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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter


Volkswagen Transporter

Summary

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.1L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating3 seats

Volkswagen Transporter

The Volkswagen Transporter range has been revised for 2021, with the new T6.1 line-up - as VW calls it - retaining an array of options for business buyers.

There’s the traditional vans in both short and long wheelbase, as well as a Crew Van option, and cab-chassis ute versions.

As has long been the case, VW Australia has gone with a relatively complex line-up of models, but also with a huge array of personalisation options for customers to tailor their vehicle to their specific requirements.

As well as that, the new model offers enhanced safety, technology, and a revised look. Is it enough to keep the mid-size VW van in the mix against the impressive Toyota HiAce, Ford Transit Custom and Peugeot Partner? Let’s find out.

 

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating3 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

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.


Volkswagen Transporter7.9/10

There are more affordable vans out there to purchase and own. But not many offer the level of personalisation and quality, not to mention ease-of-use and drivability as the VW T6.1 Transporter range. 

My pick would be a TDI340 DSG van in LWB, but there are several choices that would suit multiple different user cases. 
 

Design

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

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.


Volkswagen Transporter8/10

There have been some subtle changes to this facelifted version of the Transporter. You mightn’t be able to tell them if you’re not looking closely, but that’s only going to help resale values of the existing model…



But the distinct little lines that run back from the headlights (like mascara, I’m told) that say “Transporter” in them are a nice touch, and it’s overall a really neat design. Always has been.



Now, let’s consider some of the other implications of design, namely on the vehicle’s dimensions. Here’s a table to make it easier to digest.

 

SWB Van

LWB Van

LWB High roof 

Single Cab Chassis

Dual Cab Chassis

Length

4904mm

5304mm

5304mm

5500mm

5500mm

Wheelbase

3000mm

3400mm

3400mm

3400mm

3400mm

Width

1904mm

1904mm

1904mm

1994mm

1994mm

Height

1990mm

1990mm

2477mm

1948mm

1948mm

As you can see, there’s a lot of precision measurements there.

What about the cargo area, then? Here’s a rundown of those figures.
 

 

SWB Van

LWB Van

LWB High roof 

Single Cab Chassis

Dual Cab Chassis

Cargo length

2572mm (without partition)

 

2975mm (without partition)

2939mm

2169mm

Cargo width

1700mm

1700mm

1940mm

1940mm

Width between arches

1244mm

1244mm

N/A

N/A

Cargo height

1410mm

1410mm

1940mm

392mm (tray depth)

392mm (tray depth)

Cargo volume

5.8m3

6.7m3

9.3m3

N/A

N/A

The Crewvan versions have a second row in the back, so load length is lessened - there’s 1600mm in the SWB and 1967mm in the LWB. SWB models have six tie-down lashings, while LWB models get eight. The cargo volume for the normal roof SWB Crewvan is 3.5m3, and the LWB Crewvan offers 4.4m3 of cargo space. 



That’s all the dimensions taken care of, but you might also be interested in some ‘off road dimensions’ especially if you’re going for a 4Motion version. The vans range between 201mm and 202mm of ground clearance, while Cab Chassis models run 202mm unladen.

There are also optional off road suspension setups available with revised shocks and springs, and even stabilizer bar upgrades if needed. No changes to ride height or approach, departure and breakover angles, though.

What about payload capabilities? Here’s a rundown of load capacity for the vans and cab chassis models, including towing capacity.

 

Van (SWB, LWB, Crewvan)

Cab-chassis

Payload capacity

951kg to 1220kg

853kg to 1056kg

Gross vehicle mass (GVM)

2800kg (TDI250), 3000kg (all others)

Gross combination mass (GCM)

5500kg (all variants)

Towing capacity

750kg unbraked / 2500kg braked

Next, let’s take a look inside the revised cabin of the T6.1 Transporter.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter9/10

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.


Volkswagen Transporter9/10

The cabin of the VW Transporter has always been a thoughtful place, a suitable workspace for those who don’t just drive places, but also do paperwork in their ‘mobile office’.

