Van Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus.

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.

Mercedes-Benz Vans Gives The “V For Victory Sign For The V-Class.

Mercedes-Benz makes some damned good cars and they make some pretty damned good vans too.Their V-Class vans have been given some extra ammunition in their battle against makers such as Iveco, Hyundai, Ford, and Renault. The current V model, the V 250 AVANTGARDE, is now backed up by the V 220. Both will be powered by a 2.1 litre diesel, with outputs of 140 kW/440 Nm and 120 kW and 380 Nm respectively.

Yes, they “might” be vans but M-B certainly believes that drivers and passengers have the right to enjoys as well. Here’s what the V 220 will offer: Garmin MAP Pilot navigation system with 3D map display; Audio 20 sound system with touchpad, innovative controller & large CENTRAL MEDIA DISPLAY with a screen diagonal of 17.8 cm and a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels; 17 inch 5-spoke alloy wheels; Reversing camera with dynamic guide lines and Driving Assistance Package (COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST, Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist).

There’s plenty of very handy technology on board for the driver. There’s Agility Select, which provides four distinct driving modes which changes the mapping of the engine, throttle, and transmission. Agility Control changes the suspension and ride as a result, plus there’s Crosswind Assist, ATTENTION ASSIST, Active Parking Assist, Driver Assistance Package, Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist, and the PRE-SAFE® accident anticipatory system.

Both vans are luxuriously appointed, with Legano leather standard in both, four way lumbar support, and the seat ventilation system has fans that can reverse flow to optimise humidity levels. A feature unique to the V Class is Thermotronic climate control, which offers pre-entry climate control from the key fob. There’s an internal demisting sensor and even a sensor to automatically switch from Fresh to Recirculate when passing through a tunnel.

The vans also have split tail gates with the rear glass able to be opened independently of the main door. This offers ease of access in tight parking spaces and the doors are also power operated.

Being luxury oriented means there’s a good dollar to be paid. The Valente BlueTec is $58,100 (MRLP) with the others priced at: V-Class V 220 BlueTec $74,990 (MRLP) and V-Class V 250 BlueTec AVANTGARDE $87,200 (MRLP).

Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealership for state pricing.

Mercedes-Benz Joins The Ute Club.

Mercedes-Benz has put to rest rumours of the company releasing a pick-up by confirming, in the last week of October 2016, that they will sell a four door utility vehicle. The X Class vehicle was unveiled in Sweden and will become the fourth commercial vehicle line the German based company will market.x-class-variantsIt will stand as a competitor to Volkswagen’s Amarok, with VW the first of the upper level manufacturers to release such a vehicle, plus the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT50, Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Coloradao and, of course, Toyota’s HiLux. The X Class is based on the Nissan platform, the NP 300 Navara, which also will form part of the forthcoming Renault Alaskan range, due in 2018 for Australia.x-class-stylish-explorerx-class-front-leftDr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars said of the new vehicle: “With the Mercedes-Benz pickup, we will close one of the last gaps in our portfolio. Our target: we want to offer customers vehicles matching their specific needs. The X-Class will set new standards in a growing segment.” x-class-profileVolker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, said: “We will open up and change the segment of mid-size pickups – with the world’s first true premium pickup for the modern urban lifestyle. Our future X-Class will be a pickup that knows no compromise. Ladder-type frame, high-torque six-cylinder engine, and permanent all-wheel drive are compulsory for us. As an added value we bring safety, comfort, agility, and expressive design – in other words, everything that distinguishes vehicles bearing the Mercedes star. We will thus appeal to new customers who have not considered owning a pickup before.” x-class-left-rearx-class-stylish-explorer-interiorArgentina, Brazil, South Africa and Europe are seen as the vehicles primary markets, as well as Australia, with over 14 percent of vehicles sold being in the light commercial utility market. The four wheel drive segment constitutes 12.4 per cent of the market overall in Australia, making it the second largest segment after sub $40K small cars. Australia was also chosen a development location, which means that models sold in Australia should have the benefit of local tune.x-class-powerful-advenrurerx-class-powerful-adventurer-front-rightIt’s a substantial investment by the German goliath, with one figure being quoted of $1.4 billion Australian. Part of that investment is ensuring the corporate look is embedded, with the company’s signature SUV styling, including the single louvre grille and flared wheel arches. So far, M-B have listed two models, the “Stylish Explorer” and “Powerful Adventurer”.x-class-powerful-adventurer-interiorx-class-powerful-adventurer-rear-left

