Mercedes-Benz minibuses: new generation based on the new Sprinter, top-of-the-range model Sprinter City 75 with unrivalled technology
- Advantage Sprinter: full connectivity and common-part strategy
- Sprinter City 75: new top-of-the-range model with unrivalled technology
- Sprinter Transfer: all-rounder among minibuses
- Sprinter Mobility: specialist for passengers with reduced mobility
- Double anniversary: 20 years and 25,000 minibuses
The new Mercedes‑Benz Sprinter forms the basis for a totally new generation of the successful minibuses bearing the three-pointed star. As before, they comprise the model series Sprinter City, Sprinter Transfer, Sprinter Mobility and Sprinter Travel. The names stand unchanged for operations in line service, as a versatile shuttle bus, for transport of passengers with limited mobility, and for tourist transport. As a result, the Sprinter as a minibus again covers all conceivable types of operations. However, Mercedes‑Benz Minibus GmbH has restructured the product range in detail and has extensively revised or completely redesigned the individual models. The Sprinter City 75 with exclusive technology plays a prominent role in this regard. All models of the new generation are based on the Sprinter with rear-wheel drive or optionally all-wheel drive.
New names, staggered start-up
The model names of the minibuses change with the new generation: As before, the first digit is based on the length variant of the base vehicle, but the second digit now indicates its weight category.
The model start-up is staggered and adapts to the availability of the Sprinter: It starts in 2018 with the Sprinter Transfer 23 and 35, the Sprinter Mobility 23 as well as the entirely newly developed Sprinter City 75. The rest of the models of these series will follow in 2019, as will all models of the Sprinter Travel. After the model changeover is complete, the product range will comprise more than 20 left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive models in autumn of 2019.
Advantage Sprinter: full connectivity and common-part strategy
The minibuses benefit from the advantages of the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. That starts with the flowing lines of the design, comprises the updated components of engine and chassis, and ultimately culminates in the completely new cockpit. In addition to its ergonomics, it is compelling with its high variability, including a host of stowage facilities and charging options for electronic devices. The broad spectrum ranges from the functional standard equipment and the leather multifunction steering wheel with a host of functions to a colour display between the two clearly arranged instruments, as well as a high-resolution display in the area of the centre console, with a choice of 7.0 or 10.25-inch screens including the Mercedes‑Benz User Experience MBUX multimedia system. In addition, there are numerous assistance systems from the standard-fit Crosswind Assist to Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Brake Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist.
In daily practice, it is the many new details of the operation that are compelling. This includes, for example, keyless starting as standard, the optional electric parking brake for models with a gross vehicle weight rating of up to 4.1 t or on the models with hinged rear doors the omission of the conventional put-up hinges. They can now be opened up to 270 degrees in one step. The Sprinter is equipped as standard with a sliding door offering a large clear opening width of 1300 mm. It is optionally restricted to 780 mm by a door stop. Both door variants are optionally available electrically operated.
Like the Sprinter, the minibuses are fully networked. They come with the connectivity module of the Sprinter for fleet management as standard. However, optionally they can also be integrated into the Omniplus On fleet management system. The Sprinter base vehicle is also networked with the mounted body and the fitout: a new central electrical system ensures the connection. It is located on the right side in the lower section of the dashboard. An additional standardised panel stands out above the centre console of the minibuses. It clusters the bus-specific controls with up to 14 switches and 12 annunciator lights in a clearly arranged layout.
The minibuses benefit not least from a common-part strategy shared with Mercedes‑Benz Vans: Be it air suspension (exception: Sprinter City 75) or climate control system for the passenger compartment with 7 kW or 11 kW output – these and other components are identical on minibuses and platform vehicles.
Sprinter City 75: new top-of-the-range model with unrivalled technology
The new Mercedes‑Benz Sprinter City 75 is the marquee of the minibuses from Mercedes‑Benz for line service. The line-service bus with a length of 8.5 metres transports up to 38 passengers and thereby forms the bridge between the minibuses and the Mercedes‑ Benz Citaro. Like its predecessor, the Sprinter City 75 has an independent skeleton body and transfers the elegant lines of the new Sprinter to the world of the minibuses. The minibus adopts the Sprinter's body width of just 2020 mm and consequently also moves nimbly through narrow alleys in historic city centres or densely built-up suburbs. Its bodywork conceals unrivalled technology. At the heart is an exclusive high-load rear axle in place of the previous dual axle.
Distinct styling, sidewalls with asymmetrical design
A typical feature of the Sprinter is the combination of a clearly defined face with precisely drawn headlamps and soft and flowing shapes. The body of the Sprinter City 75 skilfully takes up these fundamental design traits. Similar to the predecessor generation, the panoramic windscreen rises up very high and integrates the destination display.
