Engine and powertrain - Powerful, clean, economical and versatile: the drive system of the Sprinter has defined the state of the art for 20 years

Sep 10, 2015
  • 1995 Sprinter: the most powerful diesel engine in its class
  • 2006: six-speed manual transmission and a V6 diesel
  • The world's first van to comply with the Euro VI emission standard as early as 2013
  • Sprinter with a new fuel economy record: 6.1 l/100 km
  • All-wheel drive: the Sprinter for the rough stuff
The Sprinter is powerful and at the same time cleaner than legislation requires. Right from its inception, the Sprinter is also extremely economical and available in suitable drive variants. For example, Mercedes-Benz has offered the current Sprinter with advanced SCR technology and the Euro VI emission standard since its launch in 2013.
Top-performing engine in 1995: the most powerful diesel engine in its class
Outstanding power and performance are a tradition with the Sprinter. The top-performing engine at the start in 1995 was a direct-injection turbodiesel. This five-cylinder power unit developed 90 kW (122 hp) from a displacement of 2.9 l, and delivered 280 Nm of torque – at the time these were record figures in the Sprinter's vehicle class. It was technically state-of-the-art, with a distributor injection pump, electronic control and exhaust gas recirculation. The entry-level engine at the time was a four-cylinder with prechamber injection from the preceding series, with 58 kW (79 hp) sufficient for many day-to-day operations. A petrol engine (105 kW/143 hp) rounded off the range.
At the start customers could choose between a five-speed manual transmission with centre gearshift and a four-speed torque converter transmission. Power was transferred to the rear axle in all cases. This ensured maximum traction when the van was fully loaded.
2000 began the era of CDI engines
New engines were introduced in early 2000. The CDI engines with four and five-cylinders and a displacement of 2.15 and 2.7 l covered an output range from 60 kW (82 hp) to 115 kW (156 hp). Direct injection with common-rail technology, four valves per cylinder and, in the higher output classes, turbochargers with variable turbine geometry were the very latest technology. If the customer opted for the ASSYST maintenance computer, oil-change intervals were extended to up to 40 000 km – a full circumnavigation of the earth.
The shift lever of the five-speed manual transmission now extended conveniently from the centre console of the new instrument panel in the form of a joystick. Alternatively power was transferred by Sprintshift, an automated manual transmission with electrohydraulic gearshifts and automatic clutch operation. For buyers with particularly high comfort requirements, e.g. camper van customers, the Sprinter soon became available with a new, fully automatic five-speed torque converter transmission.
2006: six-speed manual transmission and a V6 diesel
The CDI engines also powered the new Sprinter of 2006. The outputs of the four-cylinder now ranged from 62 kW (84 hp) to 110 kW (150 hp). They were combined with a six-speed manual transmission as standard.
The top diesel engine was now a V6 with a displacement of three litre, an output of 135 kW (184 hp) and 400 Nm of torque. This was a technical masterpiece, with an aluminium crankcase, balancer shaft and four overhead camshafts. All the diesel engines were now low-emission units according to Euro 4 or EU 4/III, and featured a particulate filter as standard. A V6 petrol engine with a displacement of 3.5 l opened up a new dimension in performance: 190 kW (258 hp) went well beyond conventional bounds.
2009: a cleaner, more economical and more powerful new four-cylinder
The Sprinter entered the summer of 2009 with new four-cylinder diesel engines and new manual transmissions. It was now cleaner, more economical and more powerful than ever, and met the Euro 5 emission standard. The characteristic features of these engines are a long-stroke configuration for high torque, reduced compression, a high-strength engine block and a maximum injection pressure of 1800 bar. Depending on the variant, the engines were charged by a single-stage turbocharger with variable geometry (70 kW/95 hp) or a two-stage turbocharger (95 kW/129 hp and 120 kW/163 hp). The six-cylinder diesel engine had an increased output of 140 kW (190 hp), with an increase in maximum torque to an impressive 440 Nm.
New six-speed manual transmissions with the name ECO Gear excelled with a wide ratio spread and a low ratio first gear plus a sixth gear to reduce engine speed. This meant good starting characteristics and easy slow manoeuvring, as well as motorway cruising at low engine speeds.
