Mercedes-Benz Sprinter VS Ford Ranger
- Smooth diesel power
- Comfy, practical cabin
- Passenger-car tech
- Loud with windows down
- 360-degree camera would need to land as standard
- Much hyped new voice control can be... patchy
- New powertrain is a beaut
- Suspension tweaks help around-town ride
- AEB in a ute? Great work!
- Highway ride too jiggly when unladen
- Options can push price up
- Sync 3 not perfect
On the commercial side of the Mercedes-Benz business, a new Sprinter van is talked about in the same revered tone as a new S-Class. Seriously; the company's best-selling van has the same flagship aura about it as the uber-luxe limousine.
Even in Australia - where it wears a price premium over most competitors - Mercedes says it has managed to cling to the top sales spot in the large-van segment for more than two decades. But in Europe (and especially Germany) it's even more ubiquitous - they are absolutely everywhere.
This 2019 update is kind of a big deal, then. And with a new (and cheaper) FWD variant, overhauled cabin technology that now mirrors the best of the passenger-car range, and new safety offerings like AEB, active cruise and a 360-degree camera, Benz reckons this new model will bite off an even bigger share of the market.
And so we took the Sprinter for a quick spin ahead of its Q4 Australian launch to see if they're right.
|Engine Type||2.1L turbo|
As one of Australia’s best-selling vehicles month to month, Ford finds itself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to updating the Ranger line-up… does it dare mess with a winning formula, or should it push the boat out to try and claim a technological edge over its nearest rival, the Toyota HiLux?
The MY19 Ford Ranger update appears to plot a course right down the middle, offering key mechanical and safety updates with only the barest of bare minimum physical changes. Has Ford chosen the right path?
|Engine Type||3.2L turbo|
If it was any more practical it would do the loading and unloading for you, but there's also no obvious penalty for driving a commercial vehicle here. It's comfortable, quiet and now offers better interior technology than even most Benz passenger cars.
And with a cheaper entry point now on offer, the Sprinter should have absolutely no problem holding onto its top sales spot.
Would you buy any van other than a Sprinter? Tell us in the comments.
Park the MY19 Ranger next to an MY18 version, and only the train spotters will tell the difference externally. The key engineering changes, though, have made a real difference in the way that the Ranger presents as a privately bought family rig.
The suspension changes are most effective at lower speeds, and the new 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine is torquey, economical and quiet.
Add to that driver aids like AEB on the higher grades, and the Ranger is set to grace the top end of the vehicle sales charts for some time to come.
If we needed to narrow it down to one choice, we'd take the 2.0-litre XLT with the optional tech pack and black 18-inch rims. The fabric interior is great, and the pack gives the XLT the safety benefits at less cost than the Wildtrak.
Would you opt for the twin-turbo 2.0-litre Ford Ranger? Tell us in the comments below!
It's a vast and slab-sided thing, of course, and practicality takes priority over design, but in the world of full-size vans, the Sprinter is a rather handsome beast.
Up front, the optional three-column LED headlights separate the massive horizontal slats of the grille, while sharp contours running the edge of the bonnet create a kind of power dome in the centre. It's a pretty dominant design, and it definitely lends the Sprinter a strong road presence.
But there's only so much crayon work you can do with a commercial vehicle, so, unsurprisingly, the Sprinter looks... a lot like a van. Lighter colours - and grey especially - look best, highlighting the subtle contours and making it look a little less blocky and heavy.
The cabin, though, looks properly great; a customisable blend of form and function (exactly how much of either is up to you) that - thanks to Mercedes' cool MBUX system and Touch steering wheel - feels like it could belong in a passenger car rather than a workaday van.
The materials are geared toward wear and tear, though, with fabric seats and hard plastics liberally splashed about the cabin.
Not a lot to report here; chrome door handles and grille surrounds for XLT variants, along with a new front bumper skin on the Wildtrak, are about the extent of the exterior design changes.
Ranger’s interior images reveal a similarly short story. There is more black headlining through the range, while some of the interior finishes are more subtle and less reflective. The Wildtrak gets leather-accented seating as standard, while the XLT can be optioned with cowhide.
Side steps feature on XLT and Wildtrak, while body kits that include front spoilers, bonnet stripes and side skirts aren’t offered. A rolltop-type hardtop lid comes standard on the Wildtrak dual cab tray utility body, but a soft top tonneau is not included. There is a rear step bumper, though.
The Wildtrak misses out on the awesome wheel arch extensions that feature on the Raptor, sadly.
