FIRST DRIVE | 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter carries you home in style
Third-generation people-carrier offers new levels of refinement and versatility
Long-distance commutes are often a nightmare and an uncomfortable experience. I have had the misfortune of travelling to Limpopo in the most cramped, uncomfortable taxis with such bad ride quality, it felt like the seats were scraping the tar road.
Standing in the queue and seeing a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter pull in always had me celebrating because it meant better seating, more space, a better ride and a more pleasant commute than one would have in a smaller taxi.
This sense of safety and comfort is what this bus offers in the transport sector and it just got a whole lot better. Mercedes-Benz has launched the third-generation Sprinter and it has improved on all fronts, especially the safety features, which I will touch on in a moment.
Styling-wise, the Sprinter has been refreshed and modernised and some nips and tucks have made it much sleeker and more appealing. Looks, however, are not that important in this sector as comfort, functionality and safety are key qualities in a mass people-carrier.
So how functional is the Sprinter? Well, firstly, it offers customers in a diverse range of industries more versatility and customisable applications than ever before. In total, there are 600 options available to customise the Sprinter for your needs.
The taxi industry for long-distance commutes is a big market for the Sprinter, and globally SA has the biggest market share with the Sprinter Inkanyezi. Commuters can now enjoy added comfort with USB charging ports under all the rear seats, added shoulder and leg room, electric sliding door (high-end model) and free-flowing air-conditioning.
This latter function can easily be taken for granted, but for those who often use taxis, we know how stuffy it can get, especially when those sitting near windows seem averse to fresh air! However, I am certainly more impressed by the individual USB charging ports. That is some business-class stuff right there!
The launch was held at the Kyalami racetrack, where the aim was to have the motoring media experience safety features first-hand.
I will admit I was a little intimidated by the thought of hauling this van on the track, well, anywhere for that matter. But, as with a lot of big vehicles these days, their enormity is balanced by their car-like feel. A few courses were set up on the track, where we could get behind the wheel and feel the updated safety features kick in when you needed them.
The safety-assistance features are really impressive. The active-brake assist was a highlight where safety features are concerned. The van is able to instantly alert the driver to oncoming danger when doing a sudden turn at full acceleration, to avoid a collision. Depending on the size and obstacle ahead, it will send an acoustic or visual warning.
This, along with lane keeping assist, reverse camera, active distance assist distronic —which automatically regulates the distance from the vehicle ahead and decreases speed if the vehicle suddenly stops or decreases speed. These are all optional extras, with the standard features being cross wind assist, which makes the van safer in adverse conditions on any terrain.
In such a big van that hauls 22 passengers, one would like to see more than just front collision airbags installed. The interior focal point is the revised dash layout and design that comes fitted with intuitive 7-inch screen or a 10.25-inch display screen with HD resolution that can also be controlled using the touch-enabled steering wheel.
The M-Bux Mercedes-Benz user experience “Hey Mercedes” is also an available option. What fun it would be to see this feature being used in a taxi. Though we were not exposed to too much driving on the public road, it handled well on fast cornering and feedback from the engine was quick and responsive in both manual and automatic transmissions.
There are derivatives: a 2,2 litre four-cylinder diesel engine with an output of 84kW/120Nm, a new 120kW/380Nm variant as well as a 140kW/440Nm option that gives a punchier response. Drivers with a code 8/code B licence will be happy to know they can legally drive the new 3.49 ton variant GVM Sprinter. This was previously not possible due to weight and license restrictions.
This commercial van offers a number of variants for countless industries. With more customisable options than ever before, the Sprinter makes the ideal van for a more personalised package. Whether it be in hospitality as a shuttle, ambulance services, delivery van or even a mobile food truck, the options are limitless.
Prices start at R461,783 and go up to R815,925. For a taxi, add an extra R200,000 to the base price.