That comes down to a clever level of storage, amenities and comfort. 

Let’s start with storage, as there are caddies and cubbies for loose items, documents and more. On the dash top there’s a folder holder, and there’s a shelf section above the glovebox. There are cup holders on top of the edges of the dash, too, and the door pockets have huge storage trenches with bottle holders. 

Seat comfort is excellent, with good adjustment for the driver, and reach/rake adjustment for the leather-lined steering wheel, which is standard in all grades. The only thing missing is a grab handle to haul yourself into the seat if you’re shorter.

There’s a manual handbrake down on the floor to the left of the driver which is a reach for shorties, too (I wonder if the next-gen model might finally get an electric park brake?), and the new dashboard design has repositioned one of the driver’s air-vents a long way from them. The air-conditioning in one of the test vans was also a bit weak for a warm Aussie day.

But the dash design is attractive and certainly more modern than before, with more angular finishes and new media screens across the range. Though they aren’t that new compared to the brand’s non-commercial offerings, with the 6.5-inch touchscreen unit still offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and two USB-C ports (so you’ll need an adaptor or a new phone cable).

In the Crewvan the back seat space was comfortable but lacking a few features. At the very least, for tradie mums and dads there are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points with two top-tether attachment hooks in the rear door area above the cargo hold. The back seat is removable if you only need it sometimes, too.
 

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

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.


Volkswagen Transporter7/10

This is going to be complicated.

There are so many ways to build your VW Transporter T6.1 that you almost need a maths degree to ascertain the number of possible combinations and permutations.

Suffice to say, though, that the range starts under forty grand for a basic, low-powered manual front-wheel drive (FWD) short wheelbase (SWB), through to a high grade 4Motion all-wheel drive (4WD) long wheelbase (LWB) with a dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission.



To make it easier - we hope! - here is a table to break down the Transporter van line-up for you. All Transporter vans come with a two-seat layout as standard, but you can option a bench front passenger seat (pushing accommodation to three seats) for $610 more. The cab-chassis single-cab and dual-cab versions both have a three-seat front setup (so, total three seats in single cab, six in dual cab).

VW TRANSPORTER T6.1 VAN RANGE

Body type

Engine 

Drivetrain

Price (MSRP)







 

SWB Van

TDI250

5-sp manual FWD

$38,990

 

TDI340

6-sp manual FWD

$41,990

7-sp DSG FWD

$44,990

7-sp DSG AWD

$47,990

 

TDI450

7-sp DSG FWD

$50,990

7-sp DSG AWD

$53,990



 

LWB Van

 

TDI340

6-sp manual FWD

$44,990

7-sp DSG FWD

$47,990

7-sp DSG AWD

$50,990

 

TDI450

7-sp DSG FWD

$53,990

7-sp DSG AWD

$56,990

There’s also the Transporter Crew Van range, with those versions getting a five-seat layout with a removable second-row bench. The bench has dual ISOFIX points built into the outboard positions, and there are top-tether restraints in the rear roof.

 

VW TRANSPORTER T6.1 CREW VAN RANGE

Body type

Engine 

Drivetrain

Price (MSRP)

 

SWB Crewvan

 

TDI340

7-sp DSG FWD

$51,490

7-sp DSG AWD

$54,490

 

LWB Crewvan

 

TDI340

7-sp DSG FWD

$54,490

7-sp DSG AWD

$57,490

You may have noted that the entry-level and higher-spec powertrains aren’t available in the Crew Van, but they are the go-to options for the cab-chassis versions of the Transporter.

Below is a price list of the Transporter Single Cab and Transporter Dual Cab models, all of which come with a factory fit tray.
 