Engine wise, it appears to be a mix of Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Nissan, with V6 diesels seeming to be reserved for the top echelon, whilst four cylinder diesels and petrol engines should be available from the entry level up. It’s likely these will power the 4Matic autos at the top end, which no confirmation yet as to the drivetrain for the lower models. However it’s likely we’ll see the standard mix of both two and four wheel drive variants.

Inside, the X-Class is likely to feature leather clad seats, with oak and aluminuim trims, a high definition touchscreen, stylised rounded air vents, and a centre console mounted controller/touchpad, plus the bespoke MercedesMe system. A manually operated, rather than electric, hand brake is said to be part of the package.

A payload capacity of 1100 kg and towing of up to 3.5 tonnes will be available, a redeveloped five link rear axle, coil springs and a specifically calibrated sping and shocker setup will be on board.x-class-duo

Pricing is yet to be confirmed however it’s rumoured that the X-Class will be offered with very competitive pricing.

Car Review: 2016 Haval H9

2016 Haval H9 wing mirror logoHaval is a new entry to the Aussie car market and is certainly, judging by the Haval H9, poised to make an impact on the sales figures. It hails from China but that doesn’t make it a non worthwhile consideration. Here’s why…2016 Haval H9 cabinHaval have loaded the H9 (the premium model from Haval) with more fruit than a grocer’s store. Tri-zone climate control, exterior night shining logo which doubles as a puddle lamp, glowing door sills, seven seats, leather, satnav via an eight inch touchscreen, sunroof with presets and LED lit surround, mood lighting (operated via touch tab at the sunroof operation area), swiveling and leveling headlights, plus dash mounted 4WD info such as inclination, compass and external air pressure. Not sure about that last one, admittedly. It’s a big car, too; think Nissan X-Trail meets Mercedes GL class for looks and size.2016 Haval H9 profileCloud to the silver lining? A surprisingly lacklustre turbocharged 2.0L petrol engine (Haval are reportedly working on a diesel) producing 160 kilowatts and 324 Nm between 2000 and 4000. Haval quote 12.1 litres per 100 kilometres for a combined cycle meaning urban consumption (not quoted) has to be something over 14.0L. That’s from an eighty litre tank and requiring a minimum of 95 RON. Haval don’t quote a kerb weight however it’s quoted elsewhere as being 2250 kilograms. Haval also states the H9 will tow up to 2500 kilograms. It may do but expect a hefty fuel bill and a glacial progress initially.2016 Haval H9 engineThe gearbox is a six speed auto that has options such as Auto, Sports and off road modes; in Sports mode which with the lack of torque the engine has, sees second gear held for too long under most normal accelerative conditions. Have to say, though, it is a smooth ‘box and engine combo, with most changes audible in revs but not physically felt.The steering rack felt as if something was loose, such as a mounting bracket or joint. There’s a noise and a feeling of untoward movement underneath. Minor, but worrying enough to be of concern.2016 Haval H9 rear seatsIt has a good steering feel, however, with good weight and a turning circle of just over eleven metres. That’s good for a car that measures 4856 mm in length and has a 2800 mm wheelbase. And when not shifting about, it’s responsive enough also, with enough feedback to keep a modest driver informed about where they’re going. It does feel as if, though, the rack and pinion steering has too much of a requirement for a full lock to lock steering response, needing close to four turns.2016 Haval H9 front2016 Haval H9 rear On road, apart from the leisurely acceleration, it’s good enough to please most people. Front suspension niggle aside, it’s a competent handler, points well and rides nicely. Over some unsettled surfaces it did skip more than anticipated, has some bump steer, yet isn’t overly firm in the overall ride. On the flat, it’s surefooted, compliant if a bit taut but deals with Sydney’s undulations by simply following the curvature and not pogoing.

