It hardly seems any time at all since we were reporting on the various van manufacturers achieving Euro 4 emissions standards with their new vehicles.
But as the battle to clean up the planet accelerates and the legislation requiring ever-lower emissions speeds up, it’s time to welcome Euro 5 – and it is little surprise to us that one of the first manufacturers to scrap its old engines and meet the new standard is Mercedes-Benz.
The German manufacturer has been pumping millions of euros into research and development in recent years and has already reached the Holy Grail of zero emissions by building a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Sprinter. But as it would cost any punter the thick end of £1 million to buy, there’s a while to go yet before such technology becomes commonplace among fleets.
In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz is launching a gas-powered Sprinter this summer and the new engines featured here, which will start appearing in Sprinter models ordered after July.
Fleet Van went to the Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle HQ in Stuttgart to drive the new models ahead of UK production and we were met by Dr Sascha Paasche, head of development, who introduced us to the new range.
He said: “We are determined to be at the forefront of environmental technology in the automotive world, although it must be at an affordable price. If fleets cannot afford our
new developments, there is no point offering them.”
Paasche proved his point by revealing that despite the promise of lower running costs – the new engines will return up to 4.5mpg more than the old ones – prices of the new Sprinter would remain largely on a par with the previous models.
Some variants will increase by £500, while others will drop by £1,030. CO2 emissions, meanwhile, drop from 232-304g/km to 214-264g/km.
Two engines will be available – 2,143cc four-cylinder and 2,987cc six-cylinder units. The vast majority of vans will carry the smaller engine, which will offer power outputs of 95bhp, 129bhp and 163bhp.
But the secret of the extra power is in the increased torque figures at lower revs – 184lb-ft @ 1,400rpm, 225lb-ft @ 1,200rpm and 265lb-ft @ 1,400rpm respectively, meaning general torque figures are up by 10-15% over the old models.
The improvements have been achieved in various ways.
The engines are slightly smaller than the old ones but have a longer stroke. The common rail injection pressure has been raised to 1,800 bar and the injectors themselves have been improved to give quieter, smoother running.
Two-stage turbocharging has been introduced for the first time in which at lower speeds only one charger is active.
There are also new balancer shafts and a larger intercooler, along with exhaust recirculation for lower CO2 emissions.
Behind the wheel
Anyone who’s driven a Sprinter will know that panel vans don’t come much better than this. Indeed, I asked myself if it was possible to improve on the current model.
Having driven Euro 5 versions in left-hand drive format during my trip the answer is a categoric yes.
These new engines imbue Sprinter with a willingness that the old engines just didn’t have, while managing to make a noticeable difference to noise in the cab.
The old Sprinter was pretty quiet but these new versions are almost eerie. So quiet, in fact, that I almost began missing that old diesel death rattle I know so well.
While fleet operators might not bother too much about cab noise or even CO2 emissions, they’ll certainly like the potential for fuel savings.
The figure of 4.5 miles per gallon, stated by Dr Paasche, equates to savings of £5,500 per vehicle over 18,600 miles.
Meanwhile the Sprinter retains that very stylish cab, fantastically comfortable seats and the superb build quality that Mercedes-Benz consistently achieves – all reasons why this vehicle is the current Fleet Van heavy panel van of the year.
And don’t forget that the Sprinter comes as standard with adaptive ESP traction control, a safety feature that many other vans in the class have as a paid-for extra.