The two sidewalls have an asymmetrical design. The driver's side uses the original driver's door. Its rising window railing is connected to the large glazing of the passenger compartment by a dark bar. As a result, the driver cab and the body fuse into a single unit. The glazing of the body has a distinctive arrow shape at the front, while the sill line gently curves upward aft of the rear axle. It is different on the entrance side: The rising window railing aft of the A‑pillar drops down to the low beltline.
At the rear, the Sprinter City 75 terminates in a distinct bus rear end. The rear window with its downward curvature carries the three-pointed star. Its basic shape is modelled after the design of the new Sprinter - however, the tail lamps come from the components shelf of the Mercedes‑Benz full-size buses and underscore the family affiliation.
The outer skin of the Sprinter City 75 is made of glass fibre reinforced plastic (GFRP) and is of high quality with regard to its precise fit and smooth surfaces. Customers can also order the panoramic side windows double-glazed. The distinct design of the largest minibus is copyrighted.
Passenger compartment: low entrance, flexible low-floor platform
Passengers enter the bright and airy passenger compartment of the Sprinter City 75 through a double-wing electrically operated out-swinging door aft of the front axle. Like the single-wing rear door, it is powered by the 12 volt technology of the Sprinter, which eliminates the need for a complex 24 volt converter. Because the step height in driving position is just 270 mm, the minibus does not need a complex kneeling function. A standard-fit folding ramp facilitates access for passengers with limited mobility.
Spacious low-floor zone with variable use
The passenger compartment has a low-entry design and is trimmed in a friendly yet functional grey. The spacious low-floor zone has a highly variable design. It offers room for up to five folding seats on the driver's side and two more on the door side, alternatively for a wheelchair and/or pram. If the seats are not in use, the minibus offers standing room for up to 26 passengers. The folding seats can be registered as full-fledged seats. As an alternative to them or also in combination with them, fitting a quick-change seating system with up to three double seats on the driver's side is also possible.
The first individual seat in the rear offers barrier-free access. A low step in front of the rear axle leads to the raised seating area in the back, whose floor rises slightly towards the rear. Another eleven seats are arranged here, across from the single-wing rear entrance in a face-to-face seating similar to the arrangement in the rear of a Citaro. The City Star Sprinter seats are available in different versions from plastic seat shells to fully cushioned seats. They are 400 mm wide. Seat fabrics and flooring comes from the Mercedes‑Benz collection for city buses.
A hallmark feature of the Sprinter City 75 is its extensive and well-thought-out equipment. For example, the bus ceiling with its air ducts on both sides integrates LED lights. It is controlled separately for the low-floor and the raised platform area.
The developers paid great attention to effective heating and climate control. Drivers benefit from the semi-automatic Tempmatic climate control system (optionally Thermotronic with fully automatic control) and an electric hot-air auxiliary heater. The temperature in the passenger compartment is regulated by a roof-mounted climate control system with an output of 11 kW. In addition, by a heat exchanger with blowers in the entrance area and rear end, as well as by a convection heating system. The heating and blower output was increased even further compared with the predecessor model. In addition, there is a hot-water auxiliary heater with pre-heating function. Standard-fit roof fans as well as optional top-hinged windows help ventilating and venting the interior.
Cockpit with great variety of variants and bus-specific equipment
The driver's workplace in the Sprinter City 75 benefits from the redesigned and state-of-the-art cockpit of the platform vehicle and is – unique in this vehicle category – available in a wide variety of variants. An additional panel stands out above the centre console. It clusters the bus-specific controls with up to 14 switches and 12 annunciator lights in a clearly arranged layout. Another panel to the left of the steering wheel houses the controls for heating and air conditioning. A new feature is an electrically operated roller sun shade for the panoramic windscreen.
To the right of the driver's workplace is space for the ticket-counter unit. The basic variant comes from the predecessor model. The new design version tidily integrates the fire extinguisher and offers two DIN slots for additional devices. On the inside are several consoles intended to accommodate electronic and electrical devices.
Discrete integral skeleton, exclusive minibus rear axle with high load-bearing capacity
Like the design, the technical concept of the Sprinter City 75 is completely new. Its basis is the chassis of the Mercedes‑Benz Sprinter, however, only to the B‑pillar. Aft of the B-pillar is a discreet self-supporting integral minibus skeleton as on the predecessor models. It comprises a minibus chassis and a specific skeleton body in an integral structure. The new city bus is characterised by a wheelbase of 5095 mm. It thus surpasses the longest wheelbase of the new Mercedes‑Benz Sprinter by 770 mm, prerequisite for a low-floor compartment almost 5.0 m² in size. The gross vehicle weight rating of the two-axle vehicle is 6.8 t and offers large reserves.
