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The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter competes for market share with more than a dozen rivals in the highly competitive Light Duty (3501-8000kg GVM) division of Australia's Heavy Commercial segment.
Launched in 1995, the Sprinter is approaching three decades of service and during that time has evolved through three generations.
The current VS30 range continues a tradition of offering multiple variants including panel van, single cab-chassis, dual cab-chassis and minibus, capable of fulfilling a vast number of commercial and non-commercial roles.
We recently spent a week aboard one of many panel van variants to see how it performs in a daily workhorse role.
If you’re in the market for a dual-cab ute but your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the $70K price tags of a lot of new models – then maybe you should check out the SsangYong Musso.
The Ultimate XLV variant, a lifted and stretched version of the standard Musso, might be the sweet spot for work-and-play duties. It’s auto, it’s 4WD, it has a stack of standard features and its price-tag is closer to $45,000 than $70,000.
But, does this ute make sense as an appealing value-for-money buy? Read on.
It has its niggling faults like any vehicle but the Sprinter panel van is a well-designed vehicle overall. It’s fit for purpose and worthy of consideration if you’re in the market for a heavy commercial van. That is if you have about $90K to spend, which is around $40K more than its closest competitor - and that one comes from China.
The Musso is a decent dual-cab ute with plenty to like in terms of its comfort and performance on and off the road.
It’s refined, capable and it has a stack of positives going for it: an unstressed engine, impressive practicality and a no-fuss driveability about it.
Sure, its lack of driver-assist safety tech is a let-down, especially in this day and age, but in a market where utes are getting more expensive every day, the Musso offers plenty of value for money.
And I reckon the Ultimate XLV would be a solid choice from the line-up for some.
This is a sizeable vehicle that’s almost 7.0 metres long (6967mm) and more than 2.0 metres wide (2020mm) and with its ‘High Roof’ design stands more than 2.6 metres (2663mm) tall. If you tick the ‘Super High Roof’ option that raises height to 2878mm.
Our only gripe in the cabin relates to the single USB outlet, which is awkwardly located inside the dash pad’s lidded central storage bin with no cut-out in the lid to route a device cable through. Placement near the central dash controls (like its smaller Vito sibling which has two USB ports) would be much better.
In terms of size, it’s 5409mm long (with a 3210mm wheelbase), 1950mm wide, and 1855mm high.
In terms of styling, it stays well within the lines of what we’ve all come to expect from most modern-day utes – solid looking with a bit of chunkiness and a hint of understated flair – but there are no surprises here, which is good.
The Ironman 4x4 suspension has given the Musso, in Ultimate XLV guise, a lifted and upright, commanding presence, and the lack of side steps adds to that sporty stance.
With a 2372kg kerb weight and 4100kg GVM, this Sprinter van has a substantial 1728kg payload rating. It’s also rated to tow up to 2000kg of braked trailer and with its 6100kg GCM (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) that means it can haul its maximum payload while towing its maximum trailer weight.
The huge cargo bay, with a solid timber floor that looks long enough for landing light aircraft, has a cavernous load volume of 14 cubic metres.
It’s accessed through a large kerbside sliding door with 1260mm-wide opening, or symmetrical glazed rear barn-doors with 180-degree opening for easy forklift access. There’s internal lighting front and rear and the walls and roof are not lined.
Tall people can stand without stooping given the 2009mm internal height. With a 4351mm floor length and 1350mm between the rear-wheel housings, the Sprinter can carry up to three 1165mm-square Aussie pallets or up to five 800 x 1200mm Euro pallets, secured with a choice of 12 load-anchorage points. There are also handy net-type storage pockets in each rear barn-door.
Plenty of cabin storage starts with a large-bottle holder and upper/lower bins in each front door, plus full-width overhead storage shelves with a lockable compartment on the passenger side, four small-bottle/cupholders in the lower central dash, two more small-bottle/cupholders and three ‘clamshell’ lid bins in the top of the dash-pad, an open storage shelf on the lower passenger-side dash and another sizeable enclosed compartment beneath the passenger seat.
The Musso’s interior is neat and well laid out. It’s also very roomy; SsangYong has made the most of this ute’s generous dimensions, taking the interior’s width right to the logical conclusion.
