Mercedes-Benz Sprinter VS Holden Colorado
- 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
- Shines on Aussie roads
- Touchscreen tech across the range
- Tough-looking LSX lives on
- Plenty of torque, not much speed
- Cabin not particularly quiet
- No AEB
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|
The Holden Colorado range has just been updated for the 2020 model year, but to describe it as “new” might be something of a stretch. In fact, even “refreshed” might be over-selling it.
And that’s because mechanically, the Colorado is identical to the 2019 model. And the cabin tech is unchanged, too.
Instead, the brand has focused on upping the standard inclusions on some models, and welcoming the special-edition LSX (which began life as a special edition) as a permanent member of the Colorado family.
|Engine Type||2.8L 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.
No news is still good news for the Colorado, which still drives well, carries a tonne and tows even more. It's undoubtedly starting to show its age in terms of modern safety tech, but it remains a strong contender in our booming ute segment.
Does this update get you excited about the 2020 model? Tell us in the comments below.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
While the design of the Colorado is almost entirely unchanged (the body work is mostly the same), the addition of the LSX as a permanent member of the family does up the Colorado’s tough-truck credentials.
The side-view especially - all alloys, sports bar and fender flares - does look both rugged and tough and despite the interior not quite living up the exterior hype, it’ll surely turn heads on the road.
Speaking of the interior, it's a refreshingly comfortable place to spend time, and while some elements (the gear shift in automatic cars especially) feel a little utilitarian, there's enough soft-touch plastic and - in the more expensive trims - leather seating to lift the ambience beyond that of a workhorse.
Overall, though, I don't think it quite matches the toughness of the Ford Ranger, which is put down almost entirely to the front-on view. The Holden Colorado is handsome enough, sure, but lacks the mean-mugging stare of its fiercest rival.
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.
No mater how many words like “lifestyle” or “adventure” you throw at a ute, practicality is still the aim of the game in this segment.
And on that front, the Colorado nails the brief, with every model in the range (bar one - a the LTZ+ - and that’s deliberate, with the lower number helping with novated leasing deals) able to carry 1000kg, with that number climbing to 1487kg in the LS auto 4X2.
Towing, too, ticks the right box, with the Colorado’s braked capacity a claimed 3500kg, thanks to the 2.8-litre diesel engine you’ll find under every single bonnet.
The Colorado rides on the same wheelbase (3096mm) no matter which variant you aim for, but obviously your other dimensions will shift. The width runs from 1870mm to 1874mm, the height from 1781mm to 1800m, length from 5083mm to 5361mm and the tray length from 1484mm to 1790mm.
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.
Like most ute line-ups, the number of Colorados on offer here is pretty damn extensive. So take a deep breath as we dive in.
The entry point to the line-up has changed, with Holden deleting the manual gearbox option on the cheapest LS 4x2 Single Cab Chassis, which now starts at $31,690 with an automatic gearbox. The LS 4x2 Crew Cab Chassis is $36,690, and the LS 4x2 Crew Cab Pick-Up is $38,190.
For that spend, the LS will deliver a 7.0-inch touchscreen with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, paired with a six-speaker stereo. You also get a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a USB charge point. Outside, you’ll find LED DRLs, powered body-colour mirrors, cloth seats and manual air-conditioning.
Next up is the LT 4x2 Crew Cab Pick-Up ($41,190 with an automatic gearbox) which adds 17-inch alloys, carpet flooring, a tailgate lock, fog lights and side steps.
Then it’s over to the LSX, which now joins the range as a permanent member, and which Holden describes as an entry-level tough truck, or “affordable tough”. That toughness arrivers via the 18-inch alloys, the gloss black front grille, the black sport bar and fender flares, and the Colorado sticker across the back. The LSX 4X4 Crew Cab Pick-Up is $46,990 in manual guise, and $49,190 with an automatic gearbox.
Next up is the LTZ, which is available as 4X2 Crew Cab Pick-Up with an automatic for $44,690, a 4X4 Space Cab Pick-Up for $51,190, or as a 4X4 Crew Cab Pick-Up ($50,490 for the manual, $52,690 for the automatic).
