The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter shows that Mercedes-Benz excels at far more than luxury cars and crossovers. The company has a strong commercial vehicle side, and the Sprinter range covers the full-size van duties.
To get through the grind of the working day, the Sprinter offers a choice of excellent diesel engines. Bear in mind that the Europeans (especially the Germans) have spent decades refining their diesel technology. There’s also plenty more quality, capability, engineering and equipment available.
For example, nothing else in this class has Crosswind Assist, a special feature of the stability control system that can brake individual wheels to prevent the van from being blown off course. We’ve tried it. It works. An optional all-wheel-drive system comes with a raised off-road suspension and optional low-range gearing.
Another Sprinter strength is its ability for customization. According to Mercedes-Benz, there are more than 80 preferred upfitters in the United States with the company’s seal of approval, and 75 percent of Sprinters are delivered with modifications from these suppliers.
Independent agencies have recognized the Sprinter for best fleet value and for having the best resale value in its class.
What’s New for 2018?
A rearview camera is now standard throughout the range. Laminated glass becomes standard for all Sprinters without a partition wall. There are new XD versions of the Cargo and Cab Chassis configurations. And the entry level Worker Passenger version has been discontinued.
What We Like
Turbodiesel engines for superior fuel efficiency; various body styles with choices of lengths and heights; optional all-wheel drive; precise handling for a big van.
What We Don’t
Not a great amount of standard equipment.
The Sprinter is offered with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The latter can come with a raised suspension and low-range gearing with push-button activation.
The base engine is a 2.1-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder making 161 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. A 7-speed automatic is the sole transmission with this engine.
A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 developing 188 hp and 325 lb-ft is optional and is linked to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is the only engine that can be paired with all-wheel drive.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not provide fuel economy estimates for large vans.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is offered in Cargo, Crew, Passenger and Cab Chassis body styles. There are two wheelbase lengths (144 inches and 170 inches), three roof heights (low: 65 inches, high: 78.2 inches, and extra high EXT: 84.3 inches; only the Cargo van is available with the extra high roof, though). And three payload strengths: Standard 2500, heavy duty 3500 and extra-heavy duty 3500XD.
The Cargo van has three seats up front. The Crew includes second-row seating. The Passenger has four rows of seating with room for 12 occupants.
Behind the front row, the Sprinter is exceptionally versatile, with up to 586.1 cu ft. of storage in the Cargo. The Crew offers 367.5 cu ft. The 4-row Passenger maxes out at a still considerable 190.3 cu ft.
A Cargo in 2500 form can carry a payload of up to 3,501 pounds and can tow up to 5,000 pounds. In 3500 form, it’s a maximum payload of 4,519 pounds and a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds. The 3500 XD has a total payload of 5,695 pounds, while towing the same amount as the regular 3500.
The Worker Cargo 2500 ($34,990) comes only in white and has 16-inch steel wheels, cabin partition preparation, a metal floor, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, AM/FM radio with four speakers, a USB port, auxiliary audio input, crosswind assist, hill-start assist and a passenger-side sliding door. It has the 2.1-liter diesel engine, but the 3.0-liter V6 diesel is an option. It’s also available in both wheelbase lengths and with the standard roof or a high roof. Non-Worker versions offer more flexibility when choosing options.
Standard features on the Cargo 2500 ($39,415) include a wooden loadspace floor covering, air conditioning, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, locking glove box, a 5.8-in color infotainment display, SD card slot and a 5-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input.
Cargo 3500 ($42,355) and Cargo 3500XD ($43,665) are available with standard, high roof or extra-high roof.
Crew 2500 ($45,500) has a second row of seating with extra side windows to go with it, and is available with a standard or high roof.
Passenger 2500 ($48,180) has an upgraded 13-speaker audio system.
Cab Chassis 3500XD ($38,915) is available with either length of wheelbase.
All-wheel drive is available in all versions except for the longer-wheelbase Passenger and the Cab Chassis models. Other options (of which there are many) include parking sensors, an automated parking feature, xenon headlights, LED running lights, fog lights, a heated windshield, rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers, roof rails, driver’s side sliding rear door, chrome grille, 16-in alloy wheels, cruise control, rear cabin heater, navigation, luxury front seats with extra adjustments and front seat heaters.
The Sprinter has anti-lock disc brakes with automatic drying, brake assist, traction and stability control, roll-over mitigation plus front airbags, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
Optional electronic features include a radar-based collision warning system, blind spot monitoring, automatic high beams and lane-keeping assistance.
Behind the Wheel
Build quality is rock solid, with above-average materials. The standard front seats provide firm support, but consider the optional luxury seats if regular long trips are involved. The rear seating rows are more contoured than the norm and there’s adult-sized legroom even in the Passenger van’s fourth row.
Although the austere dashboard layout lacks the typical Mercedes-Benz panache, it’s still pleasant for a van. And the standard audio system includes a wide range of connectivity features.
The Sprinter is undeniably tall, but for all that height (and length), the driving experience is agreeable. The responsive steering carves a precise path, while the torque-rich diesel engines serve up decent thrust, even though acceleration is modest. Road and wind noise are low enough not to fatigue the driver, while the ride is firm but not harsh.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Ford Transit — The Transit is a strong rival. With comparable capabilities and similar styling, plus attractive engine options such as a turbodiesel 5-cylinder and a turbocharged 310-hp gasoline V6, this Ford is a must-drive.
2018 Ram ProMaster — Although the ProMaster’s driving position takes some getting used to (you’ll need long arms), the van has a huge interior and the option of a diesel V6.
Used Ford E-Series — Ford discontinued the venerable E-Series (formerly known as the Econoline) to make way for the Transit. For a bargain workhorse, though, a used E-Series could do the trick.
A revised Sprinter is coming for the 2019 model year. If your business can’t wait, all we’d say is to include as many driver safety aids as possible. They could easily pay for themselves in the long run in terms of accidents avoided or mitigated.