Mercedes-Benz Sprinter VS Toyota HiLux
- 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
- Solid safety spec offer
- Decent ownership prospects
- Good range of variants
- Harsh ride unladen
- Cab chassis models have no reversing camera
- Lacking some polish against newer rivals
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|
There’s plenty to be said for the new-generation Toyota HiLux, and while a lot of customers will be shopping for the top-of-the-range variants, there’s plenty of value to be found in the work-focused Workmate models.
And that’s what we’re looking at here - a Workmate dual cab, which, while it may look like a 4WD, is actually a high-riding rear-wheel drive dual cab. Or, to be precise, the Workmate 4x2 Double Cab pick-up Hi-Rider.
We spent a bit of time with this updated version of the HiLux ute, and even chucked a bit of load in the back thanks to our mates in the mountains. More on that - and everything else you need to know about the Workmate range - below.
Read More: Toyota HiLux 2021 review
|Engine Type||2.4L 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.
It isn’t as polished as some of its rivals, and doesn’t have as much tech or flair to its offering either. But as a workhorse offering with a solid ownership promise and unquestionable resale value, the Toyota HiLux Workmate - no matter the derivative you choose - remains a compelling option for those who use their ute for work more than play.
Thanks to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies for the sandbag load in the Workmate 4x2 Hi-Rider pick-up.
Thanks to our mates at IWP Training for putting 1000kg in the tray of the Workmate 4x2 cab-chassis low-rider.
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.
The most interesting thing about some versions of the Workmate in terms of design is that they haven’t been changed at all.
For the exterior, the Workmate single-cab variants and the low-riding 4x2 dual-cab pick-up don’t see the visual changes of the 4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 extra- and dual-cab variants, which score a slightly more aggressive front fascia.
Toyota Australia says it was more important to address the higher grade models with the new look, and that keeping the same front end on the “narrow body” models would help keep costs lower.
That’s all well and good, but it does seem a little weird to do a “major overhaul” of the ute and keep it looking the same. I guess owners of early examples will be happy, as their utes won’t look as outdated?
But the important thing is that HiLux Workmate buyers have so many body styles available to them, and that’s arguably going to matter more than what the ute looks like for a Workmate customer.
We’ll run through some of the important elements here, like dimensions and payloads. First up, let’s size up the versions of the HiLux Workmate (note - your dimensions may vary, depending on the tray body fitted).
If you’re buying a pick-up over a cab-chassis, you’ll know that comes with limitations. The flat bed of a tray back cab-chassis model is always going to offer more practicality - and if you buy a 4x2 or 4x4 single cab, or the 4x4 extra cab, you’re getting a tray back. But we’ve covered off the load space dimensions for the dual cab ute/pick-up below - the figures are the same for the 4x2 and 4x4 models.
Dual cab ute
Cargo floor length
Width between wheel arches
As mentioned, the tub models will always suffer compromises that table-top models won’t, and that includes the inability to fit an Aussie pallet (1165mm x 1165mm) between the wheel arches.
Space is one thing, but payload capacity for the different body styles is another matter altogether. Don’t forget, payload will be affected by the tray body fitted if you’re choosing a cab-chassis.
Dual cab ute
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)
2700-3100kg, depending on model, engine, drivetrain
Gross combination mass (GCM)
4x2 low rider: 5200-5250kg
4x2 Hi-Rider: 5650kg
All models: 750kg unbraked
4x2 petrol: 2500kg braked
4x4 diesel: 3500kg braked
Not everyone goes off-road. Both our test vehicles in Workmate spec were 4x2 rear-wheel drive (RWD) models, but that doesn’t mean you won’t consider things like ground clearance - especially if you’re weighing up between a low-riding version and Hi-Rider 2WD.
Here are the dimensions and figures for 4x2 and 4x4 models.
Ground clearance mm
4x2 petrol: 174mm
All other variants: 216mm
4x2 petrol: 23 degrees
All other variants: 29 degrees
Break over/ramp over angle
Not listed by Toyota
4x2 dual cab petrol: 20 degrees
4x4 single cab diesel: 25 degrees
4x4 dual cab diesel, extra cab-chassis, dual cab-chassis: 26 degrees
4x2 Hi-Rider, Workmate 4x4 manual dual cab ute: 27 degrees
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.
