Mercedes-Benz has launched its new Sprinter models with a new design, more safety features, better cost-effectiveness, more customer and work-oriented features and a new  info-tainment and telematics package designed for what Benz describes as ‘the next era’.

Benz claims there are now more than 1700 different Sprinter variants through the various options of body lengths, sizes, cab designs, heights, tonnages and load compartment heights transmissions, engines and can be generated by combining body types, drive configurations, cab designs, body lengths, tonnages and load compartment heights.

The versatility is quite extensive and  makes the Sprinter well targeted for a wide range of transport needs and sectors.

Benz says the ‘bandwidth’ ranges from a construction site vehicle to a luxuriously equipped minibus.

Last weeks launch saw the van and cab chassis variants unveiled and these will be followed by the minibus and what the company calls the ‘tractor head’ versions early next year. The ‘tractor head’ version refers to the ability to supply a bare cab with controls and seats allowing a custom body to be built on the platform behind depending on operators needs. An all wheel drive version will also become available in 2019

The new Sprinter is now available in front drive versions along with the traditional and well-proven rear drive configuration while as we mentioned the all wheel drive variants are on there way.

The new front drive variants for reasons inherent to the design, deliver an extra 50kg of payload compared to the previous model, and an 80mm lower loading sill which makes loading and unloading as well as access considerably more convenient.

Benz has launched two newly developed transmissions for the front-wheel drive Sprinter including a nine-speed automatic torque converter transmission, which is a first in the large van segment along with a newly developed standard six-speed manual transmission. There is now a new optional nine-speed auto features paddle shifters allowing the driver to select gears manually when needed. Standard auto however is the tried and proven seven speed 7G-TRONIC PLUS self-shifter.

As with all Benz offerings the Sprinter has a plethora of the latest technologically advanced safety features, which have until now been mostly the preserve of passenger cars.

Standard safety equipment on the Sprinter includes Active Brake Assist, Blind Spot Assist (on the van but not the cab chassis variants), reversing camera, Lane Keeping Assist, ATTENTION ASSIST and front and window airbags for driver and co-driver. Crosswind Assist continues on board as standard, as it makes van journeys considerably safer, especially at higher speeds on freeways.

Benz says that in addition there are now a range of optional safety and assistance systems available including its radar-based distance control system DISTRONIC, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and a Parking Package with 360 degree camera.

During the launch, Mercedes gave the media the chance to try some of the safety technology first hand. In one of the exercises we were given the chance to drive in a controlled area, with all the windows blacked out, negotiating a low speed manoeuvring exercise between witches hats, using only the dash mounted 360 deg. camera system. While it was no easy task it was possible and proved the worth of the all round visibility available to drivers making busy loading docks and car parks that much easier to negotiate safely.

One of the big steps up in the new third gen Sprinter are its high def. display screens and the new multimedia systems that go along with them. In the past vans have been fairly rudimentary when it comes to the displays and the multi media interface but the Sprinter changes all that.

The Sprinter has actually become only the second product from the three pointed star to get the latest connectivity platform, following the introduction in the A Class passenger car recently. The MBUX multimedia system , which stands for Mercedes-Benz User Experience uses either  a 7” HD display as standard or a huge optional 10.25” head unit and is controlled either via touch-capable steering wheel controls, or finally for Benz through new touchscreen displays, replacing  the company’s old and clunky control wheel interface.

There is also a completely new voice control system that means you can tell the system what you want. With satellite navigation on board this is operated by keywords such as “Hey Mercedes”, and also registers turns of phrase in everyday speech.

The majority of the new Sprinter models are powered by the 2.1 litre four cylinder turbo diesel with three different power options in rear drive, 84 kW, 105 kW or 120 kW  and three power outputs in front drive including 85kW, 105kW and exclusively for motorhome configurations a 130kW variant.

The company has also now introduced a new V6 3.0 litre turbo diesel delivering 140 kW of power  and 440 Nm of torque delivered between 1,600 and 2,600 rpm. Benz says it is the only six-cylinder in the large van segment. Unfortunately due to a quirk of the drive program scheduling we did not get the chance to drive the V6 but hope to bring you a full rundown in coming weeks.

Ergonomically the new Sprinter builds on predecessor, which was already arguably the best in class, and achieves further progress with comfort, quietness and smoothness as well as new equipment features including keyless ignition and entry , optimised air conditioning systems, newly designed  and very comfortable seats, improved visibility and a wide variety of adjustments for optimal driving comfort.  The optional electrically adjustable front seats with a memory function are new in the van segment. They store the seat and exterior mirror settings for up to three drivers – an important convenience in pool vehicles that are used by several drivers.

New Sprinter also boastsoptional loadable wheel arches and fully usable load compartment heights in combination with front-wheel drive to increase the versatility of the load compartment. The maximum load capacity is now as much as 17 cubic metres and up to five tonnes. The maximum payload in the five tonne permissible GVW is 2920kgs.

Optional LED lighting strips ensure optimum visibility in the load compartment while the rear doors can be opened to the sidewalls even more easily.

Benz told us that further customisation is also possible thanks to an extensive range of options including the LED high performance lights, bulkheads and specially designed barn doors opening to the sidewall.

The company revealed that the new Sprinter variants now have service intervals of up to a maximum of 40 000 kilometres or two years and a three year or 200 000km warranty which also gives standard 24/7 roadside assist anywhere in Australia at no extra cost during the warranty period.

Benz has also packaged a simple and flexible range of ServiceCare pay as you go and pre- paid capped priced servicing options will provide transparent servicing costs and peace of mind. It is a great package and will be of major appeal to fleet or single vehicle owners alike.

Overall the new Sprinter is as very impressive commercial and we were particularly impressed with the cab chassis models which we believe give light truck buyers a viable and much more comfortable alternative to the light duty cab over cab chassis alternatives from the Japanese makers.

The Sprinter van range is quite well priced we reckon and it is not surprising it is already the market leader. The range starts from $46008 plus on roads for the 311CDi short wheel base, six speed manual 84kW 2.1 litre with a 3.55tonne GVM ranging up to $71,880 for the 419CDi LWB rear drive with the 140kW V6 diesel with the seven speed auto. The seven-speed auto is a $2875 option over the manual and the nine speed is only available on FWD variants and is a $2875 option over the seven-speed version.

Like wise the cab chassis pricing kicks in at $41,238 for the 311 CDi single cab front drive medium wheel base with a six speed manual and the 84kW 2.1 litre diesel with a 3.55tonne GVM and heads north to the dual cab long wheel base 519 CDi with a five tonne GVM and equipped with the V6 140kW diesel and the seven speed auto at $69,332.

The matrix of prices is extensive and too big to publish here but should be available on the Mercedes vans website.

All in all an impressive overhaul of what was already a sector leading vehicle and we look forward to driving some more variants and reporting back.