25 years of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: The champion of its class

06.
February 2020
Stuttgart
  • Market launch on 23 January 1995 with a big rally
  • It gave its name to an entire vehicle category – the “Sprinter class”
  • World’s most successful transporter with a large variety
  • eSprinter with battery-electric drive: The next milestone

Stuttgart. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter made its debut 25 years ago. To mark its premiere on 23 January 1995, the brand sent 500 units of the completely newly constructed transporter from the Düsseldorf factory on a rally to the sales offices. This was the beginning of a new era in light commercial vehicles with 2.6 to 4.6 tonnes gross vehicle weight: thanks to the consistently great success of this transporter with a Mercedes star, the market segment has long since been known as the “Sprinter class”.

Digital transporter: The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter pre-empted a revolutionary transformation of digitisation in the mid-1990s. At a time when hardly anyone could imagine the future dimensions of package logistics resulting from the boom in online trade, the Stuttgart brand introduced a completely newly developed, state-of-the-art transporter. With disc brakes on the front and rear wheels, ABS anti-lock braking system including ABD automatic brake differential, streamlined body, low consumption and many other properties, the Sprinter set standards in terms of safety, efficiency and comfort. This made it the “best in its class and namesake” of the “Sprinter class”. So wrote “Die Welt” newspaper in September 2019.

Load performance: The Sprinter replaced the Mercedes-Benz T 1 series, also known as the “Bremer Transporter”. The internal designation of the first generation of the Sprinter (model series 901 to 903) serves as a reminder of this, as it was internally known as the T 1 N. From January 1995, the Sprinter was available as models 208 D / 308 D, 212 D / 312 D and 214 / 314, powered by diesel engines OM 601 D 23 and OM 602 DE 29 LA as well as the four-cylinder petrol engine M 111 E 23. The turbocharged 2.9-litre five-cylinder engine with direct injection, intercooler and 90 kW (122 hp) power output in particular caused quite a stir.

Multitalented: The variety was great from the start. This meant the new transporter model series positioned itself as truly multitalented. The design variants included the chassis, the platform truck or tipper, each with a crewcab or simple cab, the cargo van as well as the estate with five seats or nine seats, each with a flat or high roof. Wheelbases of 3,000, 3,350 and 4,025 millimetres were available. The permissible gross weights were initially 2,590, 2,800 or 3,500 kilograms.

All-rounder: The Sprinter not only proved its abilities in logistics, but also in many other areas of application. These included use on building sites and in trade, in municipal services and in passenger transportation, as well as for fire and emergency services. This transporter also cut a good figure as a camper van and as the basis for countless special structures. For example, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 CDI rescue vehicle is exhibited at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Collection 3: Gallery of helpers for this versatility.

Premiere price: The Sprinter received an exceptionally positive reception from the experts on its debut in 1995. In a benchmark test by German trade magazine “lastauto und omnibus”, it was ranked as the vehicle with the most economical engine. And in an individual test by the magazine, it was considered to be “the quietest transporter currently available”. It was no surprise then that the Sprinter was crowned “Van of the Year 1995” in the same year of its debut.

Payload: At the Paris commercial vehicle show “Mondial du Transport Routier” in September 1995, the Sprinter premiered with an increased permissible gross weight of 4,600 kilograms. The 4.6-tonne 408 D, 412 D and 414 with double tyres on the rear axle meant the weight class previously reserved for Mercedes-Benz large transporters was now also available in the more compact Sprinter. At the same time, Mercedes-Benz also presented the electrically driven Sprinter version 308 E with a 33 kW (45 hp) three-phase asynchronous motor in Paris. In following years, Mercedes-Benz also researched Sprinters with plug-in hybrid drive and fuel cell drive.

Facelift: Thanks to continuous facelifts and updates, the first generation of the Sprinter remained up to date from 1995 until the end of production in Düsseldorf in 2006. The first facelift took place in 2000. On the exterior, it is recognised by the Mercedes star towering on the bonnet. In the interior, the transporter received a new instrument cluster and a gear lever integrated in the dashboard. Furthermore, the new diesel engines with common rail direct injection were used. The output ranged from 60 kW (82 hp) to 115 kW (156 hp). The successor model made its debut in a revised variation in September 2002, equipped with an ESP® Electronic Stability Program, and in November 2003 the one millionth Sprinter rolled off the production line in Düsseldorf.