The practicality you get depends on the body style you choose. That’s an obvious statement, sure, but you might be wondering how many seats are in the HiLux Workmate? Single cab models have two seats, extra cab models have four seats, and dual cab variants have five seats.
And the practicality of the respective body styles is unchanged up front, whether you choose the two-, four- or five-seater. Everything forward of the B-pillar is the same.
That means that all HiLux Workmate models get the same dash treatment, including a newly redesigned cluster for the driver with a new digital display that incorporates a digital speedometer, which is a huge helper if your licence has seen better days.
Then there’s the new 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, with buttons and volume/tuning knobs that have been designed to work with heavy gloves, according to Toyota. The old screen - with touch-sensitive controls and no knobs - was lambasted by tradies, so it’s great to see Toyota has listened.
Plus the new screen includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can plug your USB cable in and mirror your phone onto the media screen. It really is a big step forward, and because no Workmate model comes with sat nav GPS, even as an option, this is the way to go if you’re frequently 'lost on the way to the job.' But there is only one USB port - many rivals offer two.
The materials and design are otherwise unchanged, meaning hard-wearing vinyl floors and hard plastic finishes everywhere, but excellent practicality - two cup holders between the seats, two pop-out ones in the sides of the dashboard, bottle holders in the doors (single and dual cab), and a dual glove box with other loose item storage caddies, too.
If you get an extra cab you could consider it a two seater with additional secure storage, and many of the newer utes coming out have actually deleted the seats due to apparent safety concerns. But the Toyota still has two extra seats in the back.
The dual cab Workmate models don’t get the 60/40 split-fold rear seat base, but you can still fold up the entire seat base to allow additional storage - you don’t want to wreck the fabric on the rear seats with dirty tools, or grimy hardware.
If you do happen to have people in the back, the space isn’t as good as some other double cab models out there. Knee room is tight, headroom could be better, and there are those fixed grab handles that eat into the space. You might need to keep your hardhat on, too, as they’re certainly heatbuttable.
The dual cab’s back seat has twin map pockets and bottle holders in the doors, but no fold down armrest, no cup holders and no air vents.
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.
You will find the Workmate badge on the most bodystyles of any HiLux in the line-up. You can get it in single cab-chassis, extra cab-chassis, extra cab ute, and dual cab-chassis and dual cab ute body styles.
And then there’s the choice of petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, and whether you want it in low-riding or high-riding (Hi-Rider, as Toyota calls it) 2WD/4x2/rear-wheel drive versions, or in a more hardcore 4WD (or 4x4).
The model mix for Workmate versions is as complex as it sounds, so here’s a neat table to make it a bit simpler! Just note, the price list you see below represents the cost of the ute before on-roads costs - that’s known as the MSRP or the RRP, and it’s not a drive-away price.
|Drivetrain||Body type||Engine and Transmission||List pricing (Before on-road costs)|
|4x2||Single cab-chassis- low rider||2.7L petrol, five-speed manual||$23,590|
|2.7L petrol, six-speed auto||$25,590|
|Single cab shassis Hi-Rider||2.4L turbo diesel, six-speed manual||$28,830|
|Dual cab ute low-rider||2.7L petrol, five-speed manual||$33,070|
|2.7L petrol, six-speed auto||$35,070|
|Dual cab ute Hi-Rider||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual||$40,160|
|2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$42,160|
|4x4||Single cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$39,520|
|Extra cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$45,220|
|Dual cab-chassis||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$47,290|
|Dual cab ute||2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual||$46,790|
|2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto||$48,790|
You get the same general level of specification on all the Workmate models, with standard equipment incorporating standard steel wheels - black 16-inch diameter for 4x2 models, while 4x4 single cab versions get silver 17-inch rims, and there are black 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tyres on 4x4 extra cab and dual cab variants.
All Workmate models have standard auto halogen headlights, vinyl flooring and all-weather floor mats, cloth seat trim, a 4.2-inch digital display with digital speedo readout, and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
And while you get the choice of petrol or diesel, the latter models - across all trim lines - score a new variable-flow control power-steering pump. More on that in the driving section.
There are other accessories available from the Toyota parts catalogue as you’d expect, including: bull bar, tow bar, nudge bar, ladder rack, side steps, bonnet protector, tub liner, canopy, and more.
You might be curious about safety technology - and it's great to see Toyota doesn’t pick and choose between the variants as to which model gets what. There’s a decent array of safety technology fitted for the most part, and we’ll cover that off in the safety section below.
