The current generation Sprinter, the NCV3, was introduced to the USA in 2006. 12 years later, that van is STILL a segment leader in comfort and capacity. In fact, Mercedes set a sales record for Sprinter vans just last year, selling over 200,000 vans. This is a true testament to how superior the van was in the first place. However, a lot has happened in 12 years, and Mercedes is eager to set the bar even higher with the all new 2019 Sprinter Van.
Mercedes went all out with the reveal of this truck – a big venue, fancy graphics, music and speeches from all the normal crew. While we love Sprinter vans, the reveal was a bit over the top for what is largely the same vehicle, but, on the other hand, the impact of the Sprinter on the market is huge so it made sense.
The new model doesn’t change much styling-wise. The sharper lines introduced in the mid-model NVC3 refresh are gone, replaced with smoother lines, a larger grill and smaller headlights designed to match the current Mercedes corporate design. The interior space is largely the same, outside of making the wheel arches smaller. The new model has a 50 kg increase in payload rating and a 80 mm lower floor height. Perhaps the largest change platform wise is the introduction of a “tractor” model, more commonly referred to in the US as a chassis cab, ideal for RV conversions and other specialty builds.
Although the styling didn’t change much, there were big changes to the interior. Gone is the handsome and functional center console, replaced with a large flat area designed to handle a large color touchscreen that houses the “MBUX” interface. The new model is all about technology and connectivity, more on this later, and all those features work through this new touchscreen interface.
The screen design clearly took most of the development budget for the interior, leaving everything else as an afterthought – for example, look closely below the screen and you’ll see a volume ROCKER. Seriously, our W124 and W201 Mercedes 300d and 190d have volume rockers, but every model since then has used the much easier to use volume KNOB. Thankfully the instrument cluster remains classy and clear, with a nice, large color screen in between the tachometer and speedometer.
Overall, though, we don’t think this interior is an upgrade over the outgoing model, it certainly does not feel as comfortable or user friendly. That large screen will be quite far from the reach of the driver, so operating it might be difficult or distracting. Even worse, if you get a base model, that big screen area is replaced with a big expanse of plain, useless plastic. If you ask us, it is quite ugly.
As we mentioned, the biggest features that Mercedes is highlighting are technology and connectivity. To begin, the first all-electric Sprinter Van will be introduced on the new platform next year. Second, a whole slew of connectivity options are available for everyone from RV’ers to fleet managers. New convenience features such as remote control of HVAC from a smartphone app combine with fleet tracking that includes driver location, vehicle supervision and maintenance scheduling.
Looking at all these smart fleet tracking and electric technologies there is something curiously missing – autopilot features. The van has all the existing Mercedes packages – lane keep assist, radar based cruise, crosswind assist etc., but these have already been around for quite some time and most were offered in the outgoing model. For such a large release, we were expecting to hear something about autopilot plans.
Mercedes announced a new program called RENTAL@VANS for renting Sprinter Vans directly from the manufacturer. In the US, Mercedes is a partner of SHARING@VANS, a sharing service for Sprinter Vans. There are other programs, too, but the overall message here is that Mercedes is trying to be on the forefront of the sharing/gig/rental economy as consumers and professionals move away from normal purchasing.
Pricing was announced for Europe but European pricing doesn’t translate directly to US pricing so we’ll need to wait for Mercedes to announce the US arrival of the new model before we having pricing. US pricing may be more competitive than the outgoing model as Mercedes is building an all new production plant dedicated to Sprinter vans which should save on production and import costs.