That trim earns you a bigger 8.0-inch touchscreen with standard nav and a better seven-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, push-button start and leather seats that are heated in the front. Outside, you get 18-inch alloys, Holden’s new DuraGuard spray-on tub-liner, power folding exterior mirrors, LED tail lights, rain-sensing wipers, a soft tonneau cover, side steps and an alloy sports bar.
Finally, there’s a Z71 4X4 Crew Cab Pick-Up, which is $54,990 (man) or $57,190 (auto), which earns you a soft-drop tailgate, 18-inch Arsenal Grey alloys, a new Sailplane sports bar and side rails, gloss black exterior door handles, mirrors and tailgate handle. You also get some style touches, like fender flares, a new front fascia, roof rails, hood decals and underbody protection.
Holden is also bundling its most popular accessories into new packs, called the Tradie Pack, the Black Pack, the Farmer Pack, the Rig Pack and the Xtreme Pack, with each of them coming with a voucher that reduces the cost of the Colorado itself.
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.
Just the once choice here; a 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel good for 147kW and 500Nm (or 440Nm with a manual) and can be paired with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox, depending on the trim.
The option of a manual gearbox has been removed on some trims, most noticeably on the LS, which used to form the entry point to the range. Now, that car starts with an automatic, and costs $2200 more.
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.
Holden claims combined fuel use of between 7.9 and 8.6 litres per hundred kilometres, depending on the vehicle setup, and whether it's two- or four-wheel drive. The Colorado’s C02 emissions are pegged at between 210 and 230g/km.
All Colorados arrive with a 76-litre fuel tank.
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.
How does it drive? Ah, exactly the same as it used to.
Under the skin there are absolutely no changes for 2020. Same 2.8-litre Duramax diesel with a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, same suspension, same steering. Short answer, it's the same.
But that’s not a bad thing. Holden’s local engineers had plenty of input in the Colorado when it was last majorly updated, including demanding it use the electronic power steering system taken from the Commodore program, and they're changes proved so successful, they have now been adopted by other markets.
The suspension was tuned here, too, and the final rubber-stamp approval testing was done in Australia.
The result is a vehicle that is pretty bloody good on our roads, if a little gruff-sounding in the cabin.
The steering inspires confidence, feeling direct enough for the segment, and more importantly, the Colorado enters corners in way that convinces you you're going to pop out the other side where you expect to, even at a fairly rapid clip.
It being Victoria, the weather for our drive program was predictably atrocious - with that sideways rain and bone-chilling cold the state is so famous for - and so Holden abandoned a more challenging 4WD section in favour of a rough muddy track lined with puddles big enough to double as water crossings and fallen trees that crunched under tyre as we climbed over them.
And while there was nothing that would seriously challenge the Colorado, we can attest to it handling the rougher stuff as well as at it did, too, at least for cars with 4WD, where low range and Holden's DuraGrip LSD/traction control system arrive as standard.
The engine isn’t going to win any drag races, but that’s probably not the point. The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel always feels like there’s plenty of grunt on offer, but it never translates into actually speed. More a marathon than a sprint, then, but a performance ute this ain't.
The point is this. This 2020 update entirely on the look and equipment of the Colorado, so if you like the old one, then you’ll like this new one.
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.
Holden's Colorado wears a five-star ANCAP rating right across the range, with the full-marks score awarded in 2016.
The safety story starts with seven airbags, rear sensors, a reversing camera and Hill Descent Control, along with the usual site of traction and braking aids, all of which are offered across the range.
Spending big on the LTZ or Z71 unlocks extra kit, including front sensors, Forward Collision Alert (but not AEB - which is offered across the Ranger range) Lane Departure Warning and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Holden offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty across the Colorado range, with servicing required every 12 months or 12,000kms. The brand’s capped-price servicing program is published on its website, and the first seven services (covering seven years) will cost you a total $3033.