Global citizen: Mercedes-Benz produced the first Sprinter generation not only in Düsseldorf, but also in Buenos Aires. Furthermore, completely knocked down (ckd) vehicles were produced out of parts kits in Ho Chi Minh City. After the end of production in Düsseldorf in 2006, the T 1 N continued to roll off the production line in Buenos Aires. MCV (Manufacturing Commercial Vehicles), a company originating from a Mercedes-Benz general distributor in Cairo, also built it for several years. And from 2013, the Russian commercial vehicle manufacturer GAZ produced around 25,000 vehicles for the Russian market. The facelifted Sprinter also showed itself to be a global citizen in North America from 2001: there it was offered as the Freightliner Sprinter and Dodge Sprinter.

A project for generations: Twenty-five years ago, in 1995, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter was the first transporter of the brand with a star to officially receive its own name. This designation today stands for an entire vehicle category. Its continuous improved development is what secures this position for the Sprinter. The second generation of Sprinter premiered in Stuttgart at the start of 2006. The 906 model series was internally named the NCV 3 (New Concept Van). The chassis and platform truck versions of the Sprinter were built in Ludwigsfelde. The Sprinter with all-wheel drive was introduced at the IAA Commercial Vehicles in Hanover in September 2006.

Forward-looking concept: The third generation of Sprinter celebrated its debut in 2018. It is available in the 907 model series with rear or all-wheel drive and, for the first time, also with front-wheel drive in the 910 model series. The vehicle was the first transporter model series to embody the adVANce philosophy, introduced by Mercedes-Benz Vans in 2016, as a provider of holistic mobility solutions. The highlights of the new Sprinter include the option of comprehensive digital networking, the ergonomically optimised cab and countless safety innovations. The design follows the Mercedes-Benz design strategy, established in the passenger vehicles area.

Electric flexibility: In December 2019 Mercedes-Benz presented the eSprinter with battery-electric drive. The highly flexible vehicle concept is the brands next milestone on the way to the electrification of commercially used Mercedes-Benz vans. The eSprinter will be offered with a 85 kW (116 hp) output to the front-wheel drive and 47 kWh or 35 kWh utilisable battery capacity. Depending on the configuration there are different payloads, ranges and top speeds. The advice tool eCharging Planner helps fleet operators to switch to locally emission-free e-mobility with Mercedes-Benz Vans.

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  • 08C376_040
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter of the first generation (901 model series, from 1995).
  • 08C376_045
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter of the first generation (901 model series, from 1995).
  • 08C376_051
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, first generation after the 2000 facelift (model series 902 to 905).
  • 08C376_057
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, first generation after the 2000 facelift (model series 902 to 905).
  • A95F1638
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter of the first generation (901 model series, from 1995).
  • A2001F3976
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with fuel cell drive. Photo from practical testing while operated by a delivery service in 2001.
  • D24366
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter of the second generation (206 model series, 2006 to 2013 version). Photo from 2015.
  • D24443
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with fuel cell drive. Photo from practical testing while operated by a delivery service in 2003.
  • D24447
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with plug-in hybrid drive, new generation. Photo from 2008.
  • D103795
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 308 E with a 33 kW (45 hp) three-phase asynchronous motor and lead-gel battery for around 600 charge cycles. The vehicle was presented at the first commercial vehicle show Mondial du Transport Routier in Paris from 15 to 25 September 1995.
  • D432696
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 CDI rescue vehicle, exhibited at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Collection 3: Gallery of helpers.
  • 19C1021_001
    eSprinter Roadshow, 2019
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    eSprinter Roadshow, 2019
  • 19C1021_022
    eSprinter Roadshow, 2019
  • 19C1021_053
    eSprinter Roadshow, 2019
  • 18C0104_02
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter panel van – Exterior, arctic white, Front-wheel drive
  • 18C0106_06
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter pickup – Exterior, arctic white, Rear-wheel drive
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    Plant Düsseldorf - Roof assembly, main line
  • 15C994_033
    Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2 (2006-2013), exterior
  • 15C994_052
    Range (LTR) Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (from 2013); Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2 (2006-2013); Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 1 (1995-2006); Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 1 (1995-2006)
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