It’s a huge thanks to Blake at Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia as A Wheel Thing goes back to its roots. The first vehicle to be reviewed is the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus. In a past life, A Wheel Thing’s first vehicle sales role was with a Mercedes-Benz dealership and in a newly established position as a light commercial vehicle salesman. The Sprinter Transfer Minibus is, well, a Minibus variant of the Sprinter van and it is, visually, one big unit. Available with a low (as the review vehicle had) or high roof, at 2524 mm or 2818 mm, it’s lonnnng at 5926 mm. Width? 1993 mm or 2426 mm with the (heated) mirrors included. Seating capacity is twelve, with driver and two up front, and two/three/four mix behind, with all seats fitted with belts and there’s a fire extinguisher and emergency escape panel as well. Even the wheelbase is huge, nearly as long as some small cars are at a total length of 3665 mm. There’s a sense of irony for the uninitiated when M-B state that this is a medium wheelbase model…The heart and soul of the Mercedes-Benz van range is the engine and transmission combination. The Sprinter 313 Transfer is no exception, with a seemingly small Euro 5 compliant 2.2L diesel and seven speed auto driveline. Peak power comes in at 3800 rpm with 120 kW on offer, with peak torque just 360 Nm between 1400 to 2400 rpm. Bear in mind, though, it’s a seven speed auto and at 110 kph, the tacho is sitting on 2200 revs, smack bang in the peak torque figure.
The transmission is a superb unit. Gear changes are physically imperceptible, with only the engine note, a restrained yet noticeable diesel thrum, and the flick of the tacho needle, giving away the ratio has swapped. On the go on the highway and freeway, it’s an effortless cruiser and it was a delight to drive.
Acceleration is reasonable, with entering a highway from a standstill requiring a bit of planning and some driver skill. What this means is having an understanding of the ability and limitations of a vehicle that is good but not great at getting off the line. One simply shouldn’t expect that they can pull into traffic and do so in front of oncoming vehicles.
Braking is a delight, with a feel that wouldn’t be out of place in a family sedan and betters many of the passenger oriented cars a driver can buy. There’s real, genuine, feedback at the slightest pressure and a beautifully weighted feel from start to finish, enabling you to haul up the 2.5 tonne plus cargo easily and faultlessly.The sheer size of the Sprinter is also something a driver needs to consider in the handling aspect. It’s beautifully car like and the driver sits behind the front wheels but turning the steering wheel has the feeling of sitting directly above them, such is the agility of the Sprinter. For someone not accustomed to driving something of both the wheelbase and length, turns and corners need to be taken just that little bit wider and that little bit slower.Overall though, the Sprinter 313 Transfer delights in its ability to make a driver feel as if they are actually driving something smaller, lighter, more wrapped around them. This translates into a tight 13.6 metre turning circle, barely larger than passengers cars can deliver. Even the wheels are passenger car in size, with 16 inch diameter steelies wrapped in 235/65 rubber. However, there’s exterior safety lights fitted in the flanks which reminds you that you’re driving a Minibus, not a car.Access to the interior is via the front doors, with a step up and handle at the top of the door that’s integrated into a carry shelf; barn style rear doors, and a sliding door on the left flank with a step that comes out and retreats automatically when opening and closing the door. The sliding door requires a little extra effort to ensure it closes properly however, but opens up to over 1500 mm to ensure totally easy access for anyone. The rear doors also open lightly, and there’s a step fitted at the rear. Interior height maxes out at 1820 mm so there’s plenty of headroom for just about any person.The driver’s position is close to a metre above the tarmac, with the aforementioned step and handle easing access. Once seated in the tartan style cloth covered seat, there’s plenty of forward and side vision, with the wing mirrors giving a wide angle of view. In contrast, the interior rear view mirror is almost useless with such a narrow field of view. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s no rear view camera nor rear (or front) parking sensors. What there is a dash that’s clean, mostly uncluttered, designed for commercial use with cup holders up near the window, a storage locker in upper centre that’s almost large enough to fit an LP record, deepset pockets in the doors and removable panels underneath for extra storage. The sunshades have a clip that ensures they sit fastened tightly and are part of the same structure that provides some upper area shelf space.The centre section of the dash houses both the aircon controls and the audio system which is linked to controls on the smooth looking tiller. There’s Bluetooth compatibility, an easy to read 5.6 inch non touchscreen and a most clean layout. On the right hand side is a keypad, exactly the same as found on a telephone and this is the only section that makes it look somewhat untidy. The tiller also is home to tabs for information on a display screen between the speedo and tacho, presenting a range of information including what ultimately proved to be a final fuel consumption figure of 9.4L/100 km. What was interesting during the drive was watching the range figure change in an upwards trajectory in cruise mode. A starting range of 520 kilometres on pickup had, after an 80 km drive to base camp, over 900 km available.The aircon itself is reasonably easy to use, with the dial for air direction being quirky by not being as easily understandable as the rest. Airflow was powerful when the dial was wound up, plus there’s a aircon unit on the roof that feeds into a set of vents in the rear of the 9.0 cubic metre capacity cabin. Safety, when underway, is taken care of by a suite of car-like electronic aids, such as traction control, brake assist, brake force distribution, electronic stability control and a pair of airbags up front. Finally, there’s the standard three year or two hundred thousand kilometre warranty, 24/7 roadside assist and a specialised service plan including a 12 month or thirty thousand kilometre service interval.At The End Of the Drive.
Aside from the much vaunted passenger car range that Mercedes-Benz has built its well deserved reputation upon, their light commercial range also has much respect. With this particular people mover sitting at around $66K driveaway, it’s much cheaper than expected and cheaper than quite a few SUVs. Yes, it’s not the answer to everyone’s people mover question but with car like handling, plenty of room, an engine and transmission combination that works just so well, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer makes for a tempting alternative when it comes to looking for something to ship the family (and kids for weekend sports) around.This link will take you to more information about the Minibus and from there you can navigate to the rest of the range: 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus
Once again, a big thanks to Blake at Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia.