The 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter gets a new base engine and transmission, new driver safety aids, subtle front end styling changes and an improved audio system.
It might seem excessive, opulent even, to buy a Mercedes-Benz as your work van. But consider that in Europe, Mercedes makes all manner of heavy lifters, from large commercial trucks to cargo vans. This is a brand that makes vehicles that can both get dirty and clean up very well. For American buyers, the proposition is straightforward. Competitors like Ford and General Motors offer full-size cargo vans for less money than the 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. But while those vehicles are capable and sufficient, the Sprinter simply does the job better.
Advantages to owning a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter start with its construction and materials. This large cargo van isn't as well equipped as a typical Mercedes luxury sedan, but its interior is built to a similar standard, higher than expected for this workhorse class. Another Sprinter advantage is simply its sheer interior volume, its large dimensions and intelligent cabin design making for unrivaled capacity. The Sprinter also offers one of the lowest load floors among full-size vans. Equip a Sprinter to its tallest configuration with the optional high roof and someone as tall as 6 feet, 3 inches can walk completely upright inside the van.
With a vehicle this tall, wide and long, it would be easy to expect maneuverability to suffer, but overall the Sprinter isn't that challenging to drive. For fuel economy, the Mercedes-Benz has a leg up on its Ford, GM and Nissan rivals thanks to its choice of diesel-powered engines. For 2014, a new turbocharged four-cylinder and seven-speed transmission comprise the standard powertrain, while the larger diesel V6 engine and five-speed transmission become the optional upgrade.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a great choice for this class, whether used for carrying cargo or passengers. But that overachievement carries a price. At base levels, you'll pay thousands more for the Sprinter than its closest rivals, and when the options list grows, so does the difference in price. Plus, there are two other very capable alternatives to the traditional domestic vans this year: the truck-based 2014 Nissan NV and the new, Euro-sourced 2014 Ram ProMaster. We suggest cross-shopping all three to determine which van best suits your budget and specific needs.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a full-size van available in multiple configurations, each available with two wheelbases and two roof heights. The Cargo Van matches two front seats to an empty cargo bay, while the Crew Van essentially adds a three-place rear bench seat to the Cargo Van. The Passenger Van accommodates 12 passengers across its four-row seating.
The Cargo Van also offers an extended-length body style as well as a 3500 configuration (versus the standard 2500), which increases its payload capacity.
Standard equipment on the Cargo Van includes 16-inch steel wheels, hill-start assist, a passenger-side sliding rear door, a wood cargo floor, 270-degree-opening rear doors, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a five-speaker sound system.
The Crew Van is identically equipped but adds a second-row bench seat and added adjacent side windows. The Passenger Van is similar, but features three rows of rear seats, rear interior trim, tinted rear windows and eight rear speakers.
The options list for each is lengthy, but highlights include 16-inch alloy wheels, a driver-side sliding rear door, a heavy-duty suspension, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, bi-xenon headlights, driver safety aids (see safety section), automatic headlights and wipers, a heated windshield, heated power mirrors, foglamps, cruise control, a speed limiter, a navigation system and different front seat designs.
Cargo and Crew Vans can be equipped with driver-compartment bulkheads, a roof fan, a fixed rear sunroof, roof rack mounting rails and various interior storage options. The Passenger Van can be equipped with a rear heater, rear air-conditioning and rear window wipers. Many of these optional items are available within packages as well.
Powertrains and Performance
For 2014, the base engine for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a turbocharged 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel generating 161 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels.
A turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 rated at 188 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque is also available, paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. There are no EPA fuel economy estimates available, but given the efficiency of diesel engines, expect the Sprinter to achieve significantly better mileage than competitors with gasoline engines.
Properly equipped, a Sprinter 3500 can tow up to 7,500 pounds.
Every 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter comes standard with stability and traction control, front airbags and rollover mitigation. Optional features include a driver side airbag, driver and front passenger side airbags packaged together, front side curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist and a frontal collision warning system that can also prime the brakes for maximum effectiveness if an imminent collision is detected.
Interior Design and Special Features
It may wear a Mercedes-Benz badge, but don't expect the Sprinter to impress with wood trim, leather upholstery or high-tech multimedia features. That said, build quality is better than other full-size vans and the interior feels more modern. A tilt-and-telescoping steering column and different front seat styles with multiple adjustments ensure ample driver comfort, while the modern control layout feels more like a midsize SUV than a utilitarian van.
In its largest configuration, the Sprinter cargo van has a maximum storage capacity of 547 cubic feet. The largest Nissan NV can only muster 323 cubes, while the Chevy Express offers 270.4 -- about half the Sprinter's capacity. The Sprinter's 51-inch sliding door and 20-inch step-in height also make climbing inside incredibly easy, whether cargo or passenger van.
The optional 6-foot, 4-inch high-roof option allows even tall adults to walk upright inside the cabin. The ProMaster and Nissan NV also offer this feature, while the Ford and Chevy vans can only accommodate the Lollipop Guild at best.
The Sprinter's payload is similarly impressive. The 2500 Cargo Van is rated from 2,873 pounds to 3,426 pounds, depending on body configuration. The 3500, meanwhile, ranges from 4,364 to 5,485 pounds.
There's no escaping the sheer size of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, especially when configured to its maximum size: nearly 23 feet long and 9 feet high. In spite of its tour-bus-like dimensions and layout, the Sprinter travels well, with its huge windshield and snub nose front end. A manageable carlike driving position and impressive handling make the Mercedes van pleasant and effective around town.
We've yet to drive a Sprinter with the new diesel-powered four-cylinder engine. But given that this van sometimes struggles to keep up on the highway, even with the bigger V6 engine, it's safe to say that speedy acceleration isn't a priority here. If you require more highway aptitude along with massive interior space, the Nissan NV is the better alternative.
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