Base Vehicles: Mercedes Sprinter

By: Mike Stock, Photography by: Mike Stock


VIDEO: The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter diesel is a popular base vehicle for motorhomes, and Mercedes-Benz NZ delivers them to manufacturers and custom builders throughout New Zealand

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  • Maui’s Sprinter motorhomes come in a range of sizes, including a two-berth based on the long-wheelbase van and a four-berth based on a cab/chassis.
  • As a medium-wheelbase panel van it’s massive. In its biggest form, the Super-high Roof Extra-long Panel Van measures 7345mm length, 3055mm height.
  • Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter is a strong, smooth and refined vehicle with an ease of operation that belies its size, and makes a fine base vehicle for a motorhome.
  • In the rental market, Mercedes-Benz has supplied around 1000 Sprinters to Maui over the past nine years.


Aside from a need to take into account the vehicle’s length, there’s nothing intimidating about driving the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. In fact, it’s easy to drive, with good, comfortable seating and a commanding view of the road. It’s easy to get a driving position that suits you – the driver’s seat can be adjusted in four directions and the steering wheel is adjustable for height.

The diesel motor’s torque is creamy and seemingly limitless, and the Sprinter offers strong performance in the city and easy highway cruising.

The steering is precise and direct, and the truck turns-in to corners crisply. It’s easy to aim the Sprinter where you want to go and it follows exactly, with minimal understeer and car-like keenness.

There are plenty of storage cubbies and drink and bottle-holders, central door-locking is standard, along with power-operated windows, and the large exterior mirrors have integral wide-angle auxiliary mirrors.

There’s an extensive suite of safety equipment, including Adaptive ESP stability control, which integrates with the four-disc ABS anti-lock braking system; acceleration skid control (ASR); emergency brake assist (BAS), which boosts pedal pressure and beefs up brake reaction in crises; and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).

Passive safety on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter equipment includes driver’s and passenger’s front airbags.

Mercedes NZ’s national sales manager, Brian Carr, says chassis choice for motorhomes is dictated by the size of motorhome and number of berths the manufacturer or – in the case of bespoke vans – customer requires.

The most commonly used are the 515 and 518 cab/chassis, which have a long 4325mm wheelbase and a five-tonne rating. Carr says motorhomes built on those chassis can be up to 7.5 metres long.
Most common engines are the 150-horsepower (110kW) turbocharged and intercooled 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel or the 184hp (135kW) 3.0-litre V6 diesel.

All Sprinter chassis imported for conversion to motorhomes run Mercedes’ five-speed fully automatic gearbox. Carr says six-speed manuals could be brought in to special order, but there has been no demand for them. The market is completely automatic-oriented, he says.

Unlike Sprinter vans and flatbed trucks, the chassis used for the bigger motorhomes have dual rear wheels rather than single ones. In panel vans, the single wheel layout gives extra width in the load area, but for the greater weight and mass of a motorhome the dual-wheel rear axle is preferred.

The big news for Sprinter vans and trucks in 2009 is the optional Eco Start system, which switches off the engine when the vehicle is stationary and idling, and restarts automatically when you depress the clutch and engage gear.

Mercedes says stop/start can cut fuel use by an average of five to eight percent, and in some heavy city traffic applications by as much as 20 percent. CO2 emissions are correspondingly lowered.
Currently, stop/start is available only with manual gearbox Sprinters but Mercedes has been working on a version to go with the automatic gearbox and it’s due for release soon.

Mercedes offers a factory-developed satellite navigation system as an option on the Sprinter that can be controlled from the steering wheel and can integrate the operation of the onboard computer, sound system and telephone.

Service intervals on Sprinter diesel engines are extended – an oil change every 40,000km, or at least every two years, and a full service every 80,000km.

Check back soon for more base vehicle reviews, or subscribe to Motorhomes, Caravans & Destinations magazine to keep up-to-date.

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