To coincide with its big-selling large van’s 18th birthday, Mercedes recently launched a heavily revised Sprinter. The brand has long pioneered safety technology in the commercial vehicle sector and the new model takes this tradition to new heights.

It is also the first van to meet the forthcoming Euro6 emissions standards for nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particulate mass emissions due to the Bluetec engine technology.

When the Sprinter’s renowned durability is factored in, matched only by last year’s winner, the Iveco Daily in the large van sector, it adds up to a formidable package. The Sprinter is a highly sophisticated yet tough vehicle that can take the sort of relentless punishment on demanding delivery runs that would leave most of its rivals floundering.

The new Sprinter line-up is powered by Merc’s tried and tested 2.2- and 3.0-litre diesels with power outputs going from 95hp to 190hp. These drivetrains can be wedded to either the precise six-speed manual gearbox or the extremely smooth seven-speed automatic transmission, which is now combined with an efficient auto stop/start function.

When we tested the 163hp, extra-long wheelbase 316 CDI Bluetec Sprinter, we described the gearbox thus: “The automatic transmission is hugely impressive, operating smoothly in both urban settings, where it takes much of the strain out of driving such a bulky vehicle, and on the motorway, where accelerating to cruising speed is accompanied by none of the faintly nauseating lurching that dogs some auto-shift light commercials.”

When it comes to safety kit the new Sprinter is without peers. The third generation of Mercedes’ Adaptive ESC harnesses a string of features including the standard Crosswind Assist, a first in the LCV sector. Activated at speeds over 49mph it minimises the impact of strong gusts of winds. The unit automatically brakes the wheels facing the wind, causing the vehicle to correct itself and avoid straying into the wrong lane.

A host of other safety features are available as options. Blind Spot Assist provides peace of mind when changing lanes, or can alert the driver to another vehicle undertaking, by activating a red warning light on either wing mirror when a vehicle has entered the blind spot. The system is operational from 18mph. Lane Keeping Assist issues an audible alert if the van is about to change lane without indicating. It uses a camera behind the windscreen to film the road ahead, identifying the contrasting markings. It is active from 37mph and, like Blind Spot Assist, can be turned off.

Night driving is aided by Highbeam Assist, which automatically switches the headlamps from full beam to dipped according to the traffic situation ahead of the van or oncoming traffic.

Collision Prevention Assist prevents or reduces the severity of rear-end shunts by using a radar-based monitoring system with sensors in the front bumper in conjunction with Adaptive Brake Assist. If you get too close a visual warning is triggered followed by an audible alarm.

Fashioned in line with Mercedes’ current design language the Sprinter is a handsome beast. The radiator grille is more upright and the three perforated louvres establish a link with the Citan light van. The three-pointed star badge sits on a highlighted base.

The interior features a thicker steering wheel, chrome fittings if the multi-functional steering wheel is optioned and a redesigned gearshift lever knob.

The Sprinter is fitted with a new-generation radio system that comes with Bluetooth telephone equipment and the Becker navigation system.


Highly Commended

Last year’s winner has to settle for the runner-up spot this time but the durable and robust rear-wheel drive Iveco Daily remains a serious proposition thanks to strong, flexible and smooth-running engines, a decent gear change and more-than-acceptable handling. In a recent upgrade, the Daily is now available with stop-start.