Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Goes High-Tech with EV Drivetrain and Advanced Features
The top-heavy, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van has always been a bare-bones work rig. You wouldn't really think of it as high tech – until now. For 2019, Mercedes plans to release an all-electric version of its popular Sprinter. The van will also get a lineup of new, advanced features like onboard internet and driver assist.
Front-wheel drive and other powertrain developments
One of the big changes to the Sprinter is it's now available with front-wheel drive. Before, all models were rear-wheelers. The new configuration turns the 2.1L four-cylinder diesel engine 90 degrees and mounts it transversely.
Oddly enough, the Sprinter will continue to be available as a rear-wheel drive as well. These models will be powered by either the 2.1L four-cylinder diesel or a 3.0L V diesel. As in the past, a four-wheel drive model will also be offered.
To reduce ownership cost, Mercedes has stretched the Sprinter's service intervals. Rear-wheel drive versions now only require service every 2 years/37,000 miles. Front-wheel drives need an oil change every 2 years/24,000 miles. This seems ridiculous (especially for a dirty, diesel engine), and it probably is. Skeptics will point out that repair revenue may also be a motivating factor for this change.
All-electric drivetrain and other technological advancements
Choose the Sprinter EV and you won't have to worry about oil changes. The new eSprinter is based on the front-wheel drive platform. It will use scalable battery packs mounted under the floor and have a payload of at least 2200lb, according to Mercedes.
But the Sprinter's high-tech upgrades aren't just under the hood. In addition to an onboard internet connection, the updated model will get a new telematics system marketed under the Mercedes PRO banner. These functions will allow fleet managers to communicate with the vehicle to ensure proper operation.
Telematics and navigation are accessed using the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) multi-media display. This system is operated using either a touchscreen or voice control. There's also LTE-capable internet connection that can be used with the Mercedes PRO services or personal devices. Wireless smartphone charging and 115/230V connections will also be offered in the vans.
Even economy cars are getting onboard with advanced driver-assistance systems. So, it comes as no surprise that this technology has trickled down to work trucks. The Sprinter is now available with adaptive cruise control, active brake assist, crosswind assist and lane keeping assist. There's also a Parking Pilot system that includes a 360° camera, to make parking the big van easier.
Millions of Sprinters have been sold – Mercedes looks to sell millions more
Even though it looks awkward with it's high top and snub nose, the Sprinter is a very capable vehicle. This has helped Mercedes sell more than 3.4 million of the vans since the second generation debuted in 1995. The new range of options – include the EV powertrain – will surely make the Sprinter more popular than ever.
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