VW TRANSPORTER T6.1 CAB CHASSIS RANGE

Body type

Engine 

Drivetrain

Price (MSRP)

 

LWB Single Cab

 

TDI450

7-sp DSG FWD

$55,490

7-sp DSG AWD

$58,490

 

LWB Double Cab

 

TDI450

7-sp DSG FWD

$57,490

7-sp DSG AWD

$60,490

Okay, so what about standard equipment for the Transporter range? All grades have standard halogen headlights and daytime running lights, and 16- or 17-inch steel wheels (with optional alloys for the TD340 and TDI450), cloth interior trim, LED interior lighting for cabin and cargo area, rubber floors in the cabin, a multimedia system with a 6.5-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two USB-C ports and Bluetooth connectivity. You can option navigation for $1600, but there’s a standard auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto headlights, and auto wipers.



Standard safety tech is improved compared to the previous version - a full rundown can be found in the safety section below - but there’s a reversing camera on all van models (if not equipped with barn doors), while the cab-chassis versions miss out on this important technology.

VW has long forged a position of “build it the way you want it” in the van market, and the T6.1 range is no different. There are hundreds of potential variations on the theme, though note that the standard layout for van models is a kerb-side sliding door and a tailgate. You can option a driver’s side slider ($1300; with power latching - $1520), a kerb-side power latching sliding door ($290), fully electric doors ($860 kerb only, $3600 kerb and driver), side windows ($420 per), sliding side windows ($920 per side), a fixed partition with window ($710), rear airconditioning setup ($1220) or the Transport Package, with a fixed partition (no window), full side plywood trim, two additional tie-downs and side lashing points ($1690).



Choose a van and want the High Roof pack, and you must have barn doors at the back, which deletes the availability of a reversing camera, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. And it’ll cost you between $1790 and $2090, depending on the variant.

A lot of vans may be white, but colours are important for business buyers. There are multiple colour options, including five solid paint options at no cost: Candy White, Ascot Grey, Cherry Red, Luminous Orange and Pure Grey. If you’re willing to pay $1300 you can have your vehicle coated in any of the following hues: Reflex Silver, Indium Grey, Starlight Blue, Ravenna Blue, Deep Black, Mojave Beige, Copper Bronze, Fortana Red or Bay Leaf Green.

Note, for full colour coding it will cost you an additional $1130 (bumpers, mirrors, handles, grille) for vans, and a little less for the cab chassis models to have colour-matched bumpers ($800).

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

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.


Volkswagen Transporter8/10

Plenty of options here.

You guessed it - it’s easier to show you in the below table.

 

TDI250

TDI340

TDI450

Engine configuration

2.0L turbo-diesel four-cylinder

2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder

2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder

Power output

81kW at 3500rpm

110kW at 3250-3750rpm

146kW at 4000rpm

Torque output

250Nm at 1250-3100rpm

340Nm at 1500-3000rpm

450Nm at 1400-2400rpm

Transmission

5-sp man

6-sp man/7-sp DSG

7-sp DSG

Having three different outputs to choose from could be a compelling argument for some. If you know you’re okay with a low output manual, then why spend up to a more powerful unit? 

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter7/10

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.


Volkswagen Transporter8/10

The fuel consumption figures for the different models in the range vary depending on the application. 

Again, rather than run though it all van by van, here’s a breakdown in a table.
 

 

TDI250

TDI340

TDI450

Combined cycle fuel consumption - van models 

6.9L/100km (FWD man)

7.5L/100km (FWD man)

8.3L/100km (FWD/AWD DSG)

7.3L/100km (FWD DSG)
8.0L/100km (AWD DSG)

Combined cycle fuel consumption - cab-chassis models (FWD)

  

7.6L/100km (single cab FWD DSG)

7.5L/100km (dual cab FWD DSG)

Combined cycle fuel consumption - cab-chassis models (AWD)

  

8.4L/100km (single cab AWD DSG)

8.3L/100k m (dual cab AWD DSG)

Fuel tank capacity for the base model TDI250 is 70L, while the rest of the range has 80L fuel tank size.

The TDI250 has engine start stop-technology, but doesn’t have AdBlue. The manual TDI340 and 4Motion TDI340 and TDI450 models doesn’t have either of those efficiency measures. The TDI340 DSG FWD is the only one with AdBlue and start-stop.