What about colours? Workmate models can be had in white (no cost), while the premium paint choices are silver, grey, black or blue (all $600).
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.
While there has been a lot of noise around the HiLux finally getting a big power bump - that up-spec 2.8-litre engine isn’t available in the Workmate models.
Instead, Workmate variants get a choice of a petrol motor or a smaller capacity diesel unit.
The engine in the range-opening Workmate 4x2 models is the 2.7-litre petrol four-cylinder, known as the 2TR-FE. It has outputs of 122kW of power (at 5200rpm) and 245Nm of torque (at 4000rpm), and is available with a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission.
The diesel option in the Workmate 4x2 and 4x4 models is a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine known as 2GD-FTV. Power is rated at 110kW (at 3400rpm) and torque is 400Nm (from 1600-2000rpm).
There is the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox in 4x2 and 4x4 applications in the Workmate range.
So, no 2.8L, no hybrid, no electric… no nonsense, I guess?
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.
Fuel consumption varies depending on the powertrain you choose.
The fuel economy king isn’t the petrol, which has claimed fuel consumption of: 11.1L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis manual); 10.9L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis auto); 10.7L/100km (4x2 dual cab manual); and 10.4L/100km (4x2 dual cab auto).
On test in the 4x2 manual single cab-chassis, with a load, and without, we averaged 11.4L/100km. And it was only a short loaded drive test.
The diesel versions of the Workmate offer better promise of lower fuel consumption, with fuel use in the 4x2 diesel Workmate models pegged at 7.8L/100km for the single cab-chassis manual, while the 4x2 dual cab pick-up claims 6.9L/100km and 7.5L/100km for the manual and auto respectively.
The 4x4 Workmate models claim: 7.4L/100km (single cab-chassis manual); 8.0L/100km (extra cab-chassis and dual cab-chassis auto); 7.1L/100km (dual cab pick-up manual) and 7.8L/100km (dual cab pick-up auto).
When we tested the diesel auto 4x2 Hi-Rider dual cab, we saw a return of 8.4L/100km across loaded (600kg of sand bags) and unloaded testing.
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.
I first sampled the 4x2 Workmate Hi-Rider 2.4-litre diesel auto, and it came across as a really solid proposition for those who don’t need the bells and whistles or a 4x4 system.
In fact, I bet that this sort of ute would be as well suited to the majority of buyers who spend up big on an SR5 dual cab 4x4 but never actually go off-road.
Indeed, that’s the great thing about the HiLux Workmate range - if you know you don’t need 4x4, there are plenty of 4x2 options available.
And the Hi-Rider diesel model has the advantage that it is rated to tow the maximum 3500kg capacity, but the disadvantage for hard-working tradies - especially those shorter in stature - is that it’s a step up into the cab (no side steps), and a running jump into the tub - unless you option the new rear Tub Step accessory, which is mounted to the rear corner of the chassis and allows easier tub access.
And while this isn’t strictly a driving impression, the strangest thing about the HiLux is that you’re getting some really advanced features for a work ready ute.
It’s becoming the norm, but it does seem weird when you sit inside and see your digital speedometer, with the knowledge that there’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a lane departure system - yet you’re gripping a polyurethane steering wheel, sitting on cloth seats and your feet are placed on rubber floors - there’s not even height adjustment for the driver’s seat, and the sound system only has four speakers.
Anyway, the diesel dual cab is pretty impressive. There’s nothing wrong with the 2.4-litre’s engine tune, and in some instances it actually feels almost as peppy as the 2.8L I sampled in the SR5+.
But it does have some noticeable engine noise, and just like the other powertrain there is some noticeable shuffling between gears - the six-speed auto seems to aim to keep things in the best torque band, which is no bad thing, but you can hear it doing so. It gets along pretty well, and I had no trouble keeping pace with traffic.
The transmission doesn’t seem to exhibit the same grade logic downhill downshifting as the SR5 does. And there's some turbo lag noticeable with 600kg of weight on board (from our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies).
With that weight on board the brakes have a slightly soft feel to them, but they are progressive and easy to predict whether loaded or not.
The steering is light but still has a bit of feel to it at lower pace, while at speeds above 80km/h there is a level of vagueness, which is exacerbated when there's weight over the rear axle.