Dimensions remain the same for the MY19, including interior dimensions and dual cab tub dimensions.
If you’re looking for colours, there’s white, red, blue, silver, grey and black, while the Wildtrak comes in Saber orange. No green or yellow, unfortunately, and there’s no options for two tone paint. You can’t opt for a sunroof, either, and it isn’t offered with an off-road pack or dual battery option.
It's available in in four sizes (five if you include cab chassis) and with three roof heights, so just how practical your Sprinter arrives is going to be up to you.
Benz reports total storage space can be up to 17 cubic metres, depending on configuration. The front-wheel-drive version is now eight centimetres lower at the back, too, making it a little easier to load.
Mercedes is yet to confirm the full load-carrying spec for Australian cars, but consider this; even the smallest and most underpowered model in the outgoing range could carry more than a tonne and tow in excess of 2000kg (braked), and those numbers are unlikely to have gone backwards. But then, that the big and cavernous Sprinter can carry stuff will surprise absolutely no-one.
The cabin is a super-clever mix of storage spots and hidey-holes, but special mention must go to the phone-sized slots in the dash for both passenger and driver, as well as the extra storage at head height, dash height and in the centre console.
Again, there’s no real change over the MY18 model. There’s a small, deep centre console bin and an oddments tray under the centre console, along with two line-astern cup holders up front and two in a pull-down centre armrest in the second row of the dual-cab.
Wonder no more about how many seats the Ranger has; it’ll handle five passengers (in dual cab guise, anyway).
Speaking of the second row, rear legroom is sufficient for all but the tallest of passengers, while headroom is acceptable. The angle of the seat backs isn’t too vertical, either, which does present as an issue in some dual-cabs.
Bottle holders are present in the shallow door pockets, and there’s a tray on the top of the dash that sports a 12-volt socket.
There’s also a 12V socket in the tray. Speaking of which, the cab-chassis can obviously accept a steel tray, an aluminium tray or flat tray.
If you still think in terms of boot space - even for a ute - the cargo capacity of the Ranger’s styleside tray isn’t measured in litres, but in millimetres. At 1549mm long by 1560mm wide, the width drops to 1139mm between the wheel arches at the floor. A canopy is a common addition, too.
The dual-cab’s second row sports ISOFIX mounts for two baby seats, as well.
The Sync 3 system is offered as an option in the XLS and standard in XLT and Wildtrak, and while it works well on the whole, its speech recognition talents are on par with most of the others present in the industry… not terrific. If you learn the system’s intricacies, it gets better, but it’s still got a way to go before it’s truly intuitive.
It comes with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, but we found that it confused things when it came to navigation; plugged in, our iPhone would default to Apple maps, even if you’ve started a trip with the Ranger’s nav.
The Ranger’s front passenger seat, too, offers only fore/aft and seat back adjustment, but no ability to adjust for height. It didn’t get a positive rating from our passenger.
Price and features
The big news here is the introduction of a new entry point to the Sprinter range, a (first for this van) FWD model that is also offered with a new, nine-speed gearbox.
Mercedes is yet to confirm pricing or full specification for the updated Sprinter, but it reckons we can expect to see the FWD model lop about $5k off the starting price, lowering the entry point for an automatic SWB vehicle to around $42k (and about $39k for a manual).
That would bring it much closer to the heart of its segment - the Renault Master, for example, will set you back about $35k for a SWB with a manual gearbox.
The Sprinter will arrive in a standard specification across the range (SWB, MWB, LWB and XLWB) with plenty of personalisation options from there. And we do mean plenty; Benz reckons there are about 1700 possible variations.
New for this update is Benz's very cool 'MBUX' multimedia system (the one in the spanking new A-Class), which will be operated via a 7.0-inch screen as standard, with a 10.25-inch screen a cost option. The MBUX setup uses the same AI-enabled voice recognition system as the A-Class - meaning you can talk to it without using pre-defined key words, although it's still far from flawless - and it pairs with a six-speaker stereo.
The system joins Merc's heavily redesigned 'Touch' steering wheel as the standout new features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are yet to appear, but Benz tells us it's coming post launch, and will likely be rolled out as a no-cost option.
While we’ll look mostly at the dual cab part of the mix in this test, the Ranger is also available in cab-chassis, single cab and super cab (spacecab or extra cab, if you like) variants, as well as 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains.
There are a total of 29 models in the Ranger range for 2019 across four grades. Six have been dumped - including the 2.2-litre, four-cylinder-powered 4x2 XL Hi-Rider and 4x4 double-cab manuals - while four have been added.
