Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
In diesel engined form the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is one of the best large vans to drive. It’s comfortable, very refined for such a big van and handles superbly. The good news is that, with an electric powertrain, the eSprinter is even better.
Like the Mercedes-Benz eVito, the eSprinter offers four levels of regenerative braking. This really contributes to the feeling that you are driving the van, as you select the level to maximise efficiency as you go.
The severity of the braking effect is controlled with steering wheel-mounted paddles; in D++ mode you coast along with almost no friction on the motor, D+ imposes a small amount of braking and D is the standard mode, wherein braking is noticeable but not severe. Finally, D- mode prompts the most forceful level of braking, slowing the van down to such an extent that you can drive almost without having to use the brake pedal.
With the batteries nestled between the chassis rails under the loadspace floor, the eSprinter has a very low centre of gravity. This means that the already razor-sharp handling is further improved. There’s next to no body roll, and you can really feel every tiny steering input altering the van’s course. While the eSprinter is a heavy van, at just under 2.5-tonnes to almost 2.7-tonnes depending on the battery pack, it doesn’t feel all that cumbersome.
Driving along all you hear is a tiny whine from the electric motor and road noise from the tyres. However, you also notice that the eSprinter is quick. The 85kW motor delivers the equivalent of 114bhp, but with 218lb ft of torque from a standstill the eSprinter gets moving very rapidly.
Irrespective of which of the three driving modes you use – C, E or E+ – it feels fast, but each mode performs a subtle and important job. C mode – or Comfort – gives you full power and the quickest torque delivery at the cost of the range of the van, while E (Economy) still gives you full power but is more miserly with the torque delivery. E+ (Economy +) limits the power and torque to 70kW and 199lb ft. It also turns the heating and cooling to a minimum in order to maximise range.
With a full load you might be a little underwhelmed by the performance, especially in E+, but you’ll have no complaints with the smoothness with which it reaches its 75mph top speed.
Everything else is as you would expect from a standard Sprinter van, including its excellent driving position and fantastic all-round visibility.
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