The suspension is reasonable without a load on board. Not as good as Ranger or Amarok, but better than the last HiLux. And while you can still feel small inconsistencies and it gets the jitters at low speeds, the ride becomes spongier with weight on board. In fact it's very comfortable at higher speed with that much mass in the back.
Next up we drove the petrol cab-chassis, and it offered up a few surprises.
First, let’s consider the loaded up driving impressions - thanks to a load of 1000kg in the tray courtesy of our mates at IWP Training.
The engine pulls harder than expected, and while it has a torque deficit compared to the diesels, there’s a decent drivability and rev-happiness that the petrol offers.
The smooth and short gearshift is a nice surprise, too (we also had a D-Max SX on site, and it had a longer, notchier throw). The gearing is pretty well suited to this type of hard work driving.
It's surprising how urgent the engine response is. It's super easy to drive with that much weight on board, but I did keep going for a sixth gear that doesn’t exist in the manual Workmate petrol.
It sounds like it’s working harder than it is - the engine is quite audible, and at times it can sound more asthmatic than its actual response.
In fact, if you were gonna be running around with this much weight in the back of your work ute you could be doing a lot worse than a 4x2 petrol Workmate cab chassis. It offers enough poke, and also has good quality – both in terms of ride and comfort and control and general drivability. It is well and truly made for this job.
The lower centre of gravity assists in making the HiLux feel more planted and deal with the weight better than a high riding two-wheel drive, with less pitching fore and aft and nice feel on the road.
The steering - which hasn’t seen the addition of that new variable control system, as it’s only fitted to diesel models - is quite good, and even the breaking performance is commendable with that much mass in the tray.
But without weight in the back it’s still punishingly firm in terms of the suspension. The rear-end bucks and jumps over bumps, never feeling as though it’s as surefooted as it could be.
The D-Max we had with us showed up the HiLux hugely in that respect. If you don’t hit any bumpy sections, it’s smooth to drive in. But as soon as you hit a sharp edge or any sort of inconsistency in the surface below it can be quite violent in its response.
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.
Toyota was at the front of the pack for safety tech in utes - for a couple of months. But it’s still impressive that the entire HiLux line-up has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as per 2019 criteria. And there’s a good reason for that.
All HiLux models come with standard fit auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds from 50km/h-180km/h, as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection operational from 10km/h-80km/h.
The HiLux gets a lane departure warning system with lane keeping assist that works by braking the wheels it needs to, in order to pull you into line - but it still runs hydraulic steering, so it can’t do full-scale lane keeping assistance.
Also standard is speed sign recognition and warning, and adaptive cruise control on manual and auto models. You can even just hit ‘set’ on the cruise control to raise or lower your speed to whatever the speed sign says.
While the spec is pretty good, there’s no blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert, and - in a very disappointing continuation of the theme - Toyota still doesn’t offer a reversing camera on cab-chassis models. You get a rear-view camera standard on all pick-up models, though.
There are dual front, front side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain, for a total of seven airbags no matter the body style.
The dual cab versions have two ISOFIX outboard attachments and two loop-style top-tethers for baby seats.
Toyota has one of the strongest reputations in the Australian new car market when it comes to ownership and reliability.
However, with the HiLux, there have been a few issues over its head, specifically around the diesel particulate filter (DPF). You can read more about it at our Toyota HiLux problems page, as well as any other Toyota HiLux complaints, concerns, reliability issues or recalls.
Suffice it to say, the brand says it has your back no matter what. And it has a strong ownership promise on paper, too.
All models have a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which can carry on to seven years/unlimited km if you maintain logbook servicing - it doesn’t even need to have been at a Toyota dealer, either. So long as you maintain it on schedule, the brand will back it for that extended period.
The bad news is that you need to service the HiLux more regularly than most of its competitors. The brand says it has no plans to increase service intervals to meet the current standard of 12 months/15,000km.
Instead, HiLux owners have to take their ute in to get serviced twice a year, with maintenance intervals set every six months or 10,000km, whichever happens soonest.
Diesel services are $250 a pop. That means you’ve got an annual $500 bill for maintenance for diesel models, which is higher than many rivals (Triton: $299/year). Petrol versions cost $220 per visit, so $440 a year.
Further, Toyota doesn’t include no-cost roadside assistance, either. You’ll have to sign up for it, at about $100 a year.
Strong on warranty cover, yes, but you may have to pay over the odds in order to sustain it.