Utility Test: The 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is the only friend you’ll need on moving day

Utility Test: The 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is the only friend you’ll need on moving day

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Some folks detest moving day – and rightly so, what with the stresses of boxing up and then loading an entire lifetime’s possessions into a vehicle, just to unpack soon after.

Not so secretly, I love it. In the past few years, I’ve moved myself for work and convenience more times than I can count on one hand, and I’ve had the chance to try out different moving vehicles in the process. (There’s a great story about the time I resettled across Brooklyn using only a BMW M4.) Though doing it yourself is a time-consuming and laborious process, it’s well worth it.

The last time I moved, I borrowed a Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck. It took just short of a day, with multiple trips back and forth, to move house. A year later, having accumulated more housewares and decorative items, it was time to move up to the big leagues of cargo hauler, so I chose a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

A full-size, commercial-grade passenger or cargo van, the Sprinter has a reputation for being a moving-day workhorse. My only prior experiences with this model had been in closed, test environments without a job at hand. Could the Sprinter be the panacea to the medium-size move I was hoping would be the last one for a while?

Yes, that’ll fit

With room for a dozen passengers or 68.6 cubic-feet of cargo room (or 80.8 cu.-ft. in the tall roof version), the Sprinter has a maximum payload capacity of 2,763 pounds. (MERCEDES-BENZ)

With just 72 hours to move a one-bedroom apartment to my new residence down the block,I was skeptical about my ability get the task completed in the time allotted. Then the Sprinter arrived, and my fears were eased by its capable appearance.

This standard-wheelbase, high-roof passenger hauler had seating for 12 installed. All four rows of seating are removable, but the seats are heavy and cumbersome, so we decided to remove just one row.

We squeezed a full-size mattress and box spring through the sliding side door. A major benefit of the high-roof Sprinter is that most adults can stand inside without having to bend or duck, and this made it easy to stow the bed. Next, we loaded boxes and taller items – including a built bookcase – in the area behind the fourth row of seats, a roomy space that accommodates cargo from floor to ceiling. Finally, we placed more boxes underneath each row of seats.

After just two trips, we had moved everything. Had all of the seats been removed, we would have been done in one trip. The Sprinter could have hauled an additional 5,000 pounds of stuff if we’d opted to tow a U-Haul.

A different kind of Mercedes-Benz

Inside, the Sprinter is a long way away from the rest of Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. lineup. The interior is sturdy, but hardly luxurious. (MERCEDES-BENZ)

The rectilinear Sprinter may wear the three-pointed star, but it’s far from an S-Class, or even a C-Class, inside. It’s been a tricky experiment since Mercedes-Benz started to sell the Sprinter in the United States a few years ago, with the brand trying to engage tradesmen in America as it had done in Europe.

That’s why it’s important to shift your expectations from “luxury” to “durability” when you climb inside a Sprinter and find an interior that’s unpolished by Mercedes-Benz standards. Don’t anticipate finding leather, wood, and chrome in this Benz, and the van’s hard plastics and plain interior color scheme are antithetical to the flourishes adorning some of the brand’s recent passenger cars. The radio and climate controls look dated, but they’re simple to operate and work well. Still, in many ways, the Sprinter feels a class above its rivals in the full-size van segment. The only major competition is the Ford Transit, which has a cabin that’s superbly fit and finished.

The Sprinter offers a choice of turbocharged diesel engines: a 166-horsepower 2.1-liter 4-cylinder boasting 266 pound-feet of torque and a 188-hp 3.0-liter V6 rated at 325 lb-ft of torque. Each engine has its merits, but the only one you really need is the smaller unit. A four-wheel-drive Sprinter, featuring higher ground clearance, is also available for hauling through inclement weather.

Throughout the tribulations of moving, the Sprinter was extremely maneuverable in the city, with quick steering, soft ride quality and gutsy performance from its 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. In these ways, it’s a Mercedes-Benz in the classic sense.

German engineering for the win

With a high roof, an average height adult can stand inside the Sprinter, making it easier to maneuver boxes and other items while moving. (MERCEDES-BENZ)

At the end of three tiring days of moving house, I parked the Sprinter one last time in front of my Brooklyn apartment before it was to be collected. The next morning, I walked outside to see the usual traffic flowing through my side street, and a van mirror-size piece of glass on the ground next to the Sprinter. A garbage truck must have smashed the van’s mirror, even though it had been folded in overnight.

The mirror housing was hopelessly dangling off the side of the van by its wires. I entered the Sprinter, started the engine and signaled to exit the unlucky parking space. Despite the damage suffered, the mirror-mounted turn signal illuminated. It’s a classic example of German over-engineering, and it proves every aspect of the Sprinter is built to last.

My only gripe? A van of this size deserves a better backup camera and screen. General Motors’ new camera mirror serves as a good example of how to execute this technology effectively, and it provides a full, unobstructed rear view. The Sprinter’s camera films from an awkward, downward-facing angle instead of pointing straight back.

A lasting feeling

Mercedes also offers a four-wheel-drive Sprinter with additional clearance to handle jobs in poor driving conditions. (MERCEDES-BENZ)

Even if you only borrow a Sprinter for the day, you’ll be impressed by its quality and capability. Add one to your fleet, and you’ll reap the benefits of having a machine that can handle every task assigned. Recreational movers, beware: You might enjoy moving so much in a Sprinter, you’ll shorten the terms of your next apartment lease.

2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

With a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, the Mercedes-Benz sprinter can handle almost any moving job with style and efficiency. (MERCEDES-BENZ)

Base Price $44,235 (2500 High Roof Passenger Van)
Engine Turbocharged 2.1-liter diesel 4-cylinder
Power 161 hp / 266lb-ft
Transmission 7-speed automatic

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