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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2019 review: 314 MWB RWD van

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There’s one for everyone. It’s a common refrain in the commercial van space, because you can pretty much choose the exact vehicle for your particular needs.

This van - a 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 314CDI MWB RWD - embodies that idea perfectly. It’s a rear-wheel drive, mid-wheelbase, high-roof van, with a few optional extras included. 

Here’s a rundown on what I thought of it, after I’d just driven the cab-chassis RWD model, not to mention one of its closest competitors, the Volkswagen Crafter.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

We’ve already done a bit with the new Sprinter, and I think the van is quite a nice looking thing. But in mid-wheelbase high-roof spec, it does look a little bit like a bread box. 

That aside, this a handy size for a broad range of trades or business uses. The dimensions of our test vehicle are 5932mm long (on a 3665mm wheelbase), 2020mm wide and 2620mm tall. If you get the regular roof height you’ll lose a bit of height, but at 2331mm it’s still too tall for most car parks.

The Sprinter is too tall for most car parks at 2331mm. The Sprinter is too tall for most car parks at 2331mm.

Because it’s hard to make a big box on wheels look like anything other than exactly that, the interior treatment is where Mercedes-Benz has focused a lot of its energy. Check out the interior pictures to see what I mean.

How practical is the space inside?

There are four cupholders down low plus another two in front of both occupants on top of the dashboard, which is where you’ll find loose item storage, too. It runs the width of the dash, and in the middle there’s a bin with twin fast-charging USB-C ports.

There are huge door pockets - big enough for a 1.25-litre bottle - while above your head you’ll find storage for folders and workbooks. 

On top of the dashboard, there are four cupholders. On top of the dashboard, there are four cupholders.

The materials are quite work-hardy, and we noted a couple of rough edges to the hard plastic on the dash of our tester. That said, visually it’s pleasant to behold, particularly kitted out as our tester was.

Our van had the optional big 10.25-inch 'MBUX' media screen fitted, and its crisp colourful display is lovely - but using it might take some learning. I struggled with the menus at times, plus I tried to show off the capabilities of MBUX (Mercedes-Benz’s new AI-driven media system that learns what you want and should be able to do what you ask of it using voice commands) and managed to fail dismally.

The optional 10.25-inch 'MBUX' media screen comes with sat nav. The optional 10.25-inch 'MBUX' media screen comes with sat nav.

Much as I chatted with it, the system failed to comprehend sat nav address inputs and other commands (which, hellishly, resulted in me having to lower the climate control temperature manually because ‘I’m hot’ didn’t trigger any sort of reaction from MBUX).

If the leather steering wheel looks familiar to you, there’s a good chance you’ve also been looking at the C-Class and E-Class. It has a pair of tiny touch-sensitive track pads on either side to scroll through either the driver info screen or the media display. Fine, in a C or E they might be good - but for tradies or drivers with dirty hands (as I had on test)? Maybe not.

The leather steering wheel is shared with the C-Class and E-Class. The leather steering wheel is shared with the C-Class and E-Class.

Just like the cab chassis model I drove recently, this version had the 'Comfort Seats' pack with lots of adjustments (base tilt, base extension, height adjust, backrest tilt). But again, I didn’t truly find them that comfortable. There are inner armrests for both seats, though. 

As for the cargo zone, the measurements of our van are: 3272mm maximum load length; 2079mm maximum load height; and 1774mm load width (with a pallet-friendly 1350mm between the wheelarches.

The cargo zone has a maximum load length of 3272mm and height of 2079mm. The cargo zone has a maximum load length of 3272mm and height of 2079mm.

The height differs between the RWD model and the FWD model, but not a huge amount. A FWD model with the high roof would be 29mm lower than the equivalent RWD, but the RWD loading height is 107mm higher, which could make for sore quads at the end of a day of continuously stepping up to get in and out (he says with experience).

Our van had the standard door set-up - a pair of barn doors at the rear, with a single sliding side door. The side door with is pallet-friendly, too, at 1260mm, while the rear doors offer stepped opening, from 90, to 180, up to 270 degrees.

  • There's also a single sliding side door. There's also a single sliding side door.
  • The cargo area can be accessed by a pair of rear barn doors. The cargo area can be accessed by a pair of rear barn doors.

The higher roof gives you a huge advantage when it comes to storage in the cargo area, with 10.5 cubic metres of volume as opposed to 9.0m3 in the regular roof version. If you’re doing a lot of delivery trips, that could mean the difference between making it in one journey or having to return for a second run. 

Hauling heavy stuff? The payload of this Sprinter is 1316kg. If you need more, you could opt for a LWB model. 

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

If there’s a major criticism of the Sprinter, it’s that it could be more affordable. 

There is strong competition from brands like Renault, VW and Ford in this part of the market, and Benz’s position as a premium offering might scare some potential customers off. 

A major criticism of the Sprinter is it could be more affordable. A major criticism of the Sprinter is it could be more affordable.

For instance, our MWB RWD 314CDI model has a list price of $56,474 including GST but before on-road costs, making it considerably dearer than the equivalent versions from either of those rivals. With the auto transmission, the price is $59,349. 

Comparatively, a VW Crafter MWB auto is $55,490 (in FWD, admittedly), while the equivalent Ford Transit RWD auto is $51,990, and the closest Renault Master is a manual MWB at $51,990. 

