by Jared Rosenholtz
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter offers a more complete and luxurious offering for those not enamored by the Ram ProMaster or Ford Transit. Available in a pair of wheelbase choices, the Sprinter can seat between 12 and 15 people in comfort and, thanks to a high roof as standard on the Passenger van, navigating the rows of seats is easy. Rear-wheel-drive and a nine-speed auto are the stock configuration, with a seven-speed auto available and four-wheel-drive an option too. In terms of powertrains, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged gas engine is the default option, making 188 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque; those who need more grunt, or want the 4x4 variant, get a 3.0-liter six-cylinder producing the same 188 hp but 325 lb-ft of torque. Pricing starts at a competitive $42,990 but numerous options and configurations can elevate the cost considerably.
The Sprinter has been redesigned for the 2019 model year, but if you didn't notice the new headlights and taillights that's alright because it's hard to tell what's changed on the outside. 16-inch wheels are standard fare along with textured plastic bumpers, with LED lighting optional. Inside, a brilliant new but optional MBUX infotainment system can be had with either a seven- or 10.25-inch touchscreen. The engines have also been updated, making the new Sprinter less of a chore to drive from A to B.
No van is particularly good-looking, but the Sprinter makes an admirable effort with its accent line running the length of the sides, making the sliding-door rails less unsightly. 16-inch alloy wheels are standard while the roof bubble and prominent three-pointed star help the Sprinter stand out. Optional LED headlights and partial LED taillights can further enhance the styling, but the Ford Transit is arguably more of a looker.
The Sprinter Passenger is available in two basic configurations: a 144-inch wheelbase variant and a 170-inch wheelbase version. The first is 233.5 inches long and the second is 274.3 inches from end to end. Height varies too, at 114.2 and 113.5 inches respectively. Width is equal between the two, measuring 79.5 inches across. Gross weight varies depending on trim and powertrain but varies from 8,550 lbs in the base 1500 to 9,050 in the gas- and diesel-powered 144-inch 2500s, topping out at 9,480 lbs in the rear-wheel-drive only 170-inch 2500.
A multitude of color options is available for the Sprinter Passenger van, four of which are at no cost. Arctic White, Pebble Grey, Blue Grey, and Steel Blue are the standard choices. Graphite Grey and Calcite Yellow cost $635 each, but if you really want to splash out, $1,015 will get you one of six additional choices: Black Blue, Jet Black, Obsidian Black Metallic, Tenorite Grey Metallic, Selenite Grey Metallic, or Iridium Silver. We'd stick with a no-cost option though, something subtle like Pebble Grey should do the trick just fine.
The Sprinter is available with two engine options, one of which runs on gasoline and the other being diesel-powered. Both are turbocharged and both make 188 hp. The 2.0-liter gas engine produces 258 lb-ft of torque and is only available as a rear-wheel-drive model with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The diesel engine is a six-cylinder mated to a seven-speed automatic and develops 325 lb-ft and can be had in rear-wheel-drive or as a 4x4. The base 1500 144-inch model with the gas engine has a maximum payload of 2,941 lbs, while the 2500 rear-wheel-drive with the same engine manages 3,441 lbs. Swapping the diesel motor in yields a maximum payload of 3,265 lbs. Four-wheel-drive Sprinters can handle 2,879 lbs and long-wheelbase gas and diesel Sprinters can haul 3,307 lbs and 3,067 lbs respectively. When you're in a hurry, the Sprinter is still a big van, but performs admirably, getting up to motorway speeds with relative ease. Acceleration is not particularly brisk, but more than adequate and most will find the experience more car-like than expected. If the vehicle is being entrusted to an employee, owners can have speed limiters optioned in too. The maximum towing capacity is 5,000 lbs, although the longer wheelbase variants are not rated for towing.
The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four gas engine with 188 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. For most duties, this engine performs admirably, which is why it's available in both the short- and long-wheelbase versions of the Sprinter. Acceleration is good, and the gear changes are smooth and silent. The nine-speed automatic gearbox works brilliantly too, always knowing which gear is ideal, although there are paddles available if you want to shift yourself. The other engine that is available is a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel, which also produces 188 hp but makes 325 lb-ft of torque. This engine is mated to an automatic gearbox too but with two gears fewer. With more twist, this is a great companion for those who intend to fully maximize the use of their Sprinter, and just as with the gas engine, acceleration and staying at speed is impressive for the size of the vehicle. Of course, rivals like the Ram ProMaster with its 3.6-liter V6 are more powerful, but for the purpose of smoothly ferrying people about with no fuss or drama, the Sprinter is more than strong enough.
