2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter First Drive Review: Refining Commercial Transport

First Drive / Comments

Being a delivery driver just got a little more relaxing.

Being a delivery driver just got a bit more peaceful with the arrival of the 2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter. Based on the popular Sprinter that has sold over 500,000 units in the United States since arriving on the market in 2002, the eSprinter is the first all-electric van offering from the three-pointed star to be sold stateside. Not everyone is ready to trade in their gasoline cars for an EV just yet, but local delivery vans are one industry that stands to benefit highly from the switch to electrification.

The eSprinter arrives with only one configuration, placing it head-to-head with the only other electric van offering in the US market: the Ford E-Transit. Mercedes may have a higher price tag, but it includes a larger battery to enable more than twice the range of the Ford. Businesses and fleet customers seeking to save money in the long term may want to check out the eSprinter.

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Exterior: It's A Van

The eSprinter is a van, and it looks like one. Were you expecting a supercar? It looks nearly identical to its diesel-powered counterpart, meaning all of the various body panels for the regular Sprinter should fit with no issues. Mercedes will only sell the eSprinter in one configuration; a cargo van with the longer 170-inch wheelbase and the high roof. If you want a passenger van or a cab chassis, it will have to have a diesel engine, for now.

There are a few ways to dress up the eSprinter's exterior, including 16-inch alloy wheels to replace the steel ones ($1,015), LED lights ($1,801), and several premium and premium metallic paints ($755-$1,198). Speaking of paints, the eSprinter is available with a wide variety of interesting hues to match whatever business you have. Some standouts include Velvet Red, Aqua Green, Brilliant Blue, and Calcite Yellow.

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Interior: Spartan Or Mercedes

Mercedes lets customers choose how spartan or how luxurious they want their eSprinter to be. The base configuration includes a driver seat with a folding jump seat on the passenger side, perfect for the average delivery driver. A Comfort Package adds a passenger seat for just $426. Maturin Black Fabric is the no-cost upholstery, but a more premium Caluma Black Fabric or Leatherette can be equipped for a measly $67 to dress up the interior. Those seats can even be electrically powered and heated for $1,643. You also get a scarcely believable eight cupholders inside, meaning drivers will never be thirsty on a delivery run.

A tiny, barebones touchscreen comes standard, but the vans we drove had the optional 10.25-inch MBUX infotainment system found in many Mercedes passenger cars. It can be added as part of a $2,390 Premium MBUX Package that also includes a heated leather steering wheel, a rearview camera with head-unit display, the Acoustic Package, a hinged storage compartment, wet wiper system, and more. The system includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The eSprinter will never feel like an S-Class inside, but it's nicer than any van has the right to be.

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Practicality: So Much Room For Activities

Since the eSprinter only comes in one body configuration, they all have the same amount of storage. The rear area holds 488 cubic feet, less than one cubic foot more than you get in the biggest E-Transit. Ford does offer more configurations, including three roof heights, three lengths, as well as Cargo Van, Cutaway, and Access Cab body styles. In terms of carrying capacity, the eSprinter registers as a 2500 with 2,624 pounds of payload capacity (the gross vehicle weight is 9,370 lbs). That's significantly less than the equivalent diesel Sprinter, which can carry between 3,450 and 3,814 lbs. Blame the additional weight from the battery pack, but it's one of the sacrifices in electric vans.

A single side door on the passenger side gives access to the cargo area and can be electrically powered for $930 or have electric closing assist for $376. There are also dual-opening doors at the back to make loading easy.

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Performance: No More Diesel Clatter

Powering the eSprinter is a single electric motor mounted on the rear axle that only weighs 286 pounds. It's available with two power outputs - 134 or 201 horsepower - both delivering 295 pound-feet of torque. For comparison, the diesel Sprinter produces between 170 to 211 hp with 295 to 332 lb-ft. Mercedes says the lower output may be popular for fleet managers who won't want their delivery drivers having too much fun behind the wheel. There are even drive modes that limit the motor's output to improve efficiency. Comfort delivers full power, Eco limits the high output model to the standard output's 134-hp level while Maximum range drops it even lower to 107 hp. Fleet managers can even delete the Comfort setting to keep drivers in the slow lane.

A 113 kWh lithium phosphate battery is the only option, delivering around 249 of range on the European WLTP testing cycle. On the US EPA cycle, that should translate to around 222 miles (or around 277 miles in city driving). Those numbers easily best the Ford E-Transit with its 68 kWh battery that can only go 126 miles. The Ford is more powerful though, producing 266 hp and 317 lb-ft.

As standard, the eSprinter can charge as 50 kW, but 115 kW DC fast-charging is available for $593. At the higher speeds, a 10-80% charge takes just 40 minutes. We imagine most eSprinters will be charged overnight at 9.6 kW.

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Driving Impressions: Fast Delivery

There isn't a surplus of experienced van drivers at CarBuzz, but we have had the occasional run-in with U-Haul. Driving a van can be scary when you are doing it for the first time, but the eSprinter helps eliminate some of that fear thanks to its quiet and serene performance. There's no V8 or diesel screaming its head off as you push it to highway speed, just silent, effortless passing power that doesn't leave the eSprinter feeling like a bother. Those Eco and Maximum range modes significantly reduce acceleration, but leaving the eSprinter in Comfort enables plenty of oomph to eliminate the uncertainty of being cut off during a lane change maneuver.

Mercedes includes five brake regeneration settings, though none of them enable a true one-pedal driving mode. These settings can be disabled if requested, meaning the eSprinter will coast when you lift off the throttle.

Aside from the peacefulness of the propulsion system, the eSprinter handles as you'd expect from a van, bouncing around a bit over road imperfections. That being said, the ride is far from jarring. The low center of gravity provided by the battery pack also keeps the eSprinter feeling a bit more planted to the road than a typical van. Steering is light and the turning radius is shockingly nimble for such a large vehicle. This is a van that requires very little learning curve to hop in and drive.

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Pricing & Verdict: Pay For Refinement

The 2024 eSprinter is not an inexpensive proposition, starting at $71,886. A comparable diesel Sprinter rings in significantly lower under $60,000. Adding the higher output motor tacks on $3,430 to the price. As a business owner in need of a van, you will need to weigh the pros and cons of spending over $10 - $13k more to get the eSprinter over its diesel counterpart. The entry cost is higher, but the electric powertrain should start to pay for itself over years of emission-free driving and lower maintenance costs. Mercedes will offer a competitive lease for $998 per month for 36 months with $6,386 down, likely taking advantage of the $7,500 lease credit in the Inflation Reduction Act. This might be the best way to get an eSprinter.

If you must have an electric van but have a smaller budget, the 2023 Ford E-Transit starts at just $49,995 (2024 pricing wasn't available as the time of writing). You will have to spend extra to get a longer high-roof model like the Mercedes, pushing that price to $55,995. It's also worth noting that the E-Transit's range is around half that of the eSprinter, which might justify the Mercedes' price tag.

The eSprinter is basically a math equation; will you save money in diesel fuel and running costs by purchasing one, and if so, how long will it take to pay off the higher premium? There is also the element of employee satisfaction to consider, which will almost certainly be higher behind the wheel of the eSprinter. Fleet managers and business owners of America, the decision is up to you.

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