In spring 2012 a new automatic transmission replaced the previous unit. This seven-speed automatic transmission with the name 7G-TRONIC featured fully electronic control. This too had the advantage of a wide ratio spread and dynamic starting, with a high ratio in top gear for fuel-efficient, quiet, low-emission driving at high speeds.
The BlueEFFICIENCY package saves fuel
One major feature of the new BlueEFFICIENCY package was an ECO start/stop function. It also included tyres with reduced rolling resistance, the ECO steering servo pump, alternator management and an electrically controlled fuel pump. Together with a higher final drive ratio this lowers the NEDC fuel consumption to up to 7.0 l/100 km.
The new 2013 Sprinter: cleaner and more economical than any other
The new Sprinter was launched in summer 2013. On the introduction of the new Sprinter in summer 2013, Mercedes-Benz was the world's first van manufacturer to provide for the coming Euro VI emission standard – the complete model range is available with these clean engines. The Sprinter betters the future limiting values with BlueTEC engine technology. This means SCR technology (selective catalytic reduction) and the injection of AdBlue into the exhaust flow. It reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 80 percent. At the same time, the injection process, combustion and charge pressure are also optimised.
Experience gained elsewhere within the group was an advantage here: for its trucks and buses, Mercedes-Benz had already opted for SCR technology almost ten years beforehand.
The new 2013 Sprinter is not only clean, it is years ahead of legislation: the coming, more stringent emission levels are only mandatory from autumn 2015 for the Sprinter (crewbus) registered as a passenger car and from autumn 2016 when registered as a commercial vehicle.
Performance remains the same, with outputs ranging from 70 kW (95 hp) to 120 kW (163 hp). Those preferring not to take this step can still purchase the Sprinter with the none Euro VI engines. However, the V6 turbodiesel remains unchanged and continues to meet the Euro VI standard. Alternatively there is a 1.8 l petrol engine with an output of 115 kW (156 hp).
The developers configured the complete powertrain for maximum efficiency. This includes low-friction rear axles, a six-speed manual transmission with low-friction oil and further development of the seven-speed automatic transmission into 7G-TRONIC PLUS with ECO start/stop. Customers wishing to minimise fuel consumption can opt for the BlueEFFICIENCY Plus package. This reduces the combined NEDC fuel consumption of the Sprinter crewbus to just 6.3 l/100 km, and to up to 6.9 l/100 km for the panel van.
Maximum economy also means extremely long, wear-dependent service intervals of up to 60 000 km.
Sprinter with a new fuel economy record: 6.1 l/100 km
From autumn 2015 a further very fuel-efficient variant with an NEDC consumption of 6.1 l/100 km will become available. As the panel van variant it combines all the fuel efficiency measures, and also uses a final drive ratio for reduced engine speeds.
All-wheel drive: the Sprinter for the rough stuff
With all-wheel drive the Sprinter is also able to overcome difficult terrain. In 1997 Mercedes-Benz introduced the Sprinter 4x4 with selectable electropneumatic front-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive for professionals was also available with an off-road reduction gear, and had a considerably higher suspension. Permanent all-wheel drive followed later, as an additional drive system for off-roaders.
At the 2006 International Commercial Vehicle Show (IAA) Mercedes-Benz presented the new Sprinter 4x4 with all-wheel drive. In normal operation its permanent all-wheel drive distributes the power to the front and rear axles in a ratio of 35:65. The all-wheel-drive system works with the Electronic Traction System 4ETS instead of with mechanical differential locks. If one or more wheels lose traction, they are automatically braked at short intervals. At the same time the drive torque is transferred to the wheels that still have adequate traction.
A new all-wheel drive system was introduced with the new Sprinter in 2013. The Electronic Traction System 4ETS with variable power distribution was retained, but all-wheel drive is now selectable. This is possible when stationary or at low speeds. An optional, selectable reduction gear increases pulling power. As a new feature, Downhill Speed Regulation maintains a constant, preset speed when travelling downhill and therefore eases the driver's workload.