There is no doubt that following the re-launch of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter about two years ago, the inimitable bus-cum-van has been in an ‘overtake’ mood; taking over the number one spot on the scale of preference of many bus users, especially inter-city transport operators and goods distributors.

Sprinter’s success story so far could be attributed to a confluence of factors, including the fact that it satisfies the needs of both commercial passenger transport operators and goods distributors. The configuration of the seats to make or easy entry and exit, is one of its major advantages.

Significantly, the vehicle takes the strain off the driver’s daily workload by yielding a load compartment of 17 cubic metres, which accommodates a payload of 2695 kilogrammes {meaning extra space for goods or passengers’ luggage}.

Also counting in the vehicle’s favour is that, whether bus or van variant, it is spacious, refined and offers mobility in an economical and sustainable manner. For instance, being a Mercedes, it is not one of the cheapest in the segment, but it makes up for its price tag with premium quality, typical three-pointed star performance, longevity and unmatched return-on-investment.

One does not have look far to see the proof, especially in the fleets of buses operated by inter-city transporters, including God Is Good Motors, G.U.O. Transport and F. G. Onyenwe. But, as the demand peaked some months ago, availability became a big issue following the recession in the economy, especially the scarcity of forex and high exchange rate of the dollar to the naira.

However, courtesy of Weststar Associates, the authorised general distributor of Mercedes-Benz commercial and passenger vehicles in Nigeria, and its dealer, Jetvan Automobiles Ltd, informationfiltered out recently that Sprinter is available again. The good news engendered some kind of relief in the auto market, especially among intending buyers who have been waiting to reinforce their fleets with some units.

The light commercial vehicle comes in multiple configurations for moving cargo, cabin crew or transporting passengers. The cargo van is fitted with two front seats on an empty cargo bay, while the crew version adds a three-place rear bench seat to the cargo van, raising seating capacity to five.

In addition, the Sprinter can be easily converted to a minibus when seats are installed in the cargo area; thus accommodating up to 12 passengers across its four-row seating. The crew and passenger vans are available in two wheelbases and two roof heights (standard and high), with a third roof height (super high) available on the cargo van.

Powered by a 258HP 6 cylinder petrol engine, the Sprinter possesses a gross vehicle weight of 3.2tonnes and runs on a five-speed automatic transmission for petrol engines or an optional 7G-TRONIC PLUS seven speed transmission for diesel engines. The available BlueEfficiency package helps to reduce fuel consumption to 7 litres per 100 kilometers.

Sprinter’s range of standard equipment include black Tunjafabric seat covers and upholstery, laminated windshield glass, sun visor for driver and passenger, a side shelf, height adjustable head restraints for the driver and co-driver, three-point seat belt for all seats. It offers a wide variety of optional extras covering leather multifunction steering wheel, eco start/stop function, twin co-driver’s bench seats with table function, roof rails, audio 10 / 15 radio with Becker Map Pilot navigation module and a hinged lid for stowage compartment.

Commenting on the qualities of the vehicle, Weststar Associates MD/CEO, Mr. Mirko Plath, remarked: “The Sprinter serves as a major contribution to the development of the Nigerian economy as it caters for transportation and cargo movement while upholding the highest standards of safety and quality. Likewise, we remain dedicated to offering exemplary maintenance deals through our strong after-sales network to keep your sprinter running at all times.”,

Plath disclosed that the Sprinter is equipped with the same features found in Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, like Electronic Stability Program, Brake Assist System, Hill start assist, crosswind assist and airbags for the driver and co-driver seats. Available safety options include collision prevention Assist, blind spot keeping assist, reversing camera, lane keeping assist and Bi-xenon headlamps with daytime running headlamps for improved illumination.