The latest Mercedes Sprinter base vehicle is on its way to a forecourt near you - and it seems to be something special. Nick Harding gets behind the wheel.

Never mind the exterior of Mercedes' latest Sprinter, just take a look inside the cab. No handbrake. No gear lever. Not as we know them, anyway. Instead, there's a switch on the lower right of the dashboard to operate the handbrake electronically.

In addition, there's a stalk on the right of the steering column that acts as the gear lever for the Sprinter's new nine-speed automatic transmission.

Manual transmission is standard, but it's hard to see many wanting that with such a slick, easy automatic option available. It will be interesting to see which converters choose to stick to the standard option once they get their hands on the new Sprinter.

There's an intriguing location for the key - low down on the centre console. This makes it impossible for anyone to lean in and swipe it away, a well-thought-out security feature. But it's the dashboard that will endear itself to motorhome buyers. 

Gone is the all-plastic affair of times past, replaced by a more space-age appearance, centring on a touchscreen (7in standard, 10in optional) with seemingly limitless connectivity.  

Ultimately, Mercedes Pro Connect will encompass some 18 services. There are eight initially, including an efficient driving style analysis and improved navigation. 

Added to this, the introduction of MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) means you can speak to your vehicle. It does rely on getting to know your voice in order to recognise your commands - on our test drive, a request to turn up the heating switched the radio to Heat FM!

All engines are common-rail diesel using AdBlue, but there will also be an electric-powered eSprinter. 

Mercedes confirms that the Tractor Head (back-to-back, cab-only, no chassis extension) version designed for A-class manufacture is currently supplied exclusively to Erwin Hymer Germany, an arrangement that ends early next year. It says any converter can now order one for prototype purposes for September delivery, but can't sell it until the Hymer arrangement ends. 

I drove the van and, speed-sensitive steering apart, it's a quiet, refined, powerful proposition, with improved handling. It's comfortable, too, thanks to firm, supportive seats. 

Meeting Mercedes

Steve Anderson, Special Products Manager at Mercedes answered some of our burning questions about where we're likely to see this new Sprinter in the UK market.

Which UK motorhome converters is Mercedes working with, regarding the Sprinter?

We are currently working with our existing partners on a van conversion with Lunar Caravans, and a chassis-cab conversion with Auto-Sleepers. We are also enjoying considerable success with smaller converters, such as SC Sporthomes, catering for the motorsport fraternity. Both Lunar and Auto-Sleepers will be exhibiting the new Sprinter at the NEC Show in October.

Which European mainland motorhome converters is Mercedes working with, regarding the Sprinter? 

The principal partner is Erwin Hymer Group, and we are working with Frankia and various A-class manufacturers. 

For the UK, is there any system of 'approved' motorhome converters? 

We will be rolling out our Van Partner programme to selected converters after auditing their quality systems and build processes, but they will not be 'approved'.

Will you be producing your own motorhome conversion of the Sprinter, to be sold exclusively through your own dealers, à la Marco Polo? 

There are no plans to do so at this stage. 

Most recent motorhome reviews