Safety technology and driver training - Uncompromisingly designed for safety: every generation of the Sprinter sets new standards

Sep 10, 2015
  • 1995: the first Sprinter set a milestone in safety technology
  • In 2002 the Sprinter once again set the benchmark with ESP® as standard
  • 2006 Sprinter: safer than ever with ADAPTIVE ESP®
  • 2013: new Sprinter with revolutionary, new assistance systems
Safety is priority number one for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. This encompasses the whole range from driver-fitness safety thanks to outstanding ergonomics to car-like handling characteristics and passive safety features. Accident prevention is at the forefront from the very start: the first generation already set standards for active safety in 1995. Since then the Sprinter has been the uninterrupted trailblazer in this discipline – most recently with five new assistance systems in the new Sprinter launched in 2013. With the Sprinter, safety technology has also become a sales argument in the van sector.
1995: the first Sprinter set a milestone in safety technology
A suspension that was both safe and comfortable, disc brakes all-round, the anti-lock braking system ABS as standard, automatic brake differential, optional driver airbag, height-adjustable three-point seat belts, seat belt buckles attached to the seat – in early 1995 no other van had more safety technology than the newly presented Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The comfortable suspension and car-like handling characteristics were also a major safety factor. From the first generation onwards, the Sprinter established a solid reputation as a safety van. This perfectly complemented the range of muscular engines – the new Sprinter was not only powerful, but also safe, and needed to fear no comparison.
And development continued: as part of an extensive facelift, the Sprinter was given more powerful headlamps in 2000. The driver airbag now became standard equipment, with a co-driver airbag available as an option. As a particularly large double airbag it also protected the occupant on the inside seat of the double co-driver bench seat – apart from active safety, Mercedes-Benz continued to forge ahead in passive safety. The same applied to driver-fitness safety: in 2000 the Sprinter benefitted from a new, passenger car style cockpit with the shift lever in the form of a joystick at an easily reachable height, improving ergonomics and therefore safety.
In 2002 the Sprinter once again set the benchmark with ESP® as standard
Just two years later, the Sprinter was further upgraded in 2002. Improvements included a larger brake servo unit and the introduction of the Electronic Stability Program ESP® as standard, starting with the closed variants of the Sprinter up to 3.5 t gross weight. ESP® was a revolution in safety technology for vans. Two years later ESP® also became standard equipment for all Sprinter chassis up to 3.5 t gross weight. This was to have a major effect: in subsequent years the statistics for "unintentionally leaving the road" as an accident cause fell sharply.
Mercedes-Benz not only has the vehicle in focus, but also the driver. In 2003 the "Van training on tour" scheme came into being in Germany. Since then more than 40 000 drivers have undergone training – free of charge when purchasing a new van. Risk avoidance measures also include voluntary limitation to a top speed of 160 km/h for the more powerful engine variants of the Sprinter. The aim is to prevent accidents rather than just mitigating their consequences.
Second-generation Sprinter: safer than ever with ADAPTIVE ESP®
Innovations kept coming at two-year intervals, as demonstrated by the completely new, second-generation Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in 2006. Comfort and safety were enhanced by a new transverse leaf spring of GFRP at the front axle and new parabolic springs at the rear axle – soon to be supplemented with an optional air spring. The Sprinter was now even more comfortable, which became particularly obvious in terms of driver-fitness safety on long-distance tours.
As ADAPTIVE ESP®, ESP® now adapted itself to different load conditions with vehicle mass and centre of gravity detection, and therefore intervened even more sensitively and precisely in critical driving situations. The same applied to adaptation to a wide range of mounted vehicle bodies. Start-Off Assist was an optional extension of ESP®: it prevented the vehicle from rolling back unintentionally when moving off on an uphill gradient.
The best possible view to the rear was ensured by additional, adjustable wide-angle lenses in the new exterior mirrors, with static curve illumination available optionally. A rain/light sensor switched the windscreen wipers and driving lights on and off automatically. Not least, all Sprinter were now shod with 16-inch wheels as a precondition for larger-diameter brake discs with corresponding performance. As a preventive measure, the Sprinter became available with thoraxbags and windowbags as an addition to the front airbags.
In 2009 ESP® received an additional function in the form of trailer stabilisation, there were adaptive brake lights, heating of the exterior mirrors also defrosted the wide-angle mirrors, and lower-mounted foglamps illuminated the road even more effectively. The optional automatic transmission now included Start-Off Assist.
2013: new Sprinter with revolutionary, new assistance systems
In summer 2013 new assistance systems were introduced with the new Sprinter – among them further world firsts in the van sector. Crosswind Assist celebrated its debut, for example. Crosswind Assist virtually eliminates the effects of gusts acting on the vehicle, within the bounds of the laws of physics. Standard in all enclosed variants, it is now also available for Sprinter with separate bodies, e.g. camper vans or box bodies, after individual examination.
COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST has the functions of distance warning, adaptive Brake Assist Pro and a further warning stage when there is acute danger of a collision. Blind Spot Assist warns the driver of vehicles in the blind spot in the adjacent lane when changing lanes. Lane Keeping Assist monitors the road ahead and its markings to warn against the vehicle leaving its lane unintentionally. High Beam Assist switches high beam on and off according to the given situation, to ensure ideal illumination of the road ahead. This practically eliminates any dazzling of vehicles ahead or oncoming.
With these assistance systems Mercedes-Benz Vans has reasserted its role as a trailblazer in safety engineering and as an innovation driver. The decisive advantage of the new assistance systems is that they help to prevent accidents. The same applies to measures affecting the suspension: Lowering the suspension by 30 mm noticeably improves handling and steering precision by lowering the centre of gravity. The already safe Sprinter is now even safer.
The same principle applies to future developments of the Sprinter as well: prevention is better than cure, and accident prevention is better than mitigation of accident consequences. In this respect the Sprinter benefits both from its car-like handling characteristics and from the development of assistance systems for cars by Mercedes-Benz: adapted for the specific requirements and operating profiles of vans, their safety technology has also been transferred to the Sprinter.