With crosswind assist fitted as standard, the tall van does well on the highway and is easy to keep in a straight line. Thanks to electrically-assisted, albeit numb, steering and a large turning angle, maneuvering the long van is a simple and easy job, and the wheel builds effort progressively, making the Sprinter easy to pilot even on narrow city streets. The ride quality too has been lauded for its compliance and composure, which only gets better the more weight is added in the form of passengers, making freeway cruising a pleasure. Looking at the profile of the Sprinter, one would be forgiven for thinking that the tall van is likely to tip over. However, Merc's crosswind assist system is standard. The system helps keep the van straight by braking individual wheels as required without impacting speed. When you turn, the new springs and dampers help maintain body roll, although excessively aggressive maneuvers will naturally still impact the composure of the van. Braking is adequate and easy to modulate, and with one of the nicest steering wheels in a van, the Sprinter really feels more car-like than the lofty and commanding driving position would have you believe. Standard hill-start assist also makes pulling away on inclines something that won't work on the nerves of your numerous passengers. Available with 4x4, the Sprinter is surprisingly impressive for a van when you go off the beaten path. To drive, there is very little out there that is going to instill as much confidence and still provide comfort as the Mercedes can.
As a commercial vehicle, the Mercedes Sprinter Passenger van does not need to report EPA estimates for fuel consumption, but real-world reports for the diesel-powered variants have shown that this engine will return around 16-20 mpg with mixed driving. The four-pot gasoline engine is too new for a verdict or a reliable estimate, but the torquier diesel is all but guaranteed to be a better performer. Gas-powered Sprinters also get a smaller fuel tank at 22 gallons, with diesel models getting a 24.5-gallon tank. Therefore, we'd recommend choosing the six-cylinder for better economy and fewer stops.
A neat but functional interior, the Sprinter has a level of class and style that transcends the numerous hard plastics required for a workhorse. Fantastic build quality and impressive upholstery materials help elevate the interior of the Sprinter to an almost car-like level without compromising the abilities of the van. Numerous storage compartments and available features also help to make the Sprinter a place that one wouldn't mind spending plenty of time in. The optional infotainment upgrade is also fantastic. With five front and eight rear speakers, a tall roof, tinted rear windows, and a rear air-conditioning duct, those being ferried in the rear will also find the Sprinter pleasantly hospitable.
Two wheelbase options are available for the Sprinter Passenger van, each of which offers different seating configurations. The 144-inch wheelbase version can seat 12 including the driver, across four rows, the rearmost of which seats four abreast. If you spec the 170-inch wheelbase, you can fit an extra row of three, bringing the seat count to 15. Getting in and out of the back (in standard configuration) is done via a large sliding door on the passenger side, but a driver's-side sliding door can be specced too. All the seats are solid and as comfortable as one would expect from a quality passenger van, and even the tallest of passengers will be able to walk upright to the back of the van to get a seat. Once planted in the chair, there is good legroom for all, and long trips are endurable. Up front, the two cabin seats get manual adjustment as standard, and the driver's chair can be optioned without bolsters to make getting in and out easier. Visibility all-round is excellent, and the mirrors are multi-faceted, allowing you to see your blind spots with ease.
Maturin Black fabric upholstery is standard in all models, with a $400 premium buying you access to either Caluma Black cloth upholstery or black leatherette. The dash and door panels feature variations of grey and black hard-touch plastics, but they're elegantly sculpted, and feature round air vents ringed with chrome brightwork. A gloss black fascia houses the infotainment system, while a very comfortable and good-looking leather multi-function steering wheel is optional.
Despite seating a number of individuals, the Sprinter Passenger Van still has space for inanimate objects too. 140-inch wheelbase models have 78.6 cubic feet of capacity behind the last row of seats, while 170-inch wheelbase variants can fit 111.2 cubic feet of luggage or other items. What you can realistically fit there depends on how high you're willing to stack and how far past the rear-seats' headrests you're willing to go, but whatever you decide, packing the van is relatively easy, thanks to 270-degree-opening split rear doors and a load height of between 26.3 and 30.8 inches. If you need even more space, any of the rear seats can be removed with relative ease to increase space, although these seats are heavy and a second individual may be required to safely carry the seats out.
