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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2023 review: 419 LWB Panel Van - GVM test

The Sprinter is approaching three decades of service. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5

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.

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

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 419 LWB Panel Van wears a price tag of $87,021. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Sprinter 419 LWB Panel Van wears a price tag of $87,021. (Image: Mark Oastler)

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.

  • Behind the Sprinter's steering wheel is a driver’s instrument cluster with colour display. (Image: Mark Oastler) Behind the Sprinter's steering wheel is a driver’s instrument cluster with colour display. (Image: Mark Oastler)
  • The Sprinter features a 7.0-inch touchscreen with connectivity to Apple and Android devices. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Sprinter features a 7.0-inch touchscreen with connectivity to Apple and Android devices. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Design – is there anything interesting about its design?

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.

It rides on a sprawling 4325mm wheelbase with strut-type coil-spring front suspension, a robust leaf-spring live rear axle and four-wheel disc brakes.

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.

The Sprinter 419 LWB is almost 7.0 metres long. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Sprinter 419 LWB is almost 7.0 metres long. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

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.

In that scenario, the total combined weight of this vehicle/trailer combination would be more than 8.0 tonnes, which given the relatively small 2.0-litre displacement of its turbo-diesel engine suggests a drivetrain that’s high on efficiency.

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.

  • The Sprinter's cabin has multiple storage space options. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Sprinter's cabin has multiple storage space options. (Image: Mark Oastler)
  • The Sprinter features a large-bottle holder and upper/lower bins in each front door. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Sprinter features a large-bottle holder and upper/lower bins in each front door. (Image: Mark Oastler)

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 Sprinter has an internal height of 2009mm. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Sprinter has an internal height of 2009mm. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Under the bonnet – what are the key stats for its engine and transmission?

The 'OM654' is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel that meets the toughest Euro 6 emissions standards using AdBlue.

With two-stage turbocharging and auto start/stop technology, it produces 140kW at 3800rpm and 450Nm across a 1000rpm-wide torque band between 1400-2400rpm which showcases its flexibility.

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.

Under the Sprinter's bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. (Image: Mark Oastler) Under the Sprinter's bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Efficiency – what is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range?

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.

Driving - What’s it like to drive?

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.

The cargo bay has a load volume of 14 cubic metres. (Image: Mark Oastler) The cargo bay has a load volume of 14 cubic metres. (Image: Mark Oastler)

However, tyre roar emanating through the rear-wheel housings and amplified by the cargo bay can be uncomfortably intrusive at highways speeds, depending on the coarseness of bitumen surfaces.

So, we’d recommend either installing a solid bulkhead (or use ear-plugs) to reduce noise levels if you’re planning to do regular highway driving in this configuration.

The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and nine-speed automatic display great efficiency, with throttle response at its most immediate and energetic when operating within the 450Nm peak torque band between 1400-2400rpm.

The refined auto’s snappy but smooth shifting gets the best out of this engine in most situations, without the need to paddle-shift in manual mode.

The Sprinter made light work of hauling a 1.3-tonne payload around town. (Image: Mark Oastler) The Sprinter made light work of hauling a 1.3-tonne payload around town. (Image: Mark Oastler)

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.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

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.

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

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.

$87,021

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5
Price Guide

$87,021

Based on new car retail price

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