The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter may be celebrating its 20th birthday this year, but it shows no sign of losing its evergreen appeal.
In fact, if anything, with a series of relaunches and upgrades over the years, the Sprinter is stronger than ever – and indeed was voted large panel van of the year and commercial vehicle of the year at this year’s Commercial Fleet Awards.
It doesn’t take a genius to see why this van is so popular. The list price isn’t the cheapest, but like its car brothers, it offers rock solid reliability, top-notch build quality, class-leading safety features and – importantly when assessing wholelife costs – dazzling residual values.
To celebrate the van’s birthday, Mercedes-Benz has launched a special 20th anniversary edition. Our test vehicle, weighing in at £26,975 ex-VAT, is the medium wheelbase low roof version and features a good array of standard equipment, plus some extra goodies to mark the van’s birthday.
Safety devices such as electronic stability programme, ABS, traction control system and electronic brake distribution come as standard, along with crosswind assist, cruise control and hill start assist. Anniversary extras include a Becker map pilot navigation system, chrome radiator grille, an extra comfort driver’s seat, special wheel trims and special ‘20’ badging. Our van was also treated to a metallic paint job and rear parking sensors, which I reckon should be a legal requirement on all panel vans.
Under the bonnet goes the tried and trusted 2.2-litre diesel powerplant, offering 129hp and a maximum torque figure of 225 lb-ft, which comes in at a low 1,200rpm. This makes the van feel even more powerful than it really is at low speeds. Fuel consumption on the combined cycle is 36.3mpg.
The rear end swallows up nine cubic metres of cargo but the payload is a rather diminutive 818kg, which means this van risks being overloaded well before it is filled up. The rival Citroën Relay offers a much meatier 1,375kg.
Apart from all the extra goodies on board for the special edition, the Sprinter proves very much what we have come to expect from the German manufacturer. The cab is big and airy and features hard, supportive seats that won’t cause any backtwinges over long distances. All the doors shut with a very upmarket feel and the general fit and finish is first class.
Out on the road, the engine is muted enough to prevent most of the engine noise from entering the cab, while the 129bhp on offer gives plenty of power. Gears all shift into place in a very satisfying manner, while the steering is extremely well sorted.
Being a truck manufacturer too, Mercedes-Benz offers its van customers a breakdown service that sees a company man with a van full of spares turning up to help you rather than the AA or RAC representative.
Servicing is the 24-hour variety too, unlike with some rival dealer networks who will slot you in after Mrs Smith and Mr Jones with their little runabout cars.
With all its credentials it’s hardly surprising that this van won two gongs at our recent awards. And we wouldn’t mind betting that the Sprinter will still be leading the heavy van pack in another 20 years’ time.