Test Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

“If it helps,” I told my teammates, “I’ll be picking you up and driving you around all week in a Mercedes.” I knew it would help smooth things over; I knew it would make them more interested in helping me out. Nobody really enjoys helping their friend move house. It’s hard work, it takes a whole day, it’s stressful. The “Mercedes” bait helped convince a few of my mates to step up and help.

The Sprinter swallowed my daughter’s slide bed with consummate ease. It ate up the 30 rented moving crates like I would eat up 30 tubs of sour keys.

“You’re a bastard.”

Shaq is unimpressed. He’s just realized that the Mercedes he was looking forward to taking selfies in is actually a 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. The big one. With the high roof and the extended body. In white.

I’ve been cheeky, and I know it, but it’s too late now. I try to win him over with the ultra-comfortable yet utilitarian seats. I try to explain to him that this is a $52,900 car – surely that’s worth something.

I’m exaggerating a little. While Shaq did call me a bastard, he, Pete and John are all happy to get involved and help out. I’m lucky. Really lucky. Our mission is to move the contents of my downtown Toronto condo into a new townhouse. There will be steps. Lots of steps.

I’m hoping we can do it in two trips. I’m funny like that.

The Sprinter is about the best I can get for the role: it’s a 3500 High Roof Long (170") Wheelbase Extended Body edition.

That means 197.6 cm interior height, 183.9 cm door opening height, 452.6 cm of cargo bed length and 12,100 L (428.7 cu. ft.) of volume. Given that the apartment I’m moving out of is only 800 sq. ft., it seems pretty reasonable for me to expect two trips to do the job, right?

And I was right. The Sprinter swallowed my daughter’s slide bed with consummate ease. It ate up the 30 rented moving crates like I would eat up 30 tubs of sour keys. It took the fridge, and then it spat the fridge out because the fridge was staying, not going (whoops). It took our cupboards, it took every piece of properly bulky furniture in one shot. Boom. Well, almost all.

I was 8 mm shy of fitting in our largest piece of furniture – an Ikea Expedit bookcase (the big one, 5x5 squares). At first I thought the Super High Roof model would have solved my issues, what with its whopping 221.7 cm interior height and all, but it turns out the door opening height is unchanged with the higher roof, so I’d still be stuck dismantling and rebuilding the Expedit. Then again, I had a narrow stairwell to contend with at the new place, so basically, that Expedit was always going to be dismantled and rebuilt. Does it sound like I’m bitter about that? I am. Never buy a 5x5 Expedit. Ever. [It’s been replaced with the Kallax... – Ed.]

The step behind the rear door makes it easy to load the van despite the relatively high floor and the many, many ratchet-strap latch points made it easy to secure our load. The sliding door on the side is a benefit for filling up the van and unloading it, and the clamshell doors stay in place firmly once opened.

Despite the extended overhang and the step, maneuvering the Sprinter around town is surprisingly easy. It takes some care and attention but the wide mirrors go a long way to helping me monitor the back end. The most danger comes from the overhang – over a metre long – at the rear, which I’m worried will swing into a tree, another car or one of our new neighbours while I’m jostling about. With the lower part of the mirrors set appropriately I’m able to keep the rear in check.

My other concern is the suspension. While full, the Sprinter is no hauling anywhere near its 1,735 kg (3,827 lb) payload limit and I’m worried as we set off that the ride will be unduly rattle-y and cause damage to my possessions. Also, I made Shaq and Pete sit in the back for the short, three-block drive. I kid, of course, that’s not legal and I would never do that. If I did, they’d have been okay though, because there’s a light back there.

Point is, the suspension did a good job of absorbing all the bumps and dips of our construction-ravaged road without upsetting my precariously balanced load. This made me happy.

The little 2.1L four cylinder turbo diesel with its 161 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque is adequate for the job, if not overwhelming. The 7G-tronic gearbox is appreciably smooth, which is important when making sure our dining table doesn’t collapse en route, but if I’m honest, I wanted and needed more from the engine. The noise and the drama when I tried to accelerate at a reasonable, road-rage-avoiding rate generated more stress than I was really capable of absorbing on moving day. There’s a good argument for the 3.0L diesel with 188 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque – even if you get two fewer gears.

The interior was reasonably comfortable and comes with plenty of storage for all your knick-knacks and paddywhacks. There is space for a few pizza boxes in the passenger footwell, a beer carton between the seats and your wife’s floorplan instructions in the overhead bins.

Ultimately, this is a thoroughly utilitarian unit that’s well thought-out and offers a sense of driving ease one might not expect from a massive moving van.

It’s rare in our industry we get to thoroughly test the capabilities of something this specialized, this purposeful and this big – doing so was a rare privilege. Suffice to say, the Sprinter passed this test with flying colours, helping me move my entire house almost flawlessly.

Now, does anyone know what glue to use on an antique lampshade?

2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 High Roof LWB Extended
Engine Displacement: 2.1L
Engine Cylinders: 4
Peak Horsepower: 161 hp
Peak Torque: 265 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: N/A
Cargo Space: 12,100 L
articles_PricingType 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 High Roof LWB Extended
Base Price $52,900
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $995
Price as Tested $53,995
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.4
7 Styling
6 Powertrain
8 Quality
7 Comfort
10 Practicality
7 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
6 Features
8 Value