But it helps justify the cost with good levels of standard equipment in van guise. You get cruise control, keyless start, the company’s MBUX multimedia system (with a smaller screen unless you option the big one seen here), electric folding side mirrors, cloth seat trim, rubber flooring and daytime running lights.

A reversing camera is standard on the Sprinter. A reversing camera is standard on the Sprinter.

Plus the safety story is strong in this body style: blind-spot monitoring and a reversing camera are standard, plus lane keep assist. More on that in the safety section.

Our loan vehicle had a number of options, including the Comfort Seat Pack ($715 inc GST), the aforementioned auto transmission ($2875), a wireless phone charging tray ($185), active distance assist radar cruise control ($1067), the leather-lined steering wheel ($231), the 10.25-inch MBUX screen ($1584) with digital radio ($246), a chrome grille ($415), metallic paint ($2000) and the high roof ($2050). Total extras: $11,568. Price as tested: $68,042 before on-road costs.

See what I was saying about it being more affordable? 

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Powering the 314CDI version of the Sprinter is a 2.1-litre twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine producing 105kW of power (at 3800rpm) and 330Nm of torque (from 1200-2400rpm).

The 2.1-litre twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder makes 105kW/330Nm. The 2.1-litre twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder makes 105kW/330Nm.

Those figures aren’t massive, but as you can tell by the torque band, the grunt is readily available and there’s minimal turbo lag to contend with - especially when the seven-speed auto transmission is fitted. 

If the cargo area isn’t enough space and you need to tow a trailer, the towing capacity of this Sprinter is 2000kg (braked) or 750kg (braked). The gross combination mass (GCM) is 5550kg, and the gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 3550kg. Kerb weight is 2159kg.

How much fuel does it consume?

Claimed fuel use isn’t required to be stated by Mercedes-Benz because of the classification of the Sprinter, so it’s hard to say how it stacks up against what it’s supposed to use.

But on our test, which involved a few hundred kilometres of driving loaded and unloaded, on back roads, city streets and motorways, I saw consumption of 9.2L/100km. It should be noted that I didn’t have any heavy loads on board this time around, which explains the low figure.

Fuel tank capacity is 71 litres, but you can option a long range fuel tank that pushes the capacity up to 93L.

What's it like to drive?

Just a week earlier I’d driven the VW Crafter FWD in LWB guise, and I was very impressed with the ride comfort and steering response of the van.

The Benz van bettered it for steering - obviously, accounting for the extra length and bigger turning circle with ease, but also with a more direct and positive feel to the steering.

The ride, though, wasn’t quite as well sorted. The Sprinter felt a little more jittery unladen over the same roads I’d driven the Crafter, but it was never clunky or uncomfortable.

My biggest grievance was the amount of rattling and noise from the rear of the cargo hold. It was so loud that I even stopped to check if there was anything in the cargo area that was rattling around, but even empty, it was like clattering a tin full of bolts.

The Sprinter never felt clunky or uncomfortable. The Sprinter never felt clunky or uncomfortable.

If I were buying a van like this, pretty much no matter the intended purpose, I’d want it to have a bulkhead behind the seats - not only for added safety to stop things flying forward in the event of heavy sudden braking, but to keep the cabin a bit more hushed. You can option one with a window, if you want. 

The drivetrain is hardly a powerhouse, but it was well suited to the duty I’d put it to. I remarked that in the cab-chassis model the engine could feel a little underdone with a load, but the van felt a lot more energetic. 

The gearshifts were mostly hassle-free, and I was impressed by the reactiveness and response of the transmission and the engine start-stop system when taking off at traffic lights. 

One thing I noted in both Sprinters I’ve driven was an odd behaviour of the adaptive cruise control. Mercedes-Benz has introduced a sensor system in the driver’s seat which will deactivate the adaptive cruise if it can’t detect stable weight. Shuffle in your seat? It’ll turn off. Lean over to reach something on the other side of the cab? It’ll turn off. It’s an interesting - but ultimately annoying - feature.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The van version of the Sprinter gets the full gamut of safety gear, however there’s no ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash test rating as yet.

There’s a reversing camera as standard, auto emergency braking (AEB) which works at low and high speeds and includes pedestrian and cyclist detection, plus there are daytime running lights as standard, and it has the latest ESP91 stability program with crosswind assist, trailer stabilisation and load-adaptive control. 

Airbags fitted standard include dual front and curtain protection, but side airbags are optional, at a cost of $726. Other safety options include adaptive cruise control ($1067, as fitted to our van), auto lights and wipers ($510), auto high-beam lights ($352), fog lights ($310), a reverse warning system ($405) and traffic sign recognition ($385). Again with the value thing…

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

There’s a three-year/200,000km warranty for Mercedes-Benz’s Vans division - solid cover for business purposes, plus it includes 24-hour roadside assist for the duration.

Service intervals are every 24 months or 40,000km, though the vehicle may suggest maintenance sooner if its deemed to be required. There’s a pre-paid service plan that you can roll into your finance, or you can pay ‘as you go’. Costs vary depending on the specific Sprinter model and interval (between $905 and $1575). 

You might want to see what else is out there for less money, because competition is fierce in the large van market. But if you’re sold on the Sprinter - maybe having owned one before - then there is a lot to like, provided you’re happy to pay more than the market odds.

What's your take on it - does the Sprinter justify its higher price tag? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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