Mercedes Sprinter van review

Category: Large Van

Large van has a comfortable interior but is expensive, and some rivals offer more for less

Mercedes Sprinter front right driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter front right driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter right driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter interior dashboard
  • Mercedes Sprinter left static door open
  • Mercedes Sprinter interior infotainment
  • Mercedes Sprinter front left driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter front left driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter front right static
  • Mercedes Sprinter interior front seats
  • Mercedes Sprinter left static door open
  • Mercedes Sprinter front right driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter right driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter interior dashboard
  • Mercedes Sprinter left static door open
  • Mercedes Sprinter interior infotainment
  • Mercedes Sprinter front left driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter front left driving
  • Mercedes Sprinter front right static
  • Mercedes Sprinter interior front seats
  • Mercedes Sprinter left static door open
What Car?’s Sprinter deals


What Car? says...

If any van could be considered an object of desire, it’s the Mercedes Sprinter. The prestigious badge means it’s often considered the pinnacle of van-dom, and behind that badge sits a vehicle of considerable talent.

Over the years, the Sprinter has been gradually but inexorably refined, and picked up awards – and happy customers – galore along the way.

This is the third-generation Sprinter, and while the latest version has gained up-to-date connectivity and technology in an attempt to keep pace with its main rivals (the Ford Transit and the VW Crafter), it still holds true to its core values of space, power and build quality. No wonder it’s so often thought of as one of the best large vans out there.

One of the Mercedes Sprinter’s biggest benefits is just how versatile it is. Buyers can opt for a vast array of different body styles, with no fewer than four lengths and three roof heights to choose from in panel-van form. There are crew-cab, chassis-cab, and dropside alternatives too.

Every diesel-engined Sprinter now comes with a version of the Mercedes 2.0-litre, four-cylinder powerplant in one of three power outputs: 141bhp, 148bhp, or 187bhp. (You can also have it as an electric van – we cover that in our Mercedes eSprinter review.)

In light-duty vans, the 141bhp version comes with a choice of front or rear-wheel drive, while more powerful versions are rear-wheel-drive only. In heavy-duty versions, the 141bhp and 148bhp engines come with rear-wheel drive only, while the 187bhp unit is available with rear or four-wheel drive.

No matter which engine you choose, you get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but you can specify a nine-speed automatic at extra cost. 

The trim range kicks off with the no-frills Pure model, then moves up through the mid-range Progressive to top out with the Premium version.

To find out how we rate the model for performance, comfort, load capacity, running costs and more, read on through the rest of this Mercedes Sprinter review.

Read more: How we test vans


The Sprinter remains a solid choice for most drivers, and comes with a comfortable interior, but it's beginning to be out-shone by a plethora of talented rivals in key areas, and it's expensive

  • Huge range of body styles
  • High-tech but user friendly infotainment
  • Improved fuel economy with front-wheel drive vans
  • Not the cheapest van to buy or run
  • Aggressive safety systems

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

With a revised range of engines from 143bhp to 170bhp, the Mercedes Sprinter no longer has significantly more power than its large van rivals.

While the entry-level 2.1-litre engine is essentially the same unit that has been used in the model since its upgrade to Euro-6 engines in 2014, and remains on a par with rivals in terms of performance and efficiency, the new 2.0-litre engine is a thoroughly modern and efficient engine.

Mercedes Sprinter image
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For that reason, the 143bhp unit would not be our choice, unless you needed to have a front-wheel-drive van (which gets you a fraction more in terms of payload). The first of the newer 2.0-litre engines would be our preferred engine, with 148bhp and 251lb ft of torque, despite the 168bhp unit having 30lb ft more.

The rest of the package is everything you’d expect from a Mercedes van. The steering is heavy, but exceptionally well balanced. It sails round corners with astonishing levels of grip and composure, and eats up motorway miles in fantastic comfort. While the VW Crafter arguably has a more comfortable ride, the Sprinter is still a top-notch van.

The six-speed manual gearbox is well paired to all the engine options, and as such there’s little need to opt for the nine-speed automatic. If you do need an auto box, the 9G-Tronic is a smooth unit that responds quickly to kickdown requests and seamlessly shifts up and down through the gears.

Our biggest gripe is with the Lane Keeping Assist safety feature, because it corrects the position in the lane using braking (rather than steering, as it does on most cars). That sometimes causes a significant reduction in speed, which can surprise other drivers. In its defence, Mercedes says the intention is to startle the driver to make sure they adjust their wayward driving.