The price list remains surprisingly static across all trim levels, and of course how much you spend is up to you, but the RRP starts at $41,890 (up $300) for the 4x4 XL single-cab chassis manual, while as a guide the double-cab Wildtrak pick-up with the 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel costs $1000 more at $60,590 (manual) and $62,790 (auto).
When you compare that most variants pick up extra specification vs the 2017 models, this is pretty good from a value standpoint. As well, Ford dealers will often have Rangers on the yard for a keen drive-away price.
All Rangers will benefit from a reworked front suspension setup that sees the front anti-roll bar moved from in front of the axle line to behind it, which has allowed engineers to reduce its diameter and increase its strength. This in turn means that softer front springs and shocks can be fitted.
All Rangers have power windows, power mirrors, central locking, cruise control, climate control air conditioning, multimedia touch screen with Bluetooth, too. There’s no subwoofer amongst the speakers in the Ranger’s sound system, and the radio CD player – indeed, the CD changer – has gone the way of the dodo. Haven’t you heard of MP3 or DAB?
And even though a DVD player used to be a great addition for kids, it’s all about iPads these days…
All 4x4s are fitted with an electronic differential lock, while the base model XL 4x2 Lo-Rider is the only RWD version to miss out on a limited slip differential. All models do get hill descent control, hill start assist, ESP and power steering.
The entry level XL features a darker interior treatment and very minor exterior updates that include chrome door handles and grille surround, along with an lift-assisted tailgate that reduces lift effort by almost half. The 118kW/385Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel and 147kW/470Nm 3.2L engines are carried over unchanged.
It also gets xenon, rather than projector, headlights.
The XLS gets the same set of updates, along with a tech pack that includes gadgets like front sensors, an optional $1950 Sync 3 pack with eight-inch multimedia screen with sat nav, dual zone climate control, digital radio and a smart key.
The XLT is the first of the 2019 Rangers to feature the model’s biggest update for the new year; the option to fit Ford’s latest 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that’s been plucked from the Ranger Raptor, alongside the tried and true 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel.
The 157kW/500Nm engine uses Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission – as seen in both the Raptor and the Mustang GT – while the five-potter keeps the six-speed tranny. It’s a $1200 uptick to get four more gears, one less cylinder and 10kW/30Nm more oomph.
It’s now got keyless entry with push-button start, while an optional $1700 tech pack furnishes it with AEB with pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition within the navigation system and – in a first for a dual cab ute – automatic park assist.
There are also 18-inch alloys in black as an option, while LED daytime lamps, roof rails (no roof racks, though), a tailgate liner and HID headlights are included.
By way of model comparison, the top-drawer Wildtrak – which is like a sport edition - is offered with both the 3.2 and optional 2.0-litre diesels, and is also fitted with AEB that includes both obstacle and pedestrian detection modes.
Traffic sign recognition and active parking (including parallel) are added, along with LED driving lights in a new front bumper fascia. No LED headlights, unfortunately.
The easy-lift tailgate is also connected to the Wildtrak’s central locking system, and the black 18-inch rims can also be optioned.
Accessories like a bull bar, snorkel, nudge bar, ladder rack are an aftermarket affair, but a sports bar is offered on XLT grades and up, as is window tint. Floor mates? Argue the toss with your dealer.
If you just want a price list, this should help out a lot:
|XL single cab-chassis 2.2L, manual||$27,990|
|XL single cab-chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider, auto||$33,690|
|XL super cab-chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider, auto||$36,190|
|XL double cab-chassis 2.2L Hi-Rider, auto||$38,190|
|XL double cab pick-up 2.2L Hi-Rider, auto||$39,690|
|XLT double cab pick-up 3.2L Hi-Rider, auto||$50,290|
|XLT double cab pick-up 2.0L Bi-Turbo Hi-Rider, auto||$51,490|
|XL single cab-chassis 3.2L, manual||$41,890|
|XL single cab-chassis 3.2L, auto||$44,090|
|super cab-chassis 3.2L, manual||$44,390|
|XL super cab-chassis 3.2L, auto||$46,590|
|XL super cab pick-up 3.2L, auto||$48,090|
|XL double cab-chassis 2.2L, auto||$46,090|
|XL double cab pick-up 2.2L, auto||$47,590|
|XL double cab-chassis 3.2L, manual||$46,390|
|XL double cab-chassis 3.2L, auto||$48,590|
|XL double cab pick-up 3.2L, manual||$47,890|
|XL double cab pick-up 3.2L, auto||$50,090|
|XLS double cab pick-up 3.2L, manual||$49,190|
|XLS double cab pick-up 3.2L, auto||$51,390|
|XLT super cab pick-up 3.2L, auto||$56,190|
|XLT super cab pick-up 2.0L Bi-Turbo, auto||$57,390|
|XLT double cab pick-up 3.2L, manual||$55,990|
|XLT double cab pick-up 3.2L, auto||$58,190|
|XLT double cab pick-up 2.0L Bi-Turbo, auto||$59,390|
|Wildtrak double cab pick-up 3.2L, manual||$60,590|
|Wildtrak double cab pick-up 3.2L, auto||$62,790|
|Wildtrak double cab pick-up 2.0L Bi-Turbo, auto||$63,990|
|Raptor double cab pick-up 2.0L Bi-Turbo, auto||$74,990|
Engine & trans
Aside from the new nine-speed automatic offered in the FWD version, the engines and transmission options are carried over from the current models, although they do now offer a little more oomph.