There’s big Cooper Discoverer asymmetric tyres, at 265/60/182016 Haval H9 wheel underneath as well as double wishbone suspension at the front, multilink at the rear and certainly, overall, will be fine for all but the fussiest or sporting oriented drivers.

2016 Haval H9 rear cargoIt’s not an unhandsome car, the H9, with beauty being in the eye of the beholder. In profile the rear has an X-Trail kick to the rear window line ahead of Kia style “neon” tail lights, solidly defined wheel arches, some musculature in the curves and LED driving lights up front. The bonnet has two non vented vents, being solid plastic and definitely modelled on a German brand’s look. 2016 Haval H9 bonnet and instrumentsThere’s side steps, lit at night, and the tail gate is a side opener, hinged on the right. A quibble here is that the tail gate didn’t seem to unlock even though the four main doors had. It could be a setting needing a tick or a cross but it was frustrating knowing the passenger seats would open but the interior door lock button needed a tap or you needed the keyfob to have the handle respond.2016 Haval H9 dash

There was a niggle in the well appointed inside as well. The H9 would take it upon itself to go to Auto climate control and window defrost, with the fan speed at Mach 2. Not all of the time, hence the niggle. There’s grey faux wood panelling but not looking out of place with the black leather trimmed seating. The dash itself was of a good look and feel, with strong ergonomic engineering to it, locating the Start/Stop button down on the centre console near the gear selector and a simple if somewhat hard to read layout for the climate control system.2016 Haval H9 rear heatingThe centre seats are fold and slide, have their own heating controls mounted on the end of the centre console and give up a VERY handy 1457 litres of cargo space.

It stays with the family friendly thought process by throwing in a 150W/220V power socket, 12V socket, ISOFIX x 2 mounts, 2016 Haval H9 memory seatinga pretty good hifi system and Bluetooth connectivity. The driver’s seat also has memory seating with the switches hidden in the base of the seat itself, plus both seats have a front cushion section that can be pulled forward for extra under thigh support. 2016 Haval H9 rear power seatsThe third row seats are powered, need a finger held on the buttons (inside left in the cargo area) but are verrrrrrrrrrrry slow.

Safety wise there’s full length curtain airbags, front side airbags, seatbelt pretensioners but doesn’t get blind spot alerts, cross traffic alerts, emergency braking assistance or radar cruise control assistance.

2016 Haval H9 centre consoleThe centre console also houses the dial for the off road modes; Auto uses the onboard sensors to adapt to the terrain, plus you’ll get Sand, Mud and Snow modes that sport different ESC calibrations, and alter the torque distribution.

At The End Of The Drive.
The H9 comes in two levels, the Lux and and Premium, with the Lux being the vehicle tested and despite the name being the more expensive at $51K plus on roads. The Premium is $46490 plus ORCs. Haval pitches this into a hotly contested market, such as Kluger, Everest, Santa Fe and Fortuner.2016 Haval H9 SMP
Bluntly, it acquits itself well in this group but does miss some equipment taken for granted nowadays, not just in this style of vehicle, but in sedans and hatches lower down the automotive family tree. It’s a pleasing enough handler, voluminous inside, well trimmed and needs a diesel. Soon.
For info on the Haval H9 and an opportunity to check out the Haval family, look here: Haval H9 and range

Mercedes-Benz Strikes At Audi and BMW In SUV Civil War.

It’s the battle of German SUV’s that’s been taken to a new level, with the launch of the mid sized 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC. With the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 firmly in its sights and a starting price of $64500 plus ORC’s the GLC comes with a choice of a single petrol engine and two diesels. Transmission is relegated to a single option, being a nine speed auto along with permanent four wheel drive. Air suspension is an option from early 2016 at $2490.