Mercedes Sprinter right driving


The interior layout, fit and finish

Mercedes is billing its new Sprinter as the most connected van on the market – making a great deal of noise about Mercedes Pro and the services that can be provided around the van. They include fleet management, improved communications and a greater transparency with the vehicle and its needs (servicing, fault code warning etc).

On a more basic level, the inside has been dramatically overhauled to better suit the person using it – the driver. Basic interiors are still geared around storage and functionality, with large open areas suitable for keeping all manner of items.

Entry-level vans in the UK get a 7.0in touchscreen as standard, but as you explore the range of options available the storage becomes more sophisticated and the centre console more elaborate, with a 10.25in screen option available to provide navigation and infotainment. It’s an imposing screen that fills the console, and also looks better than the 7.0in version, but it also costs a lot more so we’d be inclined to stick with the standard screen.

The interior lacks a glovebox, but the space around the gear stick has been used to provide additional space. On versions with an automatic gearbox, there are two large storage holes between the driver and passenger seats that can be specified with cupholders or as a smaller cubby. Alternatively, you can delete the storage altogether to provide extra knee room for the middle-seat passenger. With a manual gearbox, the gear stick takes up one of the spaces, leaving the other free for cupholders or general storage.

It’s a quality-feeling interior. The plastics are soft and textured, while switches are springy and much closer to what you'd expect in a car. Pushing on the air vents results in a weirdly satisfying amount of give – these are not your common or garden large van components.

Mercedes Sprinter interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

There’s always been a great deal of choice in the Mercedes Sprinter range, with short, medium and long-wheelbase models available in four body lengths and three roof heights.

Mercedes has levelled the playing field between it and its competitors while offering up to 17m3 and a total payload of 3,175kg because the maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) extends as far as 5.5-tonnes. Payload for your run-of-the-mill front-wheel-drive 3.5-tonne van exceeds 1,200kg thanks to a 50kg saving compared with the equivalent rear-wheel-drive model. There’s also the added benefit of an 80mm reduction in rear loading height.

Loadspace dimensions for length range from 2,607mm in an L1 van to 4707mm in an L4 model, while heights span 1,798mm to 2,209mm for H1 and H2 options. Width is 1,555mm and 1,358mm between the wheel arches.

Double rear doors and a left-hand-side sliding side door are standard on all models, but there is the option of power-assisted versions on all panel van variants as well as a second sliding door.

Mercedes Sprinter left static door open

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

It's true that Mercedes Sprinters are at the more expensive end of the large van segment, and when it comes to servicing or repairs, the bills don’t get any cheaper. What the model does offer is a good reputation for reliability and an extensive dealer network to help support the product.

That said, you’re paying a premium for the Mercedes badge and without any steps up in the pricing structure you can easily find yourself adding thousands in extras.

The Comfort and Driver’s packs are recommended though, because they add much-needed additional seat adjustment as well as parking sensors and air-con.

Standard safety features include Crosswind Assist, to keep you in a straight line when the wind gusts, and Attention Assist. Optional features include Active Distance Assist, which maintains a safe distance to the vehicle in front and combines with Active Brake Assist to prevent rear-end impacts.

The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) – which first appeared on the Mercedes A-Class – is included as standard, although you can choose to remove it. It allows the vehicle to provide real-time data and a much better interface for the driver, including voice commands. It’s a great system if you feel the need to have a van that's almost as competent as a smartphone.

Combined fuel economy doesn't vary dramatically between models, with a best of 32.1mpg from the 148hp unit, and 29.1mpg for the 168bhp engine.

Service intervals are the best in the segment, with a variable two-year 37,500 mile interval, and the van is covered by a 36-month warranty.

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About the author

George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.

Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.


Mercedes Sprinter interior infotainment


  • It should be. The Sprinter has topped van reliability surveys for several years now, and comes with an enviable reputation for dependability.

  • As standard, the Sprinter comes with three seats – a dual passenger seat for two plus a driver’s seat. There’s a Comfort passenger seat option, which replaces the duel seat with one passenger seat of the same design as the driver’s. There’s also a Crew Cab option pack, which gives you an additional three seats in a second row.

  • Lengths vary from 5.3 metres on the shortest L1 model, right up to a whopping 7.4 metres for the L4 model. Roof heights vary from 2.3 metres to three metres, depending on which model you go for.

  • In first-generation Sprinters, the battery is under the bonnet, but in the second-generation and current third-generation vans, it is beneath the floor in the passenger-side front footwell. To access it, you need to remove the floor panel.