Vans aren’t usually hotbeds of automotive technology, but Mercedes-Benz is trying to change that with its redesigned Sprinter. The new Sprinter has traditional van virtues, like generous cargo space and Lego-like configurability. But it also emphasizes connectivity like never before, and will be offered with an all-electric powertrain for the first time.
Mercedes loaded the Sprinter up with tech features aimed at both individual and fleet buyers. Multiple telematics services bundled under the Mercedes Pro label allow fleet managers to monitor the locations, fuel levels, and maintenance records of multiple vehicles, as well as give drivers assignments.
The Sprinter also boasts many of the tech features one would normally expect to find in a passenger car. The new MBUX infotainment system can be paired with 7-inch or 10.25-inch touchscreens, and features AppleCarPlay and Android Auto. A voice-recognition system understands casual speech. For example, saying “the fuel tank is empty” prompts the system to find nearby gas stations. Touchpads on the steering wheel control infotainment functions.
Driver-assist tech has also reached passenger-car levels. The Sprinter can be equipped with adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, crosswind assist, a driver attention monitor, and 360-degree camera system. It also gets Mercedes’ “Wet Wiper” system, which sprays washer fluid directly onto the wiper blades, rather than the windshield, to improve visibility.
On the outside, the Sprinter looks similar to the outgoing-generation model, with a bit of the Mercedes Vision Van concept thrown in. Under the skin, Mercedes will offer an all-electric powertrain in the Sprinter for the first time. The electric model, called eSprinter, will arrive in 2019. In Europe, other versions will use a variety of gasoline and diesel engines. The U.S.-spec engine lineup hasn’t been finalized.
Like its predecessor, the new Sprinter will be offered in an array of configurations for carrying both cargo and passengers. Mercedes claims there are no less than 1,700 possible combinations of powertrain and body style. That includes a choice of front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive. The Sprinter is probably the only vehicle in production to offer all three. The packaging efficiency of the front-wheel drive option makes it ideal for camper-van conversions, Mercedes says.
The new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter goes on sale in Europe in June. A U.S. launch date and pricing will be announced at a later date. Sprinters sold in the U.S. will be built at a new factory in Charleston, South Carolina.
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