Just in time to take advantage of the steadily growing U.S. economy, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the 2014 Sprinter van with a new, more economical standard powertrain, a bolder appearance and a full complement of high-tech driver-assistance technologies. Of course, the 2014 Sprinter will need all those improvements if it wants to maintain the momentum of the 2013 model, which grew sales by 26.7 percent last year and remains ahead of its 2012 sales pace by 11.7 percent through April of this year.
Yet April itself saw Sprinter sales in the red by 5.6 percent, while other popular commercial vans were headed in the right direction. And the mid-term future will see notably increased competition from the upcoming Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster, both of which will feature the same Euro-style packaging showcased by the 2014 Sprinter family.
That being said, let’s see how the 2014 Sprinter plans to deal with those upstarts when it arrives in dealerships this autumn.
2014 Sprinter: Powertrain Highlights
For the sake of fuel economy, today’s vehicles tend to exhibit a notable inverse relationship between engine cylinders and transmission gears, and that’s certainly true of the 2014 Sprinter. The new standard powertrain for the Sprinter brings together a 2.1-liter 4-cylinder engine with Mercedes’ BlueTEC clean-diesel technology and an advanced seven-speed automatic transmission. Output here is 165 hp and 265 lb.-ft. of torque, and while fuel-economy ratings weren’t provided, they should be significantly higher than those of the Sprinter’s available V6—although that will be fairly efficient as well, since it’s the carryover 3.0-liter BlueTEC unit that delivers 188 hp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque.
But to illustrate the kind of competition the 2014 Sprinter will face when the ProMaster and Transit make their debuts, the Chrysler Group and Ford products will offer diesel power as well, but retain gasoline engines for customers who prefer that fuel; and yes, among the Blue Oval’s engine options will be the highly successful 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. Ford also will go one step further by selling the Transit with a powertrain capable of running on compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquid propane gas (LPG).
2014 Sprinter: Technology Highlights
This is where the 2014 Sprinter will be able to truly distinguish itself from the competition, thanks in part to a suite of first-in-class driver-assistance technologies that includes:
- Collision Prevention Assist with static and dynamic alerts to reduce the chance of rear-end collisions
- Brake Assist pro, to ensure optimum braking performance is available in emergency situations
- Blind Spot Assist for safer lane changing
- Highbeam Assist that automatically adjust the Sprinter’s headlights for optimum illumination
In addition, the 2014 Sprinter offers a Lane Keeping Assist feature that can help keep drivers alert to potential lane drift, along with a new Becker MAP PILOT navigation system. This plug-and-play unit fits right in the Sprinter’s glovebox and can be pre-loaded with information specifically tailored to individual customer needs. That available nav unit is fully integrated with the Sprinter’s new audio system, too, leveraging the latter’s 5.8-inch color screen that also displays images from the van’s optional rearview camera system with built-in guidelines.
2014 Sprinter: Design Details
To help the 2014 Sprinter better look the part of a workhorse commercial van, designers refreshed the front-end appearance with a more up-right grille and higher hood, restyled headlights, and a more prominent center air inlet, while also imparting new details at the rear bumper to echo the look of a rugged SUV. But this being a Mercedes product, that new face also is more sophisticated, with sweeping lines and a striking similarity to the premium M-B retail portfolio. Needless to say, LED light strips take the place of more mundane daytime running lamps for the Sprinter.
The cabin of the 2014 Sprinter also has been re-engineered for improved ergonomics, with the brand noting that: “The seat position is well chosen in relation to the steering wheel, pedals and the cockpit as a whole. Instruments are clearly arranged and the buttons, switches and control units are always positioned within easy reach.”
In terms of configurations, the 2014 Sprinter will offer plenty, including:
- Two wheelbases (the ProMaster and Transit offer just one)
- Three body lengths
- Three GVWR ratings
- Standard- and high-roof styles
- Cargo, crew, passenger, minibus and chassis cab setups
Pricing for the 2014 Sprinter will be released closer to its on sale date, but it is worth noting that because the van’s new powertrain features a smaller engine, the lineup as a whole just may offer a smaller starting price, too.