The Sprinter enters the 2014 model year with new styling, a new base engine and an OEM-estimated 18% boost in fuel economy. The Mercedes-Benz van, which is also badged as a Freightliner, now looks and feels more like the German automaker’s line of SUVs.
It remains the antidote to competitors from Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan and Ram and offers — in some cases — more than twice the cargo space.
The majority of U.S. Sprinter sales are represented by the two-seat cargo van configuration. With available extended length and high roof, the maximum cargo space is a cavernous 547 cubic feet. Drivers as tall as 6 feet 3 inches can walk upright under the high roof, and access is made easier by a low deck floor and 51-inch sliding side door.
The Crew Cab adds side windows and a removable three-seat bench; other configurations include a chassis cab and a 12-passenger van.
The Sprinter’s 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V-6 carries over from 2013 and delivers 188 horsepower (hp) at 325 pound-feet (lbs.-ft.) of torque. The new standard engine is a 2.1-liter four-banger, also diesel, that’s good for 161 hp at 265 lbs.-ft. The V-6 gets a five-speed automatic while the inline four gets a seven-speed.
All configurations are rear-wheel drive, but the OEM plans to introduce part-time four-wheel drive in the first quarter of 2015. The stretched-out Sprinter 3500 V-6 can carry a maximum payload of 5,415 lbs.; properly equipped, it can tow up to 7,500 lbs.
Hill-start assist is now standard and available safety packages add items such as blind-spot, lane-keeping, high-beam and collision-warning assistance.
Sprinter boasts the most well-appointed interior of any work van since it entered the segment. The new cabin advances that banner with additions such as an ergonomic steering wheel and shifter, multiple front seat designs and a standard 5.8-inch touchscreen control center.
The front fascia takes on a sleeker visage as well as Mercedes’ three-slot grille; the Freightliner gets a more businesslike grate but appears otherwise identical.
A carlike seating position, snub nose and low windshield make the Sprinter easier and more fun to handle than most vans.
The 2014 Sprinter is available from 244 U.S. Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner dealers. MSRPs range from $36,915 to $45,500.