That means a 2.1-litre diesel good for 84kW and 250Nm, 105kW and 330Nm, or 120kW and 360Nm, as well as the diesel V6 that produces 140kW and 440Nm. They're paired with a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic in RWD versions, while the FWD can now choose the new gearbox.
The 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel makes 118kW and 385Nm, and is used mainly for the 4x2 models. It can be had with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto, with the latter doing the best job of distributing the Ranger’s horsepower.
The 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel, meanwhile, makes 147kW and 470Nm, and uses the same two six-speed gearbox options.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel is the newest engine in Ford’s commercial roster, and debuted in the Transit last year. In the more highly tuned Ranger it makes 157kW and 500Nm, and is backed by a 10-speed auto.
All three engines use a diesel particulate filter system.
Even though some overseas markets offer a petrol motor version, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see it here; petrol consumption isn’t on Ford Australia’s radar. Neither is EV, and LPG is not possible, either.
Mercedes is yet to confirm fuel use for the 84KW engine, but the mid-spec diesel will use 8.0L/100km - the very same as the most powerful 120kW option in the four-cylinder range. Updated numbers for the big 3.0-litre V6 haven't been revealed yet, either.
All those numbers are calculated on the claimed combined cycle.
Our 150km test of the 2.0-litre Wildtrak returned a dash-indicated fuel consumption average of 9.4L/100km, against claimed figures of 7.4L/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle. The Wildtrak 3.2’s fuel economy is rated at 8.9L/100km, and the XL dual-cab 4x4 2.2’s mileage is 8.0L/100km.
When it comes to manual vs automatic fuel consumption, the manual 3.2 returns 8.3L/100km.
The Ranger has an 80-litre size tank as standard, while a long-range fuel tank is an aftermarket proposition.
Weight wise, the 2.0-litre Wildtrak comes in at 2246kg at the kerb, and 3200kg gross vehicle weight (or GVW), meaning it’s able to deal with a payload / load capacity of 954kg. Its gross combined weight when hauling a trailer, therefore, is 6000kg.
It's utterly car-like. There's really no other way to describe it. Despite the fact you're dragging a cargo area big enough to swallow an Ikea showroom, the mass is largely unnoticeable from the driver's seat. In fact, if it wasn't for the way the sky-high driving position perches you above the steering wheel, it would be very easy to forget you're driving a van at all.
We only sampled one drivetrain combination - the 2.1-litre diesel paired with the seven-speed transmission, both of which carry over from the outgoing model, housed in a mid-wheelbase version - and the engine proved smooth and refined, gathering speed with nary a clatter or rattle in the cabin. It's not overly quick, but the low-down urge of the 360Nm (it appears at 1400rpm) is plenty willing to drag the Sprinter away from the lights.
With the window down, the diesel noise is far more noticeable, but the sound insulation does a great job of locking the noise outside when the cabin is sealed.
Even the steering feels surprisingly responsive, but with a reassuring lack of sharpness that mirth otherwise have you feeling like you're about to topple over. In a moment of pure madness, we pointed the Sprinter's massive nose at a climbing, twisting road, and while you're unlikely to win any hillclimb challenges,it doesn't feel overly top-heavy, either, and it will happily rumble to the top of most any mountain you should encounter.
Most importantly, though, the cabin is comfortable, mostly quiet, and feels less jittery or bouncy than plenty of dual-cab utes. With about 350 kilogram load on board, the ride was firm but not uncomfortable - exactly what we'd want from a van of this size.
