2015 Sprinter: A Serious Van

By Frank A. Aukofer, November 29th, 2014

So you have to drive this big blimp thing that's the size of the Oscar Mayer Wiener mobile, but is built more like Flat Stanley and you don't want to get blown away. Most people would probably ignore the problem or avoid driving on windy days.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Sprinter Van enters its second model year with a freshened look that is also more economical, safer and environmentally friendly
Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Sprinter Van enters its second model year with a freshened look that is also more economical, safer and environmentally friendly

But this is the Sprinter and it comes from Mercedes-Benz, which means these are German engineers who relish such a challenge. So they came up with Crosswind Assist, a computer software program that recalibrates the stability control system yaw to resist buffeting and keep the Sprinter from going bonkers when it's hit by winds of up to 90 mph. Then, for good measure, they add four-wheel-drive to manage gusts on slippery winter highways.

Mercedes offers an extensive line of Sprinter vans in passenger, crew, cab/chassis and cargo versions with low, high and super high roofs; two different wheelbases (144 and 170 inches); three different Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings; plus a choice of two diesel engines and automatic transmissions.

Interior cargo volume ranges from 69 cubic feet in the standard roof passenger van to a whopping 586 cubic feet in the super high roof model with the 170-inch wheelbase. That intimidating beast has more inside space than an 8-x-9-foot bedroom with an 8-foot ceiling.

Custom interior manufacturers are poised to transform any size Sprinter van into a specialized vehicle for construction trades, delivery services, motorhomes, food trucks and assorted other creative uses. So you can have your Sprinter cargo van outfitted practically any way you want. In the trade, they're called upfitters.

Manufacturer photo: The 2015 Sprinter Van enters its second model year with a freshened look that is also more economical, safer and environmentally friendly

The two turbocharged diesel engine/transmission combinations. One is the 161-horspower four-cylinder with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The other is the 188-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 turbodiesel with a five-speed automatic. Both provide decent performance and fuel economy empty; after conversion it obviously is a crap shoot.

Prices and configurations are all over the map starting at $39,485, so it's difficult to come up with what might be called a typical Sprinter cargo van. The one referenced here is a sort of middle of the road unmodified version: a high roof model with the 144-inch wheelbase, V-6 turbo motor, five-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive, which is an option that costs $6,500 to $6,800, depending on whether you need low range.

All Sprinter 2500 vans get the new Crosswind Assist, which is truly amazing. At the press introduction, three 1,000-horsepower swamp boats with giant propellers combined to blast Sprinter vans from the side at 55 mph. Though the experience was noisy and exciting, the Sprinters barely budged.

That's the essence of the 2015 Sprinter. Mercedes-Benz manufactures complete Sprinter cargo vans in Dusseldorf, Germany. When they come off the line, they are taken apart. The wheels and bumpers are stashed inside the van body, fluids are drained and the engine and other drive train components are packed into crates and shipped separately to Daimler Vans Manufacturing in South Carolina, near Charleston. There they are carefully reassembled, refilled and shipped for sale around the country. It's an awkward process that nevertheless flows smoothly and, in the end, avoids an outdated 25 percent "chicken" tax.

All of the parts from a disassembled van get bar codes so that the Sprinter assembled in South Carolina is the same one that came off the line in Dusseldorf. The procedure applies only to cargo vans because passenger vans are exempt from the tax.

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