First drive: 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in the UAE
Mercedes-Benz has just launched the new 2014 Sprinter in the UAE and Middle East. Just like the last Sprinter event we went to back in 2008, Mercedes-Benz emphasised on the safety features of the latest facelifted model.
The launch event was held at the Yas Marina Circuit, where we spent our time only on the skidpad area. We were asked to drive the Sprinter through a wet slalom course at 40 kph. The rear started to give way as soon as we swerved, but the electronic stability control kicked in immediately and sent power to the correct wheels as needed, so that it can be easily brought back in line by the driver. We were also asked to do emergency brake manoeuvres, and it stopped pretty well for a big van.
The other demonstration showed the new driver-aid tech added to the Sprinter. The optional Collision Prevention Assist system uses sensors to detect a front-end impact. If the vehicle in front is too close, the computers make sure that more braking force is available when the driver presses on the brake pedal, allowing it to slow down much quicker.
Also, blind-spot indicators have been added to the side-view mirrors to visually and audibly warn the driver of other cars around. Other safety features include Lane Keeping Assist to warn the driver if he strays out of the lane and High Beam Assist which automatically turns off the high beams if there is oncoming traffic.
The Crosswind Assist, which is part of the ESP, helps to keep the Sprinter more stable in case there are sudden gusts of strong winds blowing against the slab-sided van.
To further improve driving dynamics, we’re told the chassis has been lowered to not only reduce wind resistance and fuel consumption, but also to make loading and unloading more convenient.
There are four engines being offered in the Middle East. For petrol, there is a 4-cylinder 1.8-litre 156 hp engine and a 3.5-litre V6 258 hp engine. The two 4-cylinder 2.2-litre diesel engines are offered in two states of tune, making 116 hp and 150 hp respectively. An automatic gearbox is standard in combination with the V6 petrol engine and optional for the 4-cylinder petrol. All diesel engines are paired with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Service intervals has been stretched even further to every 24,000 km, an 8,000 km jump from the previous-generation model.
As for the design, the front fascia has been changed to look more like their SUV range. The new bonnet is also higher for improved pedestrian protection.
Inside, the Sprinter gets a new optional infotainment system on some variants, which features a better stereo that includes a screen and Bluetooth connectivity.
We were also given a demonstration of the Sprinter’s use as an ambulance without the kind of modifications you’d see with American vans, since the German van is structurally sound enough to be outfitted with heavy medical equipment as well as being easy to load a stretcher in the back.
Of course, there are loads of cheaper options out there in the market and we see them almost everyday, tail-gating us on Sheikh Zayed Road. However, safety features are practically non-existent in most of them, while the Sprinter’s tech borders on overkill.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has a starting price of around Dhs 118,000 for the basic Panel Van, while the top of the range Sprinter Hotel Bus starts at Dhs 405,000 in the UAE.