row four-seater bench, a three-seater bench in the first row, as well as a three-seater bench in the second row. The 2500 also includes a fuel-fired heater booster.
It may be on the basic side in base form, but the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van can be kitted out with all sorts of packages to create the perfect people carrier for every occasion. There are too many packages to mention, so we will only focus on a few of the more impressive ones. Firstly, there's the Driver Convenience Package, which, for $994, adds features such as blind-spot assist, attention assist, a multi-function steering wheel, as well as two additional keys, and heated and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors. The $1,022 Premium Package consists of a wet wiper system, active brake assist, active lane-keeping assist, as well as a seven-inch touchscreen display. On top of that, the Premium Plus Package adds features such as navigation, active distance assist, a leather steering wheel, traffic sign assist, as well as wireless charging and free map updates for three years, all for around $2,000 depending on the trim selected. There are numerous other comfort packages on offer, such as the Passenger Accessibility Package, which adds an electric sliding step, and an electronic right sliding door.
How long is a piece of string? This choice will depend on what you want to use the Sprinter Passenger van for. If you're only planning on transporting around ten people at a time, get the SWB van. If it's more than ten, then go for the LWB Van. If you're planning on taking 12 or fewer people on an off-road safari, then you should definitely go for the SWB 4x4 option. If we had the money, we would most certainly go for the SWB 4x4 version with the turbo-diesel six-cylinder under the hood.
The 2020 Ford Transit Passenger Van forms part of the fifth generation first introduced in 2013 and has proven to be a wildly popular choice, not only amongst business owners but for large families looking for basic transport as well. The Transit Passenger Van is powered by a range of three powerplant options, including a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine. The Transit is a bare-bones thing in base form, which makes sense when you consider its basic goal of transporting people around. We appreciate the Transit's range of powerful engines, high levels of customizability, and impressive driving dynamics. Its infotainment system is also one of the better ones we've tested. On the downside, the Transit Passenger Van lacks the more refined feel of the German and is susceptible to strong crosswinds. Get the Merc.
The GMC Savana has been around longer than the Toy Story franchise, and boy does it show it. This ancient but capable platform has seen continuous small improvements, but at the end of the day is still one of the most basic people carriers on the market today. Power is supplied by a wide range of engines, including a 276-horsepower, 4.3-liter V6, a 2.8-liter turbo inline-four diesel, and a 6.0-liter V8. On the road, the Savanna feels stable, and that's about it; the Merc offers a far more refined ride. The interior is as basic as they come; you get a few seats, a steering wheel, and windows. Obviously, there's more to the interior, but you get the point. Plus points include its low asking price, tried and trusted platform, and good towing capabilities. If it were up to us, we'd go with the Mercedes-Benz every day of the week.
Check out some informative Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Passenger Van video reviews below.