Driving

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter9/10

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.


Volkswagen Transporter9/10

The drive experience is very good. 

At the launch event of the new T6.1 Transporter range, I drove a selection of different models some with weight and some without. 

First was a TDI340 Crewvan with 260kgloaded in, and it was a really nicely sorted drive. 

There was very good ride compliance and comfort. The suspension setup didn’t feel fussy or clunky, and it rode very well. The steering was excellent and very easy to judge, and it was easy to park thanks to its rear side glazing and good sized mirrors - though they aren’t dual pane like some rivals but there is blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a good reversing camera that made reversing into tight spots easier than it probably should be. 



The TDI340 powertrain offers a really sweet combination, with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic allowing quick and clever shifts. There’s not much to complain about here, and the powertrain is easy to judge even at takeoff from a standing start - the engine’s start-stop system, DSG and diesel lag wasn’t too inhibitive. It felt really well sorted and certainly powerful enough for the vast majority of van drivers’ needs. 

One complaint on our 25C degree test day was that the air conditioning was a little weak, not quite as cold as we would’ve thought it should be. 

I also drove the base model TDI250 five-speed manual as well. This one didn’t have any weight in it and that was probably a calculated move on VW’s PR team’s part, as it is perhaps a little bit underdone in terms of grunt. With no load it was adequate in terms of the pulling power on urban streets but I do think it might struggle at payload limit. 

I also tested the LWB TDI340 DSG unladen, which was easy to steer despite the extra length, offered great ride compliance and comfort (thanks to the extra 400mm of wheelbase), and good steering as well. For me, the TDI340 is the sweet spot for engines – you don’t really need the TDI450 as the 340 is perfectly suitable.

If you do want extra everything, or if all-wheel drive is a must for your vehicle, then the twin-turbo TDI450 is the go. VW’s 4Motion system is excellent at helping you pull a lot of mass without fuss. I drove it in the crew cab chassis, which was surprisingly speedy with 500kg in the tray. 

Safety

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter8/10

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.


Volkswagen Transporter7/10

There have been advancements to the Transporter’s safety technology list, but the current generation model doesn’t have an ANCAP crash test safety score, and nor did the pre-facelift vehicle. 

All models now come with low speed (up to 30km/h) autonomous emergency braking (AEB) designed for city driving, though it doesn’t have pedestrian or cyclist detection like some rivals. There is blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a reversing camera on van models with the tailgate fitted (barn doors and cab-chassis models miss out on the camera, blind spot and RCTA).

There’s a driver fatigue detection system, and van models score crosswind assist as part of the traction control and stability control system, while all models get the brand’s electronic differential lock to prevent slippage. There’s also multi-collision braking, which ensures you won’t careen into other vehicles after an impact.

Those who want it can option lane keep assist with lane departure warning, though similarly priced vans from rival makers don’t ask extra money for that.
 
There are dual front, front side and curtain airbags for all models. There is no second-row airbag coverage for Crewvan and dual-cab-chassis models.

If you’re looking for a van with more safety technology, be sure to take a squiz at the Toyota HiAce, Ford Transit Custom and Peugeot Expert. 

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter7/10

The Sprinter arrives with a three-year, 200,000km warranty as standard, with service intervals pegged at 12 months or 20,000km. Roadside assist is included for the warranty period, but there's no capped-price servicing on offer.


Volkswagen Transporter7/10

As with most van sellers in Australia, VW offers a competitive five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty

There’s one year of roadside assist included for all new models sold. That can be refreshed if you service with VW, up to 10 years.


The cost of maintenance depends on the drivetrain that you choose in your Transporter. We took an average of the five year Price service plan to give you an idea of annual costs of maintenance, but just remember these are set at 12 month/15,000km intervals. The TDI250 and TDI340 models will cost you $588.40 per annum on average. That’s high. But choose the TDI450 in FWD and the average cost is $636.40 per annum, and the 4Motion model is dearer again at $678.80 (avg). 

Comparatively this is an expensive van to own.