20 years of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: The pioneer for a vehicle class

Sep 10, 2015
  • Sprinter 1995: the start of a success story
  • The Sprinter as a bestseller
  • The Sprinter as an individualist
  • The Sprinter as an economic miracle
  • The Sprinter as a safety van
Paper handkerchiefs are called kleenex, vacuum cleaners are called hoovers – and vans of around 3.5 t gross vehicle weight are called Sprinter. The reasons are the same for all three products. An innovative concept, exemplary product quality, satisfied customers and therefore huge market success. The high level of exposure in turn leads to the product name's adoption into common speech. Accordingly the Sprinter, the flagship model of Mercedes-Benz Vans, has given its name to an entire vehicle class. The first generation was presented 20 years ago, and today more than 2.9 million Sprinter are on the road in over 130 countries of the world. In two decades this van series has been an unrivalled success story. The legend lives on, rapidly setting record after record.
Sprinter 1995: the start of a success story
In spring 1995 the new van from Mercedes-Benz was a milestone in many respects. The Sprinter was the first commercial vehicle bearing the Mercedes star to have a name rather than a set of numerals and letters in its model designation. It was the start of an impressive model initiative by Mercedes-Benz in the van and truck sectors.
The new Sprinter succeeded a true legend, the concisely named Mercedes-Benz T1 van of which just under one million were produced in 18 years. The new series only adopted the basic technical concept, as everything else was revolutionised. The combination of a unibody construction and high-traction rear-wheel drive, a modern suspension with independent front wheel suspension, exemplary safety equipment and powerful engines was unique.
The Sprinter as a bestseller
The Sprinter was therefore predestined for success: The Mercedes-Benz plant in Düsseldorf already produced more than 100 000 Sprinter in the first full production year of 1996. Just under 20 years later, in 2014, exactly 186 114 examples left the production lines in Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde, in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, in Nishni Novgorod, Russia and in Fuzhou, China – the Sprinter is currently produced in six plants on four continents. This year there is every expectation that the Sprinter is heading for a new all-time record. To date Mercedes-Benz has produced almost three million Sprinter.
The Sprinter as an individualist: a suitable answer for every question
Key factors in the success of the Sprinter include its tailor-made concept and continuous further development – the Sprinter never stands still. The closely graduated range of now three wheelbase, four length and three height variants, gross weights from 3.2 to 5.0 t plus numerous body and equipment variants ex factory meets practically all requirements and is unrivalled in the industry. The portfolio is rounded off with an effective body manufacturer management, which makes further variations available from certificated converters and body specialists.
On its launch in 1995 the new van attracted attention with the most powerful diesel engine in its class, and just 90 kW (122 hp) was enough for the purpose at that time. Today the output of the Sprinter's diesel engines ranges from 70 kW (95 hp) to 140 kW (190 hp), and there is a petrol variant developing 115 kW (156 hp) plus two mono and bivalent natural gas engines also developing 115 kW (156 hp). Power is transferred by the specialised, six-speed ECO GEAR manual van transmission or the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic torque converter transmission. Those driving off the beaten track can opt for the Sprinter 4x4 with all-wheel drive, a factory-installed in-house development.
The Sprinter as an economic miracle
The Sprinter is not only powerful; it is also economical and clean. With the BlueEFFICIENCY Plus package, NEDC fuel consumption falls to up to 6.3 l/100 km – possibly record-breaking. Service intervals are now up to 60 000 km. As early as 2013, with the new Sprinter, Mercedes-Benz was the first manufacturer to offer a full series complying with emission standard Euro VI, several years before it becomes a legal requirement.
Another of the Sprinter's outstanding attributes is its spacious, comfortably appointed cab. Mercedes-Benz has continuously improved and refined the cab over the years, and also constantly upgraded the standard equipment.
It is not only the interior that exudes top quality: the Sprinter is produced to Mercedes-Benz quality standards worldwide. The main plant is in Düsseldorf, where well over 100 000 Sprinter leave the production line each year. Apart from highly trained and motivated personnel, the high level of worldwide quality stems from innovative production technology. One example is "intelligent production", a new, highly efficient production system recently introduced at the plant in Ludwigsfelde where the chassis are produced.
The Sprinter as a safety van
The Sprinter is not only comfortable, its driver and passengers also feel safe when on board. The long list of premieres for new safety technology in the Sprinter already begins in 1995, with disc brakes all-round, ABS and many other features. It continues with the introduction of the Electronic Stability Program ESP® as standard in 2002, a world first for vans. And it has by no means come to an end with the five new assistance systems for the new Sprinter from 2013.
The development work never ceases, as the history of the Sprinter shows. Launched in 1995, it was thoroughly revised both visually and technically in 2000. The next visible changes followed in 2002. In 2006 a completely new Sprinter made its debut. In 2009 it benefitted from new engines and transmissions. The latest stage is the new Sprinter introduced in 2013 with extensive further developments. One thing is certain: this is by no means the end of the line.
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Mercedes-Benz L 319 (1955-1967), exterior
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Mercedes-Benz L 319 (1955-1967), exterior
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Mercedes-Benz L 319 (1955-1967), exterior
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Mercedes-Benz L 319 (1955-1967), exterior
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