In terms of cupholders and small-item storage, up to 10 cupholders can be configured, some big enough to handle supersize drinks too. In addition, small storage bins, nets, and thoughtful trays are scattered throughout, leaving the cabin uncluttered and your valuables secure.
A wide array of standard and optional features help the Sprinter range stand out as a favorite for business-owners and workmen alike. A rearview camera, tinted rear windows, keyless start, hill-start assist, a tow-hook, and crosswind assist are all standard. Optional features include a multi-function steering wheel bound in leather, cruise control, adaptive cruise control, a drowsy driver warning, heated mirrors, a heated windshield, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, a rain sensor, LED headlights with auto high beams, fog lights with cornering, park assist, and a 360-degree camera. Also available are power-adjustable front seats which can also be specced with heating. Wireless charging too can be added in, as well as a choice between two speed-limiters - a useful feature for those who cannot fully trust their drivers to obey the speed limits.
Mercedes infotainment systems have been finicky and unintuitive to use in the past, with a touchpad being the only way to navigate the confusing menus. Now, however, the MBUX or Mercedes-Benz User Experience is here, available with either a seven- or 10.25-inch touchscreen. All the usual smartphone gestures work, with voice control and steering controls available too. Two USB ports are standard along with Bluetooth, while music is played via five front and eight rear speakers. SiriusXM satellite radio, navigation, wireless charging, WiFi, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are available too. An easy to use system, the only let-down is the voice control system that activates every time the word "Mercedes" is mentioned, which can get annoying. However, it is an adaptive, learning system, so it should have updates in time.
The Sprinter has been subject to a number of recalls for 2019, ranging from issues like dim or faulty taillights, faulty hood latches, a faulty airbag system, and an abutting wedge which would make it more difficult to open the door in the event of a crash. Other recalls have been issued for incorrect windows being fitted and even for a final quality check that was never performed. In terms of warranties, Mercedes-Benz covers the Sprinter with a basic limited three-year/36,000-mile warranty, as well as a five-year/100,000-mile limited outer body and powertrain warranty.
The Sprinter Passenger van is classified as a commercial vehicle and is therefore not subjected to crash testing as regular passenger vehicles are. It has not been rated by the NHTSA or the IIHS.
As standard, the Sprinter Passenger van features a rearview camera, hill-start assist, and crosswind assist. Available features include parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, a drowsy driver warning, auto high beams, fog lights with a cornering function, park assist, and a 360-degree camera. A speed limiter can also be added to help prevent reckless driving.
Mercedes already had a good product with the previous generation Sprinter, and in this new one, they've updated what needed newness and left alone that which was already good. The optional MBUX infotainment system is one of the best available in a van, and the array of choice features and safety equipment makes this one of the most car-like commercial vehicles out there. With solutions to manage your fleet wirelessly, check deviations from routes, and send new destinations directly to the vehicle, Mercedes has clearly given a lot of thought to how their customers use these vehicles and facilitated solutions that will only make the daily grind easier to manage. Ride quality is excellent and the maneuverability and seat options make the Sprinter both versatile and comfortable to use every day. However, these things do come at a premium, as the options can become expensive if you tick too many boxes. That said, in base form, this is a genuinely good vehicle and if you do add extras, the cost of the numerous options is outweighed by how much simpler and easier the vehicle becomes to work with. We'd highly recommend one.
The 2019 Sprinter Passenger van starts at an MSRP in the U.S. of $42,990 before the $1,195 destination charge. This rear-wheel-drive 1500 model features a wheelbase of 144 inches and a four-cylinder turbocharged gas engine. The most expensive variant is also a 144-inch variant but features the six-cylinder turbo-diesel and 4x4. All in, this costs just shy of $58,000. With almost $17,000 worth of extras, we managed to get the online configurator to spit out a fully-loaded price of $76,039, or $2,242 per month. Speccing the V6 diesel costs $6,000, while the 4x4 diesel is $13,800 extra. The long-wheelbase version adds $5,800 to your build price.
Two trim levels are available for the Sprinter Passenger van, but these do not fundamentally change the features of the van - only its capability to carry loads. They are the 1500 and 2500.
