Pressefahrvorstellung Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2018. Technische Daten: 319 CDI, Kastenwagen, Exterieur, Iridiumsilber metallic;Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 9,5 l/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 249 g/km* Press test drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2018. Technical data: 319 CDI, Panel Van, Exterior, iridium silver metallic;combined fuel consumption: 9.5 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 249 g/km*

So what if the new eSprinter started to roll out at the beginning of this year (see Launches on page 12 in this month’s T&FME)? We are certainly not going to see many, if any, of those batteries on wheels for some time in the region. It’s lucky then that the New Sprinter is already earning its stripes in the region providing a blend of up to date features and decent RoI.

T&FME was recently invited to try the New Sprinter in Abu Dhabi. Having first tested the Sprinter several years ago on the edge of Yas Island’s course it was an opportunity we found difficult to resist.

When the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter first launched in the early part of the last decade it set a new benchmark for large vans in the region. Given the paucity of choice at the time that wasn’t necessarily something to brag about, but we’ve seen the van become a much more popular option for fleets in the meantime.

For instance, back in the day if you ordered a new TV on you would expect it to be hanging out of a caged pick-up when it arrived at your doorstep. Now, it’ll be an Amazon livery slamming the breaks outside your apartment.

The era of the van, predicted many years ago in this magazine, has truly arrived in markets like the UAE.

Whether that is the result of increasing fuel prices, the rise of e-commerce, digitalisation of supply chains, major player demand, or any other change in the delivery and logistics channels you care to mention, you can make an argument that the answer to your problem could – and possibly should – be a van.

It is no small coincidence that the Mercedes-Benz Vans offering has been joined by its traditional competition in Europe since it first invited the media to test 2013 Sprinter on the Yas Island skid pads all those years ago. Indeed, if you’re in the market for a van you now have more choice than ever. Don’t fancy a Merc? Well, you could choose a Ford Custom Transit or a Fiat Ducato – and all would offer a good selection of reasons for your fleet buyer to visit their dealer’s showrooms.

Getting back behind the wheel of a Sprinter having tested its rivals over recent years, reminds you what the key differences are.

The most obvious one is drive comfort where the Sprinter still enjoys an edge. Sitting behind the wheel and enjoying its deceptively light feel (T&FME always tests vans unloaded – Ed), quiet movement and peppy acceleration reminds you instantly that this is a Mercedes-Benz – and far closer to the car experience than, for example, taking the Actros out for a spin.

Slaloming through a course dotted out with cones, T&FME got to test its stability and responsiveness and the van impressed all the way to the emergency braking section at the end.

Offering a new, diverse range of product features that serves specific market segments even more effectively than before, the new Sprinter offers every customer a model tailored precisely to his or her needs. It manages the leap from a commercial vehicle with pure utility value to an impressive business card for commercial fleets and businesses, claims Mercedes-Benz.

It is one of the most flexible vans available, with options and applications that extend from people movers in in terms of school buses and ambulances and for logistics services for almost every business sector. Its vehicles are sought after because of their quality, efficiency and reliability, as well as their premium features.

It is worth mentioning that the real technological game-changers are still mostly locked behind the options selection.

Mercedes-Benz Vans offers 600 choices of optional equipment, including special fleet and chassis solutions. It says this means, that the Sprinter can be perfectly adapted to your needs and as part of the “Mercedes-Benz VanPartner” partner programme, body and conversion solutions are available in tried-and-tested quality.

However, while the Sprinter is designed for safety throughout – the actual bodyshell is particularly stable thanks to its construction and material composition – the panel version of the van only offers Crosswind Assist as standard. Others such as Active Brake Assist (in the case of a sudden brake ahead the adaptive Active Brake Assist intervenes to protect both driver and passengers) and Lane Keeping Assist remain only as options which is a shame as these are at the cutting edge of safety and efficiency for fleets.

If you do have the budget you can also look at the three camera solutions, including the reversing camera with display in interior rear-view mirror to the 360° camera, improve the already good overview from the driver’s seat, upon request. In the dark, the optionally available LED High Performance headlamps illuminate the roadway far and bright. In case of an emergency, standard airbags help to protect the driver in a collision. Five further airbags are available for driver and co-driver upon request.

Mercedes-Benz Vans has also continued to optimise the consumption of its diesel engines, while the cockpit has also been redesigned for exceptional functionality, with an intelligent, modular stowage compartment and KEYLESS START. On the panel van version, you can precisely customise the cargo space to suit your requirements with practical options such as the interior roof rack, a weight-optimised plastic floor covering and the loadable wheel arches.

Other benefits include a wide range of drive system variants: depending on the operational profile and desired handling characteristics, you can order your Sprinter with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Gearshifting is either manual via a 6-speed manual transmission or automatic via the 7G-TRONIC PLUS transmission.

The maximum payload of the 5 t weight variant is 2,646 kg (rear-wheel drive). If you choose front-wheel drive, you’ll get a cargo floor that’s 80 mm lower than the rear-wheel drive, making it easier to get in and out of the vehicle. And now the front-wheel drive holds 50 kg more than the previous Sprinter range so you can get more out of your day.

To make work as economical and pleasant as possible, various radios, multimedia systems and connectivity solutions are available for the Sprinter.

“In the Sprinter you are choosing a vehicle that has impressively proven its economy for more than 20 years. The new Sprinter continues this success story with its legendary quality and reliability. You benefit from its economy right from the outset: with an attractive entry price and numerous configuration options that allow you to order exactly what you actually need,” claims Mercedes. In many it could be right.

The New Sprinter remains at the front of the pack when you go through the optional and customisable possibilities. This is an excellently tuned vehicle that has been finding niches in shuttle services and hospitality. Whether the panel version represents the best value in its class in the market on the other hand may depend on your powers of negotiation.