Ford may have a new large Transit van waiting in the wings, but Mercedes-Benz isn't resting on its laurels - instead, it's updating its large Sprinter cargo van in time for its seventh anniversary on the European market.
Externally, the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter bears a striking resemblance to the previous second-generation model, which launched in Europe in early 2006. The 2014 Sprinter gains a bold, new grille inspired by the large Actros cab-over truck, along with a flared hood stamping, new front fenders, and long, tapering headlamps that echo those used on the new Renault-built Citan compact van. The front bumper is also tweaked, and places optional projector-beam fog lamps in long, tapering cut-away sections.
Apart from the front clip, cosmetic revisions are quite limited. Taillamp assemblies are retouched slightly, while the interior gains new upholstery choices, a thicker steering wheel, and chrome accents for HVAC vents. In the U.S., 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinters also gain a new standard radio that incorporates a 5.8" screen, Bluetooth, and an iPod/aux input. Navigation, along with iPod integration, are optional extras.
Mechanically, European 2014 Sprinter models will likely retain the same engine options as before, but they're now fully compliant with new Euro VI emission regulations. Those choices should include a 2.1-liter turbo-diesel I-4, a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6, a supercharged 1.8-liter I-4 running on either gasoline or CNG, or a 3.5-liter gasoline V-6. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic.
In North America, only the 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 was offered in the Sprinter, but Mercedes-Benz officials confirm the 2.1-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinder will also be sold in our market. In our market, the four-cylinder engine is now standard and paired with the seven-speed automatic, and offers 161 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. Customers seeking more power can still opt for the familiar 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6, which offers 188 hp and 325 lb-ft, and continues to use the older five-speed automatic transmission.
Sprinters are already offered with ABS, electronic stability control, front and rear park distance sensors, and both front side curtain and front side impact airbags, but the new Sprinter offers even more safety technology. A new Crosswind Assist function, standard on all models, counteracts strong crosswinds by working with the ESP system and braking wheels on one side of the van. The Sprinter is also offered with radar-based forward collision warning, blind spot detection, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high-beam headlamps as optional items. In North America, Sprinter 3500 models will also be available with rear air suspension to improve unladen ride quality.
The revised 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter will likely continue to be offered in North America as a cargo van, passenger van, chassis cab, and mini-bus, but expect further details and information to emerge closer to the van's official launch date. Given the new Sprinter goes on sale in Europe in September, expect early North American-spec models to arrive by late 2013.