The 2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter will add a gasoline engine, optional factory telematics offering, and more than 1,000 configurations to provide a "holistic mobility solution" when it debuts in February, the head of the company's van division told journalists in Stuttgart, Germany.
Mercedes-Benz is launching the third generation of its Sprinter that was first introduced in the U.S. 1995 and updated in 2010.
"The Sprinter is the flagship of our commercial fleet and embodies our approach toward an integrated system solution," said Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. "Comprehensive industry-specific know-how, a vehicle that is adaptable to different transport requirements, and innovative networking services add up to a fully-integrated product offering."
Mornhinweg's van unit provided general information about the new full-size van at Sprinter Innovation Campus, an event that focused on six aspects of the vehicle, including its versatility, possible electrification, telematics capabilities, and features suited for grocery delivery, passenger hauling, and service fleets.
The 2018 Sprinter will provide plenty of versatility with its three wheelbases, four body lengths, three roof heights, four engine powers, and four dashboards. Commercial buyers can also configue many of the interior features such as the van's storage compartments, cupholders, head unit, and climate controls. All models will offer push-button start.
Mercedes-Benz is also shifting the van's drive train to a front-wheel orientation — the van now offers standard rear-wheel drive or a 4x4 option — to lower the load floor to help drivers load cargo. The move will eliminate the prop shaft.
Mercedes-Benz hopes to offer a battery-electric model now known as eSprinter in the U.S., as well as an all-electric eVito (the mid-size van known as the Metris in the U.S.), but the "demand has to be there," Mornhinweg said.
When the 2018 Sprinter arrives in late 2018 or early 2019, Mercedes will offer a manufacturer telematics system known as Mercedes Pro that will provide fleet managers a cloud-based vehicle management tool, telematics data served to a mobile app, cargo monitoring, a digital key, and Linux-based vehicle platform that's designed to encourage third-party vehicle apps. Mercedes-Benz began offering the product in September for used Sprinter vans.
The company considered partnering with an aftermarket telematics provider such as Verizon Telematics to offer the telematics product, but elected to retain control of Sprinter data.
"We decided it would be better to do it by ourself because we have control of the solution," Mornhinweg said. "We thought it would be better to have it under one umbrella, our umbrella."