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Road Test

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 311 CDI

by Ken Walker

19th February, 2008

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 
Click on the image for a larger view

Travelling north on the F3 freeway from Sydney, after collecting the mid-wheel base (MWB) Sprinter 311 CDI, I established the distinct view that this is a vehicle that will make an impression on all who are lucky enough to get into the driver's seat.

This van was co-developed with Volkswagen for their LT and Crafter ranges, although the Mercedes misses out (and so did I), on the suspension seat. Not that there is any faults with the standard driver's seat though. It has 4 different adjustment settings, it is well positioned and very comfortable for the driver.

This co-designed and developed vehicle, differs from its VW counterpart forward of the A pillar and also in the dash layout, equipment and engine/transmission options.

The package, as driven by the Next Car team, is powered by a 2,148 cc 4-cylinder turbo charged and intercooled diesel which develops 80 kW of power at 3,800 rpm and maximum torque of 280 Nm at 1,600-2,500 rpm. The engine is Euro4 compliant and this particular standard is required for all diesel engines, as from 1st January 2007 in Australia. Mercedes-Benz has three four-cylinder and one V6 diesel engine available so buyers can select the optimal engine for their requirements. Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional 5 speed automatic transmission which sent the power to the rear wheels. The vehicle has, as standard, a 6-speed manual gearbox. Of course, my preference is the automatic box which is so smooth it was difficult to detect the shifts, either up or down, through the gear changes.

This is a big van with a cargo capacity of 10.5 cubic metres with 1,565 mm wide opening rear doors enabling a standard Australian pallet to be loaded by fork lift truck. The side sliding door opens 1,300 mm wide, enough also to load by fork lift. This is a plus for those who carry cargo this way. The Sprinter can carry 1,535 kgs internally and tow a braked trailer with a 2,000 kgs load. The turning circle is 13.6 metres. Light and easy to drive, it is more car-like than truck-like in its characteristics, little wonder that Sprinter is chosen by ambulance services as an emergency vehicle. It is also a favourite with motor home builders. With a loading height of just 666 mm, this is an added bonus to Sprinter’s capabilities.

Driver comfort is not forgotten in this versatile vehicle with an abundance of storage compartments up front, such as 2 cup/2 bottle holders, 12v outlet and radio/CD player. Power window and mirror controls are located on the driver's door armrest for ease of operation. The heated external rear view mirrors are divided into two segments; the lower part (about 20%) is a wide angle lens and is a very useful piece of equipment. No blind spots here. Automatic temperature control air conditioning and power steering is part of the standard equipment list, as is height and reach adjustable steering column. It’s easy to be comfortable in the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter even without the driver's suspension seat, which is available as an option and it has armrests on both sides. There are another 24 options available to make this your dream van.

Interestingly, the team noted that on the list of standard equipment were rear fog lamps, although front fog lamps are not listed as either standard or optional equipment.

The Mercedes Benz Sprinter is well finished with a high standard for the paint and trim. Standard colour for Sprinter is the traditional white. However, there are 10 other colours available as optional extras. The test vehicle colour is aqua green on this occasion.  Only one trim colour is available, a black flame retardant, dirt resistant and hard wearing fabric.

The package rides very nicely on steel rims, fitted with 235/65R16 radial tyres. Alloy wheels are available as an option on some models.

Mercedes-Benz has included a lot of safety equipment as standard features on its Sprinter models. Disc brakes all round, controlled by Adaptive Electronic Stability Programme with ABS, EBD, ROM (Roll over Mitigation), RMI (Roll Movement Intervention) and USC (Under Steer Control). The cabin doors lock automatically on sensing movement at speeds over 5 km/h. A driver's airbag is standard.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 
Click on the image for a larger view

Pricing starts at $41,190 (RRP) for the Sprinter 309 CDI (swb) van. The test vehicle has a current price tag of $45,270 (RRP) without options. Automatic transmission, as fitted to the test vehicle, is $2,500 and a non-metallic colour is $720.

Worldwide, some 289,076 vans were sold by Mercedes-Benz in 2007 (256,895 units in 2006), indicating the success of the entire range of vans from the famous German brand.

But, back to the Sprinter 311 CDI, one of many variants in the Sprinter range.

Overall, the Next Car team rated this package as a very good and extremely versatile, capable unit. Only one fault was found during the 700 kms travelled, that being no adjustment mechanism to the rake angle of the passenger seat.

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Other Mercedes-Benz content: here.

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