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Mercedes-Benz NGT Sprinter 2014 Review

The new Mercedes-Benz NGT Sprinter is an easy way to reduce environmental impact.

Driving a compressed natural gas (CNG) van like the new Mercedes-Benz NGT Sprinter would have to be one of the easiest ways to reduce the environmental impact of your operation.

Ex-Holden innovation chief Laurie Sparke has long been advocating that clean burning CNG, along with LPG, could help Australia combat fuel shortages that are likely to occur in the future when China and India demand more of the world's oil supply. Australia is sitting on CNG reserves so large that we are exporting it to China for next to nothing. By using it ourselves, we could cut our dependency on foreign oil and reduce our emissions at the same time.

So why wouldn't everyone who is thinking of buying a van rush out to their Mercedes dealer at snap up Australia's first CNG van? The first issue is access to the fuel. More public CNG filling stations are planned, but at the moment there are only three in Australia.

The van also runs on petrol which is a big plus, although it requires premium fuel, but there isn't much point if you can't run on CNG. Most large scale customers will have their own CNG depots, or install them, but the answer for most others is likely to be home filling stations, already available in the US, which tap the CNG piped to your house and feed it into the car overnight.

Another issue is the $7000 premium which is a fair whack. That said, for companies that want to market the fact they are running greener vehicles this is a small price to pay. The van itself is not as enjoyable to drive as the diesels in the Sprinter range, simply because it doesn't have the tremendous torque. It runs a 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder with 115kW and 240Nm torque.

As you would expect with a petrol/gas engine in a big van, you have to get stuck in to keep the thing moving along. It seems gutless if you have just stepped out of a diesel, but it can still manage a reasonable pace as long as you're prepared to keep the revs up.

The NGT Sprinter sounds like a normal petrol engine and you can hear the supercharger whine kick from about 4500 revs to 6500 revs. It's only available as a five-speed automatic which seems to work well enough.

The interior looks just like those of other Sprinters except for a centre display that shows how much CNG you have left. The CNG tanks sit below the cargo floor so you don't lose any space.

Refilling is a cinch too. Mercedes updated its 2.0-litre diesel four-cylinder diesel as well. There are two different versions which have both been upgraded. One has 95kW and 305Nm and the other has 120kW and 360 Nm and both use less fuel than before.

Both are available with an optional five-speed manual or the standard Eco Gear six-speed manual with feature a high sixth gear for fuel economy and also comes with a feature that kills the engine when you pull up and restarts it when you depress the clutch. It's a handy system that will save a lot of fuel on city runs.

Big Wheels tried both four-cylinder diesels and found them to have a great amount of low down torque with impressive refinement. Mercedes has also decided to fit driver and passenger airbags as standard, a move that should be applauded.

Mercedes-Benz NGT Sprinter

Engine: CNG 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder
Power: 115kW at 5000 revs
Torque: 240Nm at 3000-4000 revs
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Price: From $54,000

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