And now, a small caveat. We were treated to a fairly limited test-drive on European roads that were ridiculously smooth, so we'll reserve full judgement on how the Sprinter responds to Australian conditions until it arrives locally in Q4 this year.
We tested a Wildtrak with the new 2.0-litre engine and suspension set-up over 150km, and we came away impressed. The 500Nm engine is the same spec as the one found in the Ranger Raptor, and while it won’t tear the hairs off your chest when you plant the foot, its performance – especially when combined with the 10-speed auto – saw it build speed evenly and confidently.
It holds pace going uphill, too, and it’s plenty strong enough for towing (we drove a stint with a 1200kg horse float attached). It’s still rated to tow 3500kg of braked trailer, just like the 3.2-litre model.
It’s impressively quiet and grumble-free for a diesel, and especially when comparing its noise output directly to the 3.2-litre five-cylinder. As well, the smaller engine feels stronger lower down in the rev range than the five-potter, though at the top, the 3.2 feels stouter at speed.
We didn’t put the two back to back across the 0-100 acceleration test, but our guess is that the performance figures would actually come out pretty evenly.
The retuned suspension is notably more compliant both front (coil sprung) and rear (leaf sprung) than the previous model, with a nicer front end and much more pleasant manners around town and under 70km/h.
Without a heavy duty load on board, though, it’s still a bit too brittle and unsettled at highway speeds, especially on less than perfect bitumen.
Steering feel is very light, and it takes a watchful eye to keep the Ranger on the straight and narrow. Its 12.7m turning circle is pretty ponderous, too.
We didn’t do enough dirt work to justify an off road review, but the Ranger’s capability and performance off road is well documented. The Wildtrak is fitted with highway-spec all-terrain tyres on its 18-inch alloy wheels, which still managed a wet, muddy loop of Werribee’s 4x4 facility perfectly well.
Smaller diameter 16-inch alloy wheels may be a better bet when it comes to tyre selection for pure off road work, and while some people may be thinking of fitting air suspension, it’s definitely not necessary.
We did test the wading depth of 800mm by traversing a river crossing that easily topped 600mm, while the ground clearance figure of 237mm is commendable, as well.
Its towing capacity tops out at pulling 3500kg of braked trailer, and a tow bar is standard on all models above the XLS 4x4.
Benz should be commended for rolling out AEB as standard across the range for this 2019 update, which also includes new side airbags for the front seats, joining the dual-front bags from the outgoing model.
Active lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, active cruise and a 360-degree camera have also become available, but if and where they arrive as standard is yet to be confirmed. Expect cross-wind control to reappear, too.
The Sprinter has not undergone ANCAP crash testing.
Technical safety aids like auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection (on Wildtrak and optional on XLT), reverse camera, rollover mitigation, hill control assist and trailer sway control are all standard safety features. There is a tyre pressure monitoring system included as standard across the majority of the line, while lane assist comes as part of the XLT Tech Pack.
Ford now offers an extended warranty of five years as standard, with unlimited kilometre coverage.
Servicing the 2.0-litre dual cab 4x4 Ranger, as an example, will cost $2300 over five years, with service intervals at every 15,000km or 12 months. As an example, a 30,000km service will cost $555.
Don’t forget, though, if you bush-bash your Ranger, you’ll need more frequent, and possibly more expensive, services. Even it’s just a more frequent oil change regimen, it’ll help prolong the life of your Ranger.
If you’re wondering where the Ford Ranger is built, it comes from Thailand.
In terms of problems, common faults, issues and defects, the Ranger has been recalled ten times since 2010 for items ranging from improperly secured manual shifter cables (2015-16), a lack of heat shielding near the rear exhaust that could lead to fires if driven in long grass (2016-2018), and poor steering shaft welds (2018).
Previous owners have also noted reliability issues around the Ranger’s EGR coolers. On the whole, though, the ratings for the Ranger for durability have been solid. Make sure you keep your owner’s manual filled out for easier resale, and keep it to hand when you want to know about oil capacity and type.
If you’re wondering if the diesels use a timing belt or chain, we can tell you all three use the former. The 2.0-litre actually uses a belt-in-oil set-up.
Transmission issues, auto gearbox problems or transmission failures haven’t really cropped up as a concern, though injector changes at 100,000km are recommended by some repairers as a preventative measure.
Blowing black smoke is a thing of the past, while the oil pump, clutch and intercooler pose no issues if regular services are performed.
When it comes to resale value, a second hand 2016 XLT dual-cab that sold new for $57,000 could now fetch around $40,000 second hand if sold privately, depending on mileage and condition.