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Is Merc still sprinting ahead?

23rd May 2013, Page 8
23rd May 2013
Page 8
Page 8, 23rd May 2013 — Is Merc still sprinting ahead?
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3y George Barrow FOR SEVERAL years, Mercedes-Benz has led the way with safety features and technology on its CVs. Furthermore, Mercedes moved first with the transition from Euro-4 to Euro-5, and is now leading the way for Euro-6 vans with the arrival of the new Sprinter — way ahead of the type approval deadline for Euro-5 registrations.

New Sprinter models will use a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, injecting AdBlue into the exhaust gases, to meet particulate levels and the more stringent NOx emissions. Euro-6 emission limits for NOx are 80% lower, while hydrocarbons are required to fall by 70% and particulates by 50%. Mercedes says it has called upon 10 years of experience with SCR systems in larger CVs to adapt its engines, as well as having to meet similar requirements in the US for EPA10 regulations on the current Sprinter.

The AdBlue system will add 30kg to the Sprinter's kerbweight, with the 18-litre tank providing more than 3,700 miles (6,000km) of driving at a rate of 5% of fuel consumption. The AdBlue tank is located out of sight, in the front right portion of the bonnet, but drivers will be reminded of the need to top up 622 miles (1,000km) before the tank runs dry. Failure to heed the warning will see power reduced by 25%, before finally being limited to 12mph when the tank capacity falls below 125 miles (200km). Euro-6 models will be labelled BlueTec, and Mercedes claims the most efficient new models will consume up to Eitre less fuel over 60 miles than its predecessors.

As good as ever Out on the roads, the changes are unnoticeable, with the same range of power and torque outputs. Power still arrives promptly from the moment you press the accelerator, and that additional weight over the front axle has done little to alter the Sprinter's handling characteristics. The chassis is also 30mm lower to the ground, but the new Sprinter's road manners are undistinguishable from the current model. The uninitiated would think they were merely driving a facelifted model.

Engine updates are just part of the new Sprinter package, which also includes changes to the radiator grille and headlights. The front end is more vertical, with the three grille slats now becoming perforated to aid cooling. The headlights have also been redesigned, becoming squarer and larger. The Sprinter also gets a firmer seat and more durable cloth, while the thicker steering wheel is barely noticeable — unlike the accents of chrome that appear throughout the cabin.

Five new safety systems also debut, the most notable of which is Cross Wind Assist. It works by deploying the adaptive ESP to correct the vehicle in the event of a sudden gust of wind, and is a standard feature on the new model. When we tested the Sprinter we found the system effective, providing you don't try to counter steer, maintaining the vehicle's line by as much as half a lane's width when compared to a van without the system.

The Adaptive Brake Assist system is just as impressive, and could be a valuable addition given that one out of every four light CV accidents involve a rear-end collision. It's an adapted form of the truck and passenger car systems, which alerts the driver when there is a danger of a rear-end collision, but, rather than brake for the driver as it does when installed in trucks, the van system merely assists with braking force.

Other safety options include Blind Spot Assist, High Beam Assist (to help with dipping headlights) and Lane Keeping Assist, the latter of which scans the road for markings and alerts you when nearing the edges of the marked lanes. It's an intelligent feature, but one that quickly becomes tiresome. Fortunately, it can be disengaged via a button on the dash.

An affordable Euro-6 When it comes down to the driving, you would hardly know this was a new model. AdBlue will add fractionally to running costs. However, Euro-6 vans will be greener and more fuel efficient. And unlike their truck equivalents,Euro-6 models won't cost the earth either. Entry-level 210 CDI model Sprinters start at £20,825, an increase of 1% over the current list price. But, if you're still not sold on running AdBlue, an uprated, greener Euro-5 model will be available with the new design and safety spec. •

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