The pleasantries continue with an impressive all-around build quality and though there are plenty of durable plastic surfaces, there are also nice touches, like the leather seats and steering wheel.
Rear seat passengers get directional air vents, but they miss out on charge points.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen is too small for my liking, and the multimedia system’s functionality is basic and a bit clunky – plug in your phone and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto rather than the Musso’s built-in system – but the 12.3-inch instrument cluster is a nice touch.
Generally speaking, the cabin is an impressive space.
Our test vehicle is officially known as the Sprinter 419 Van LWB. It’s equipped with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, nine-speed automatic transmission, long wheelbase and rear-wheel drive, for a list price of $87,021.
Our example is fitted with the optional 'Campervan Package' (not that we’d choose to camp in an empty shipping container) which brings an upgraded front axle load rating, comfort seat pack with swivel function, chrome grille, additional dash-pad storage bins with hinged lids, long-range 93-litre fuel tank and electronic enhancements.
Ticking this options box costs $2838 which bumps the list price to $89,859. Our test vehicle is also fitted with an accessory mesh-type cargo barrier.
The Sprinter panel van is clearly built for work with its all-weather vinyl cabin floor, 16-inch steel wheels with 235/65R16 tyres and full-size spare, side marker lights and ample dark grey plastic where bumps, scrapes and high wear usually occur including the bumpers, door mirrors/handles and lower body sides.
However, in stark contrast it also offers numerous creature comforts including keyless start, a delightful leather-rimmed and height/reach adjustable steering wheel with paddle-shifters and multiple remote-control functions, as well as heated and power-folding door mirrors with truck-style lower wide-angle views.
There's also a driver’s instrument cluster with colour display, black fabric bucket seats with fold-down inboard armrests and multiple posture adjustments, adaptive cruise control, DRLs and a two-speaker multimedia system with 7.0-inch touchscreen and multiple connectivity including Apple and Android devices.
There are two variants in the Musso line-up: the entry-level ELX, available as a manual or auto, and the top-shelf Ultimate, which is available as auto only, and has a drive-away price of $42,090 (at time of writing).
Our test vehicle is the Ultimate.
For engine and transmission details skip ahead to the ‘What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?’ section further down this page.
Standard features onboard the Ultimate include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated leather steering wheel, leather seats, LED daytime running lights, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
So, those additions – the XLV pack, the Ironman 4x4 suspension (dubbed the constant load coil spring kit), as well its tow bar ($1530 fitted), electronic brake controller ($620 fitted) and 'Pearl White' paint ($595) – push this ute’s price as tested to $47,065.
A $3000 Luxury Pack is also available – adding a sunroof, dual zone climate control, Nappa leather seats, powered front seats and driver’s lumbar support, and heated rear seats – but our test vehicle does not have that. And I don’t reckon you need it, but suit yourself.
There are a range of exterior paint jobs available for this variant, including 'Atlantic Blue', 'Indian Red', 'Space Black', 'Marble Grey', 'Grand White' and Pearl White, which is on our test vehicle.
The 'OM654' is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel that meets the toughest Euro 6 emissions standards using AdBlue.
The smooth-shifting nine-speed torque converter automatic offers the choice of sequential manual-shifting using the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters, which could be handy when hauling heavy loads particularly in hilly terrain.
The Ultimate is powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine – producing 133kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm at 1400-2800rpm.
However, it’s worth noting that in Ultimate XLV Guise, the Musso gets another 20Nm of torque, bringing it to 420Nm at 1600-2600rpm.
It has a six-speed automatic transmission, part-time 4WD with low- and high-range gearing, and an auto-locking rear differential.
The engine outputs look a bit underwhelming, but it does pretty well with what it has once you’re actually driving it. And that Aisin auto is a well regarded transmission, having already proven itself in this and other utes, such as the Isuzu D-Max.
Heavy commercial vehicles are not required to provide fuel consumption data. Even so, when we stopped to refuel at the end of our 247km test of which about one third of that distance was hauling a heavy payload, the dash display was claiming a surprisingly frugal combined average of 9.9L/100km (with auto stop/start switched off).
This was close to our own figure, calculated from fuel bowser and tripmeter readings, of 10.5 which means you could expect a ‘real-world’ driving range nudging 900km from its optional 93-litre tank.
Official fuel consumption is 9.0L/100km on the combined cycle.
