Evergreen Sprinter made for marathon journeys
'Daisy' – not her real name – is a lovingly maintained legacy of a proud public transport tradition stretching back to the 1960s. But the 'old lady' of a long-gone bus fleet – the Daimler 319 – is really showing her age these days.
It took an aeon for her 'glow plugs' to illuminate. The rough roar of her diesel engine forced a significant lift in the volume of conversation among her dozen or so chatty passengers. Her gear shift was a jarring symphony of clank and clunk and her driver, in the absence of power steering, needed all his muscular power to guide her through busy streets.
Once under way, she shrugged and struggled to ascend even the most modest of inclines around this thriving, ultra-modern German city. However, apart from filling her guests with nostalgia, she continues to fill a purpose – to underline the chasm, in terms of design and technology, between modern and old commercial vehicles.
In little over 50 years, commercial transportation has changed beyond recognition.
Daimler (Mercedes) Benz has just rolled out the latest generation of its Sprinter van.
The Sprinter has long been regarded as the workhorse of the company's light commercial fleet. On the evidence of a first drive, there aren't any dramatic design changes, inside or out.
Outside, a revised front end is set off by a more prominent radiator grille and angular headlights while, at the rear, redesigned tail-lights are the most prominent novel feature.
There will be four and six-cylinder diesels (from 95bhp to 190bhp). There will also be a supercharged 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder petrol and a natural gas variant, both producing 156bhp.
Power is transmitted either by the Eco-Gear 6-speed manual transmission or by 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmission with lock-up clutch – which, MB claims, is a world first for vans.
Both powertrains, in long and short wheelbase versions, were smooth and effective on a mixed urban-rural test run of 350km along the German-Belgian border.
Cabin improvements include new upholstery, a thicker steering wheel, redesigned gear lever, electronic entertainment features, Bluetooth and navigation.
But the emphasis is clearly on safety. The vans will be fitted with several new assistance systems to avert accidents.
On a dedicated test track, Crosswind Assist, which is standard, helped keep the van safely on course when artificially generated winds gusted strongly; Collision Prevention Assist, an option, sounded an alert when the vehicle came too close to other moving traffic ahead, while Adaptive Brake Assist dramatically increased braking force when required.
Blind Spot, Lane Keeping and High Beam assist are other useful safety additions.
Claimed fuel economy is 6.3 litres per 100km, while the maintenance interval is extended to 60,000km. Pricing and spec are not settled yet but expect the range to cost from €21,000 to €27,000, a modest increase on current prices.