The basis of the high gross vehicle weight rating is a high-load rear axle developed and manufactured exclusively for the Mercedes‑B enz minibuses. The dual-tyre component has an axle-load rating of 5.0 t. Another prerequisite for the tremendous load-bearing capacity are 17.5‑inch wheels with tyres of size 215/75 R 17.5. At the front, the City 75 runs on the production axle of the Sprinter with tyres of size 205/75 R 16 C.
The rear axle of the largest city minibus is air-sprung. The new suspension is adapted to the high weight with accordingly sized bellows and a powerful compressor. Nonetheless, it weighs about 40 kg less than on the predecessor model. The compressor of the suspension is part of the Air Suspension Package and operates highly efficiently.
A likewise newly developed minibus frequent-stop brake optionally does its duty right in front of the rear axle. The braking takes place via the propeller shaft and is automatically activated or deactivated when opening and closing the doors. The standard equipment includes a Telma retarder with a braking power of 350 Nm as a wear-free auxiliary brake. It is upstream of the foot pedal and features continuously variable operation.
The new Sprinter City 75 captivates with a host of assistance systems that further elevate the level of safety. Examples are the standard-fit Electronic Stability Program ESP or Crosswind Assist. Optional systems such as Active Brake Assist or Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC support the driver.
The new Sprinter City 75 is the top-of-the-range model of its model series. Initially, it will be assisted by the current Sprinter City 45, which will also premiere based on the new Sprinter in spring 2019. With the changeover to the new generation, the Sprinter City 45 minibus with a length of 7.4 metres meets the requirements for registration as a Class 1 line-service bus thanks to a modified seating arrangement. With a gross vehicle weight rating of maximum 5.5 t, this results in room to accommodate up to 30 passengers, 17 of them on seats. Thanks to a low entrance height of just 270 mm at the double-wing door, the Sprinter City 45 also can do without a kneeling device. It is likewise equipped with a cab climate control system, a hot-air auxiliary heater and a folding ramp as standard.
Sprinter Transfer: all-rounder among minibuses
The Sprinter Transfer comes to the starting line with a complete line-up. Its four models range from the Sprinter Transfer 23 with a length of 5.9 metres and the Sprinter Transfer 35 (7.0 m) to the Sprinter Transfer 45 (7.4 m) and the Sprinter Transfer 55 with a length of 7.7 metres and a perfectly adapted rear-end extension and discreet bus rear end. As a result, the Sprinter Transfer covers a spectrum from 3.55 t to 5.5 t gross vehicle weight and offers room for 12 to 22 passengers. In addition to the passenger entrance through the sliding door, three door variants level with the co-driver's door are available to choose from, always in conjunction with a deepened and widened entrance. This enhances the convenience when getting in and eliminates the need for the otherwise customary electrically retractable step at the entrance.
The Sprinter Transfer's variety of equipment matches its wide range of operations, which range from school bus transport and overland tours to use as a shuttle and transporting a wheelchair user. An example of the versatility is the interior ceiling: Depending on the model, it is available as a genuine part from the Mercedes‑Benz Sprinter, as a genuine interior ceiling with luggage racks and as a sophisticated touring coach ceiling.
The focus at the start of the model changeover is on the Sprinter Transfer 35. The minibus with a length of 6.97 metres is based on the original body of the Sprinter with high roof and has a passenger capacity of 15+1 as standard. Optionally, 18+1 and even 19+1 passengers are possible. The gross vehicle weight rating is 5.0 t to 5.5 t. The wear-free electromagnetic Telma auxiliary brake is available as an option (mandatory for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 5.0 t). It is activated with the brake pedal and delivers a maximum braking torque of 350 Nm.
The side glazing is optionally available in discrete black glass. A new feature are optional sliding windows for the rear side windows on the left and right. The passengers step on the minibus through a sliding door at the side with an electrically operated step. A co-driver's door with deepened entrance as well as an out-swinging door in its place are in preparation as options.
The Sprinter Transfer adopts the overland seats introduced just last year, as standard in a high-strength version. The seats are firmly bolted to a floor track and the sidewall. Sidewalls, window posts and inside door panels are trimmed with black plastic.
There also is the especially compact Sprinter Transfer 23 with room for 13+1 passengers. The minibus is just 5.9 metres long and only available as a right-hand-drive vehicle. The Sprinter Transfer 45 and Sprinter Transfer 55 models will follow over the course of 2019.
Sprinter Mobility: specialist for passengers with reduced mobility
The Sprinter Mobility model series focuses on two models. The compact Sprinter Mobility 23 with a length of just 5.9 metres and a gross vehicle weight rating of just 3.5 t. It can be driven with a Class C driving licence and has room for up to eight passengers, a maximum of four wheelchair bays or a mix thereof.
