Redesigned 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Targets Ford Econoline

MUNICH — The availability of a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine and fresh front-end styling that creates a closer resemblance to Mercedes-Benz’s SUV and truck family highlight the product freshening created for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter full-sized van. Sales begin this fall.

In addition, the 2014 Sprinter offers several new options including a navigation system and safety systems to help reduce accidents.

The 2014 Sprinter “is the most fuel efficient, safest, greenest and the most comfortable large van that Mercedes-Benz every built,” Claus Tritt told Edmunds.

Tritt, who is general manager of commercial vans for Mercedes-Benz USA, was interviewed during the van’s unveiling in Michigan.

2014_mercedes-benz_sprinterThe Sprinter is Mercedes’ full-sized commercial van, an indispensable vehicle for tradesmen and FedEx delivery men. Fifteen percent of sales end up as hotel buses or high-end conversions topping $150,000 that transport executives and celebrities around town.

Over the years the Sprinter has been a small player in the full-sized van market dominated by the Ford Econoline. Ford’s van held nearly 52 percent of the market for the January – April period this year followed by the Chevrolet Express Cargo van with 30 percent, Tritt said. Sprinter had 7.3 percent of the U.S. market during that period.

The Mercedes market share number includes a nearly identical van sold by Freightliner, a subsidiary of Daimler-Benz. The Freightliner Sprinter has a different grille and badging to differentiate it from the Mercedes-Benz brand. In terms of styling changes for the 2014 models, all of the sheet metal from the A-pillar forward is new, as is the grille, front fascia and headlamps.

Last year Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner combined sold 20,929 Sprinters, up from 16,577 the previous year.

For 2014, buyers for the first time have the choice of two turbocharged diesel engines. Added to the line is a 2.1-liter engine that is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The engine is standard in all Sprinter models and rated at 161 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque.

The 2013 Sprinter was offered with one engine, a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V6 that was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 188 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The V6 is optional for the 2014 model year.

While the mpg numbers for city and highway driving were not released, Mercedes is expecting the four-cylinder engine to provide up to an 18 percent improvement in fuel economy over the V6.

“This is what the engineers are telling us right now,” Tritt said. “It always depends on the driver, right? Lead foot will never achieve 18 percent. But it is a pretty fuel efficient motor.”

In terms of safety, the 2014 Sprinter is available for the first time with blind-spot assist, an optional system that warns the driver if a vehicle is in an adjacent lane. Also optional is a system that uses a camera to monitor the stripes between the lanes on a highway. If the system determines the driver is inattentive or falling asleep, a loud audio signal is activated.

Finally, Highbeam Assist has been added to the option list, a system that uses a camera to automatically activate the high beam headlamps. The system is available with halogen and bi-xenon headlamps.

Prices for the 2014 Sprinter are expected to be released this summer.

Edmunds says: Mercedes-Benz debuts the 2014 Sprinter with hopes that the Ford Econoline will end its hold on this slice of the market.

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