Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 315CDi 4x4 van review

By: David Whyte


The Mercedes-Benz 4x4 Sprinter certainly turns heads. But this truck has a deep bag of tricks, belying its stylish sheet metal. David Whyte writes

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 315CDi 4x4 van review
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 315CDi.

 

Maling Road is renowned among Melbourne’s wealthier set as one of the places to go when you need to spend some of your (not so) hard-earned cash. It’s a small shopping strip, only about three blocks, with quaint little stores selling only the best of everything.

So it is that the people who frequent Maling Road are no strangers to the Mercedes-Benz automobile. Some of the carparks here look like a display for a prestige car yard.

Why then, when I drove down Maling Road in a Mercedes-Benz, did everyone stop and stare? My Mercedes had the same emblem on the grille, four doors (maybe that’s too many), armrests on the front seats, electric windows, a six speed gearbox and all the other Mercedes goodies.

I couldn’t figure it out …

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 315CDi 4x4 is far from your normal Merc. It stands about eight feet tall, and more than twice that in length.

It is truly a monster truck, a dominating piece of machinery. Even the Range Rover and Prado drivers, who would normally run you over if you got in their way, backed off when they saw this thing coming. This was the most fun I’ve had on a trip to the post office.

But for all of its good looks and German engineering, this is not the environment the big Sprinter was designed for. Owner//Driver got out of the big smoke to really put this unit to the test.

Unlike most of the light trucks and vans we review, the 4x4 Sprinter is not your average freight vehicle. It not only offers a 1.5-tonne payload with the factory-fitted tray, it has great on-road attributes and six seats, and also has high ground clearance and off-road capabilities. It would be equally at home as a tradie’s vehicle or quick-response rural fire unit as a regional courier vehicle.

This vehicle was conceived in Germany as a local delivery truck for use in low grip situations, such as snow, icy roads and muddy side roads. It was never meant to be a true off-road vehicle, despite its inherent capabilities.

Engine

The 315 Cdi is powered by a 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, which puts out 110kW (150hp) at 3,800rpm and 330Nm over a very wide band — 1,200 to 2,400rpm.

Transmission

The power is delivered to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, unless, of course, four-wheel drive is activated.

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Cab and Controls

Despite the height, access to the cab is generally easy, with tall, wide-opening doors and wide steps inside each one. There are no grab handles inside the rear doors though, making it hard for the not-so-tall to get aboard.

The floor inside is almost flat right through from front to back, and the higher clearance gives plenty of headroom to move around inside.

Seating for the driver and front passenger offers plenty of adjustment, and armrests. These are very comfortable seats, with very good support and cushioning. They are also raised off the floor, saving the need for forward leg room.

The rear seat has head rests and seatbelts for four people, making this a six-seater. However, for a long trip it might be a bit tight for four large adults to fit across.

Again the seat is raised, and there is no feeling of being short of leg room. The base of the rear seat lifts up to give storage underneath across the width of the cab.

As you would expect from the Germans, the driving position is fantastic. Combined with the seat, the adjustable steering wheel makes finding the right driving position easy, and would accommodate a driver of any size in comfort.

The dash-mounted gearshift is within easy reach, and offers short, direct gear changes. Mounted on the steering column, the cruise-control stalk is simple to use, working in much the same way as the ‘ant ears’ fitted to Kenworth trucks. It’s not often you see the Europeans take something from the American manufacturers.

Also fitted here is the single stalk that operates the indicators and wipers.

Oddly enough, both of these are mounted on the same side of the column and quite close together.

A deep windscreen and short bonnet combine to give great forward visibility, and the electric side-mirrors offer a flat main mirror and a small convex on each side.

The interior rear-vision mirror is useful, but the grille fitted to protect the rear window inconveniently reduced the field of view.

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Performance

With plenty of power on tap, and a nice easy shift, the Benz made light work of the city traffic. Being so tall, I expected a bit of body roll when cornering but found it to be minimal.

There is a bit of noise from the front universal joints at around 80km/h, but that is to be expected. With the engine ticking over at about 3,200rpm, the legal 110km/h limit was a comfortable cruise, though maybe a little bit out of the engine’s ideal economy range.

The steering is light at any speed, even while trying to squeeze into a normal car park at the local supermarket. And the steering lock is surprisingly good, offering a good turning circle despite the long wheelbase and 4WD.

The Mercedes four-wheel electronic traction system (4ETS) uses the brakes on individual wheels to reduce wheel spin, sensing any difference in speed and correcting it instantaneously. This system also works in conjunction with adaptive ESP, which will either apply the individual brakes as required or reduce the engine torque to keep the vehicle on track.

By using this combination of techniques the system optimises traction, reduces the risk of skidding and has the added benefit of reducing stopping distance.

The real beauty of all of this is it happens without the driver even needing to think about it. With low-range selected, the ratio between the engine and the wheels is reduced by 40 per cent, allowing for better use of the torque produced at lower speeds.

In order to really appreciate the 4x4 Sprinter, I had to go off the beaten track a little.

The back roads around here (outside Melbourne) are generally made up of graded gravel or dirt, with some pretty good corrugations due to the recent rain.

I was even lucky enough to find some good puddles to play in, spending the afternoon having fun in the places my daily drive won’t go (all in the name of research, of course).

By engaging the 4WD as soon as we hit the gravel, the benefits of all-wheel drive became obvious — the Sprinter tracks beautifully on the loose surface.

The raised suspension does a great job of ironing out the corrugations, without the floating feeling or thumping noises one might expect. The whole vehicle seems tight and well planted, with no rattles or squeaks inside the cab.

Interestingly, there was very little noise from the factory-fitted alloy tray, which had well-designed latches that held the sides tight against each other, even over the rough patches.

These factors combined, made the cab a very comfortable place to be while travelling on far from perfect roads. There was no sign of dust entering around the doors, and the large mudflaps did a good job of keeping most of the exterior clean.

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Verdict

The Sprinter certainly turns heads and generated a lot of interested comment. It makes you think this unit will be a good seller for Mercedes-Benz in rural areas with the combination of 4WD, load-carrying ability and seating for six people.

These things usually come with a catch — less comfort — but not in the Sprinter. This is a vehicle that can be put to work all week, then ferry the family around for a weekend away.

Alternatively, as a firefighting vehicle it could carry 1,000 litres of water and up to six crew into places the larger trucks can’t, in less time and without the driver needing a truck licence.

As an alternative to the likes of a Land Cruiser or F250, the Sprinter 315CDi 4x4 MWB offers safety, comfort and accessibility with some impressive payload capability.

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 315CDi 4x4 MWB

Engine: 315 Cdi 2 litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel

Output: 110kW (150hp) @ 3,800rpm / 330Nm @ 1,200-2,400rpm

Gearbox: Six-speed manual, optional five-speed auto

Payload: 1,500kg

 

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