The passenger compartment is accessed over a step at the sliding door or a ramp at the rear end. The basis of the passenger compartment is an aluminium floor system with six integrated airline tracks for the fast and unproblematic anchorage of wheelchairs. For this reason, the arrangement of the seats can be freely selected.
All Sprinter Mobility models are equipped with the original interior ceiling of the Sprinter as standard. Sidewalls, window posts and door panels are likewise trimmed with black plastic. The passenger seats are anchored with a quick-change system, giving the Sprinter Mobility the appropriate operational flexibility. The seats are fitted with armrests and the seatbacks are optionally adjustable. The passenger seats feature an integrated two-point or three-point seat belt. A height-adjustable three-point belt is part of the standard equipment of the wheelchair bays. An on-board stowage compartment accommodates belts and retractors for wheelchairs.
The larger Sprinter Mobility 45 with a gross vehicle weight rating of 5.0 t and room for up to 19 passengers or six wheelchair bays deserves special attention. It stretches over a length of 7.4 metres. The large number of wheelchair bays is the result of the raised floor based on an aluminium honeycomb structure. The associated covering of the wheel housings creates a level surface in the passenger compartment and thereby offers perfect use of the space – now two wheelchairs can park side by side in the area of the rear axle as well. Eight airline tracks are embedded into the floor for flexible anchoring of different wheelchairs. Another special feature of the Sprinter Mobility 45: it is optionally fitted with the touring coach ceiling.
The Sprinter Mobility uses a new lightweight linear wheelchair lift. With a load-bearing capacity of 350 kg, it weighs just 100 kg. Part of the standard specification of the Mobility 23 is a two-piece rear ramp with a length of 2.4 metres and a weight of 30 kg.
Intensive acid tests in heat and cold
The introduction of a new generation of minibuses was preceded by extensive development and testing. In the process, the minibus division benefited from close cooperation with Mercedes‑Benz Vans and EvoBus, and not only with regard to identical suppliers. All bodies, conversions and fitouts are approved by the factory and the vehicles are also backed by the full factory warranty.
The new minibuses completed intensive acid tests on the test tracks at the truck plant in Wörth as well as in Papenburg. In addition, the minibuses were tested thoroughly based on bus criteria in the cold of Lapland as well as in the searing heat of summer in southern Spain.
Double anniversary: 20 years and 25,000 minibuses
The premiere of the new minibus generation coincides with a double anniversary: Since 1998, minibuses have been part of the Mercedes-Benz Buses product range within EvoBus. The 25,000th minibus was delivered just recently. Twenty years ago, EvoBus began its activities in this segment with a 49-percent share in the minibus manufacturer Karl Koch GmbH in Mudersbach near Siegen. The medium-size company had already produced minibuses and midibuses bearing the three-pointed star exclusively before. EvoBus took over the business and industrial management as part of this participation. In 2004, EvoBus acquired the remaining Karl Koch shares and founded Mercedes-Benz Minibus GmbH with headquarters in Dortmund.
In the meantime, the minibus production had been gradually built up at the Dortmund plant since early 2000. Initially distributed to four locations in Germany and France, EvoBus started to concentrate the minibus production at the Dortmund plant in 2008.
In subsequent years, the constantly growing demand required a massive expansion of the production space to the present level of around 12,000 m². Minibus GmbH with some 260 employees produces between 1200 and 1600 vehicles a year on three body-shell lines and four assembly lines. This makes Mercedes-Benz the European market leader for minibuses over 3.5 t gross vehicle weight rating.
The minibuses are now sold to more than 30 countries, the largest market continuing to be western Europe. Customers in Australia, South-East Asia and the Middle East are however also part of the regular customer base for Dortmund.
Apart from individual product advantages, the recipe for success of Minibus GmbH includes the industrial production in Dortmund and the benefits of the close links to Development and Production of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter as the platform vehicle. All processes of the industrial manufacture on production lines meet the same high quality standards as Mercedes‑Benz Vans. They are subject to stringent quality controls. A thorough final inspection provides quality assurance that is independent of the production process. Every minibus also goes on an extensive test drive. A leak test is also mandatory if modifications have been made to the roof.
EvoBus supports the minibus customers and their buses after the purchase equally intensively as it does for the full-size buses. A comprehensive documentation ensures the availability of spare parts. The minibuses are also included in the unique, bus-specific service network of Omniplus. Used minibuses of proven quality are sold on a Europe-wide basis by the BusStore used bus and coach brand.
From sales, production, service and later recycling – the advantages of single-sourced minibuses bearing the three-pointed star are obvious. Bus operators see it the same way: The 25,000th minibus left the Dortmund plant in the middle of this year.