2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter offers full customization and new creature comforts
The new Sprinter will arrive in Canada late this year, and we should receive several hundred configuration options
It's tough to get excited about a van, but Mercedes pulled out all the stops here in Germany to introduce the third generation of its Sprinter.
We don't get all the configuration options in Canada that are available in other parts of the world, but that's okay – Mercedes estimates there are more than 1,700 ways to order a new Sprinter, and we'll get several hundred of them at least.
The new Sprinter will arrive in Canada late this year, and prices will probably be about the same as the current generation. The least expensive cargo Sprinter now starts at $46,000, rising to $61,000 for an AWD passenger van.
There's a choice of engines, chassis lengths and heights and weight ratings, and even a choice of rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or front-wheel drive – is there any other vehicle that offers this variety?
We will not get the front-wheel-drive option in Canada (which offers a 50 kg greater weight capacity and an 80 mm-lower deck), but we will get a new gasoline engine to complement the two existing diesel engines, and the gas engine will probably be less expensive. And down the road, we might even get the all-electric Sprinter that will be offered in Europe next year.
"There's a demand for it here in Europe, especially in the courier, express and parcel industry," said Daimler AG spokesperson Benjamin Kaehler. "They drive the same route every day, so it's very plannable. They're looking at costs, but also at inner-city driving restrictions," which allow only electric vehicles in some large cities.
The electric Sprinter will be offered with a choice of battery power: a buyer can specify a pack of two, three or four batteries, giving a range of up to 200 km. One European fleet company, Hermes GmbH, has already ordered 1,500 all-electric Sprinters, Kaehler said.
Don't expect to see them in Canada soon, though. "The focus is in the European markets now, with the heavy greenhouse gas emissions they have to achieve, but we will look to have the eSprinter available in North America in future years," said Iain Forsyth, National Manager for Mercedes-Benz vans in Canada.
"Right now, I don't know if there's the demand in Canada. What's important to our customers in the cargo delivery segment is range and payload – you have to get that right combination. Right now, they are just curious."
What we will get is a fully-customizable vehicle that's sold as a panel van, passenger van, crew van, or just the bare chassis for conversion into an RV. It looks similar to the current model, though it's 105 mm slimmer thanks to more aerodynamic mirrors. There's a larger grille and narrower, more powerful headlights, but a big selling point will be its available use of Mercedes' new PRO Connect system and MBUX infotainment system.
PRO Connect allows improved interaction with people outside the vehicle, such as fleet controllers who can monitor their vans in real time, and who can tell their individual status during commercial rounds. As well, it provides managers with "efficient analysis of driving style, digitalized recording and remote vehicle operations," Mercedes said.
RV owners will also appreciate the connectivity of MBUX, which was just unveiled on the new A-Class. Mercedes suggested an example of a family camping in the mountains who get caught in the rain while hiking – they can call ahead to their Sprinter to turn on the heat for when they return.
About 5 per cent of the almost 4,700 Sprinters sold in Canada last year became RVs, while 80 per cent were panel vans and the rest passenger vans, seating up to 12 people. A 15-passenger variant is being considered for Canada, Forsyth said. Sprinters have also been converted into ambulances in Quebec, and even a mobile dentist's clinic in Brampton, Ont.
There are five possible tonnages, from the light-duty 1500 that will offer the gasoline engine to the 4500 that, in Europe at least, will have an official GVWR of 5.5 tonnes.
"This brings new connectivity to the marketplace, [with] new features, new variations, and a new interior," Forsyth said. "There are new creature comforts for our passenger vehicles, as well as exemplary safety systems from the passenger cars."
Mercedes' Distance Control system will be available, which allows the Sprinter to follow the vehicle ahead at a safe distance while on Cruise, as well as a self-cleaning rear-view camera and a 360-degree camera system for use when parking.
The creature comforts include a choice of ergonomically-shaped seats, keyless start and an improved air-conditioning system. Passenger vans will offer USB ports for every seat, to power mobile devices.
"I wouldn't say it's a premium vehicle," Forsyth said, "but I think it brings to the commercial market the luxury features customers have depended on, from a safety side and from a quality side."