On this test I recorded actual fuel consumption of 10.2L/100km, but we were doing a lot of low-range 4WDing, so factor that into the figure.
The Musso has a 75-litre fuel tank, so going by those fuel use figures I’d expect to get a touring range of about 700km – that includes a safe-distance buffer of 30km.
Bear in mind, though, your fuel consumption will likely be higher than ours – and consequently your driving range will be lower – because we were only carrying a set of four Maxtrax in a carry bag, a vehicle-recovery kit, a tyre-puncture repair kit, a first-aid kit, an air compressor, some tools – and my massive ego.
You’ll be carrying a lot more if you’re heading off for a weekend out bush with your mates or your family. Think camping equipment, food and water, as well as everything else that goes along on a trip away.
Wide door openings and large assist-handles on the windscreen pillars make for easy cabin entry.
Finding a comfortable driving position is not hard either, given the combination of a height/reach-adjustable steering wheel and supportive bucket seat with adjustments for backrest angle, seat-base rake/length and lumbar support.
The optional 'Campervan Package' seats, with fold-down inboard armrests, can also rotate towards the centre of the cabin. We assume this pivoting function is to aid rear-of-vehicle access, but was of no use in our test vehicle given the mesh cargo barrier.
Our only criticism of the driving position is that the slim pillar between the fixed and sliding glass in the driver’s door partly obscures the driver’s eyeline to the door mirror. However, sliding the seat base forward solves the problem, so it’s only an issue for tall drivers like me that need to sit more rearward.
The ride quality without a load is good, given the robust rear suspension. It also has nicely-weighted and responsive steering plus good braking, along with acceptable internal noise levels at sub-80km/h city and suburban speeds given the absence of a solid bulkhead and minimal cargo bay linings.
To test its load-carrying ability, we used up all of our weights to forklift 1300kg into the cargo bay, which was still more than 400kg less than the GVM rating.
As a result, the Sprinter made light work of hauling this 1.3-tonne payload around town, with the only differences being a slightly firmer ride and more accelerator pedal required to maintain engine performance.
It easily hauled this load to the summit of our 13 per cent gradient, 2.0km set climb at 60km/h, although engine-braking on the way down was (as expected) not as strong given its small displacement.
In a manually-selected second gear, road speed quickly increased as the engine climbed towards the tacho’s redline on overrun, before the auto dismissed our manual gear selection and shifted up to third.
This automatic engine-protection protocol is common in Euro vans. However, if you’re not ready for it, it can spring a surprise when you’re leaning on the drivetrain to assist with engine-braking during a steep descent and it suddenly shifts up and starts running away from you. The quartet of disc brakes, though, easily compensated for this shortfall.
The news is mostly good. The Musso is quite refined and rather impressive, in terms of comfort and performance, especially for a ute that’s considerably cheaper than a lot of others in the dual-cab realm.
At almost five and a half metres long and weighing in about 2100kg, the Musso Ultimate XLV has a planted feel about it on-road – length, weight and suspension combining to produce a settled vehicle.
The 12.2m turning circle is a minor issue on busy suburban streets, but it’s nothing terrible.
Steering has a nice weight to it, although it can feel a little bit too “trucky" at times. The steering wheel is reach- and rake-adjustable, so that’s good.
The tub/tray (whatever you want to call it) is 1625mm long (at floor height), 1612mm wide (1140mm between the wheel arches), and is 578mm deep, which is handy for extra packing space.
The load space has a durable looking plastic tub liner and four tie-down points that appear pretty solid.
The Musso has an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg.
There’s no ANCAP rating required for Heavy Commercial vehicles but the Sprinter has many safety features highlighted by four airbags, AEB, blind-spot and lane-keeping assists, crosswind assist (crucial in a van with such a wall-like profile), trailer sway control and more.
There’s also adaptive cruise control and a reversing camera, but omissions which should be standard are rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors.
The Musso line-up does not have an ANCAP safety rating, but it does have six airbags and a suite of safety tech, including AEB, driver attention warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, as well as front and rear parking sensors, a tyre pressure monitoring system, and a 360-degree camera view.
Scheduled servicing is every 12 months/40,000km whichever occurs first.
Capped-price servicing for the first five scheduled services during warranty period totals $7130, or a pricey average of $1426 per service.