The two diesels are of the same capacity, at an odd sounding 2.1L. You can choose 124kW and 400 Nm or 150 kW and 500 Nm, with that extra 100 torques stinging you an extra five thousand dollars. In between,M-B slots in a more conventional sounding 2.0L petrol, with 155 kW and the almost mandatory 350 Nm from this size power plant. Stash away $67900 + ORC’s for the privilege.2016-mercedes-benz-glc350e-

There’s also the new GLS to consider. Due to go on sale in April of 2016, the 5130 mm long beastie features a restyled exterior, 620 Nm 3.0L diesel V6, 9 speed auto, Apple CarPlay and five driving modes. Rolling stock are 20 inch ten spoke alloys. Price starts at $116900 (manufacturers recommended list price or MRLP). Sir can move up to the GLS 350d Sport, with 21 inch AMG alloys, active roll stabilisation and Active Curve System. There’s also a Nappa leather and AMG Line interior, AMG Line Exterior and tyre pressure monitoring. A snap at just $132900 MRLP.

Moving up the ladder sees the GLS 500 with “just” 335 kW and 700 torques from a 4.7L turboed V8. Throw in a panoramic glass electric sunroof with slide/tilt function, Luxury Front Seats with heating and ventilation, Heated second row seats, an Anti-theft protection package and a Digital TV tuner and one might just feel satisfied at $161900 MRLP. Might…

Because there’s the full house Mercedes-AMG GLS 63. Think zero to freeway in 4.6 seconds. Think a 5.5L V8. Think a stonking 430 kilowatts and a tidy 760 Newton metres of twist. Lob in a top speed of 270kmh, courtesy of the AMG Driver’s Package, 4MATIC all wheel drive and 22 inch AMG wheels, AMG Sports Suspension and High Performance Braking Package. All this can be yours at just $217900 MRLP.2016 M-B GLS

A note: the MRLP includes GST and any LCT applicable to the base / standard specification model but EXCLUDES DEALER DELIVERY AND ALL ON ROAD COSTS such as, for example, registration fees, stamp duty, CTP and the like.
For drive away price information, contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer.

 

Bathurst: A Holy Place for motorsport

Around the world, for motorsport fans, are places that are held in awe, in reverence, Germany’s Nurburgring, the Monaco Grand Prix circuit and in Australia, it’s Mount Panorama. Just a couple of kilometres from the centre of Bathurst, Australia’s first inland town and home to one of the gold rushes in the 1800s, the mountain has entrenched itself as the spiritual home of motorsport in Australia. Since 1963 it’s also been host to “The Great Race”, starting with a production car base, covering marques from Australia and internationally. Since 1992 the category known as V8 Supercars has been the predominant call to the mountain.

This weekend, a weekend that sees the 50th anniversary of the first race; the fortieth anniversary of the debut win for one of Australia’s motorsport heroes, Peter Geoffrey Brock; the final running of the two make system the mountain has played host to for twenty years, the track sees thousands of people pay homage to motorsport in their annual pilgrimage to Mount Panorama.

Over the last fifty years, names and brands such as Mini, Chrysler, Ford Falcon GTHO, Holden Monaro, Jaguar, Geoghegan, Moffat, Goss, Bond, Johnson, Brock, Richards, Skaife and Lowndes, have left their indelible imprint on hearts, minds and the mountain itself. There’s been battles, incidents that echo through the history of the place (Dick Johnson and The Rock, possibly one of the more famous) and sadly, deaths. There’s also been heartbreak and moments of disbelief: Peter Brock, for example, winning a race by six laps and creating a new lap record on the last of 161 laps or 1000 kilometres.

In 1992, perhaps one of the darkest moments and definitely a controversial one; Jim Richards and a young Mark Skaife, racing in a car known as Godzilla (Nissan’s all conquering GT-R), were called the race winners after torrential rain caused multiple crashes at the top of the famed Conrod Straight and the race was red flagged. The crowd, at the podium presentation, hoping for a “hometown” win, vented their displeasure and Richards, furious, called the crowd “a pack of arseholes”.

For 2013, a new era in V8 Supercars; the much vaunted yet still questionable “Car of the Future” format makes its debut with Australia’s Holden and Ford being joined by Nissan and Mercedes-Benz.  The concept is intended to reduce build costs, have a standardised chassis whilst reinvigorating the category with the injection of new marques. After denials from Mercedes and the expectation of Dodge or Chrysler being the fourth manufacturer, the 2013 Bathurst 1000 immediately looms as a new and exciting chapter in the history of “The Great Race”.