The 1500 has a maximum payload of 2,941 lbs and can only be had with rear-wheel-drive and the 2.0-liter four-pot turbo paired with a nine-speed auto. This model can also only be had in 144-inch wheelbase configuration that seats 11 + 1. The 2500 trim has more options, as this can be configured with either the aforementioned wheelbase or a 170-inch wheelbase that can seat 14 + 1. The four-pot gas model can be fitted here, or a six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. The latter engine option can be paired with rear-wheel-drive or a 4x4 system. Maximum payload on the 2500 is 3,441 lbs with the gas engine - decreasing slightly with the diesel motor and with the longer wheelbase - although both the 1500 and 2500 can tow up to 5,000 lbs. The exception is the long-wheelbase variant, which has not been rated for towing. All models get standard crosswind assist, 16-inch wheels, tinted rear windows, 13 speakers, a heated rear window, keyless start, and a rearview camera. All variants have access to roughly the same options too, including an upgraded MBUX infotainment system, a 360-degree camera, parking assist, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, power-adjustable heated front seats, and automatic climate control, among others.
Numerous packages are available for the Sprinter, one of the best of which is the $1,140 Driver Convenience package. This adds a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, a 12-volt power outlet, electrically folding heated wing mirrors, a drowsy driver warning, and blind-spot assist. The Premium Plus package requires the aforementioned Driver Convenience package and adds the top-spec 10.25-inch touchscreen MBUX infotainment system with navigation, SiriusXM, adaptive cruise control, active brake assist, lane-keep assist, a rain sensor, wireless charging, a leather steering wheel, and parking assist. This package will also add another $2,530 to the price but it's worth it for all the added convenience features and the excellent infotainment system. The $1,520 Exterior Lighting package adds LED headlights and partial LED tails, as well as high beam assist and fog lamps with cornering. However, to unlock this package, you also have to add a chrome grille at $270. There are numerous other add ons available to allow for extensive customization.
The recommendation on commercial vehicles essentially comes down to what the vehicle is going to be used for. If you require the most people-carrying ability, the 170-inch wheelbase variants are for you and the 144-inch wheelbase is for everyone else. If you intend to use the vehicle as a tour bus in areas like national parks or the Grand Canyon, for example, opting for the 4x4 model is a smart move. Regardless of your needs, though, we'd suggest the torquier diesel engine as it's also likely to return the best mpg figures. We'd also opt for the Premium Plus package to get the best infotainment system and navigation, as these options are not available individually. This will also add other helpful features like lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring. It is an expensive package and - all in with the other required options that this package needs in order to be specified - will cost just under $3,700, but it's almost worth the added cost for the infotainment system alone.
If you need a bit more power than the Sprinter's 188 hp, you may want to consider the top-tier Ford Transit, which features a 275 hp 3.7-liter V6 gas engine with 260 lb-ft. This is mated to a six-speed auto that isn't quite as smooth as the nine-speed in the Merc, and is only available with rear-wheel-drive. It also rides on smaller 195/75 tires compared to the 245/75 tires on the Merc, which is a contributing factor to its slightly worse ride quality. However, it can also seat up to 15 people. Unfortunately, the $10,000 difference in price shows when you look at the towing capacity, which is only 3,800 lbs - 1,200 less than the Merc can pull. It also charges you extra for something as basic and commonplace as Bluetooth connectivity and doesn't have many of the advanced features that the Merc does. Yes, cruise control is standard, as are power mirrors, but adaptive cruise, heated front seats, and a parking assistant are not available. Overall, these are both great vans and it depends on needs. To just get the job done, the Transit is perfect. To get it done with a hint of style and comfort, buy the Sprinter.
Another, even cheaper alternative to the Sprinter is Ram's ProMaster Window Van. In top-tier spec, the 3500 High Roof starts at just over $40,000 - around 16 grand less than the 2500 V6 4x4 Sprinter. The Ram is fitted with a bigger motor too, a 3.6-liter V6 gas engine that develops 280 hp and 260 lb-ft. A six-speed auto is standard here, but oddly, the powered wheels are also the ones in charge of turning. Overseas, you can get a Sprinter with front-wheel-drive too, but market research suggests that Americans don't see FWD commercial vehicles as capable enough. The Ram isn't nearly as refined and quiet as the Merc, and lacks the available features of the Sprinter too - most notably safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring. The ProMaster is much more of a workhorse, with less focus on passenger comfort and is more of a cargo van with seats bolted in, than a vehicle designed to ferry people from the start. However, the Merc is a more premium product and is exceptional in this class in terms of features and safety equipment. Much like the Ford Transit, only more so, the ProMaster is a basic and economical way of getting people from A to B, whereas the Sprinter offers a little more of everything at a greater cost.