Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 519 EVM X-Clusive

The first Mercedes-Benz Sprinters at Euro 6 have recently arrived in the UK, and two of them carry bodywork by EVM. One of these is a range-topper with a 191bhp V6 engine and high-spec interior. How does it fare on a routeone road test? .
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Euro 6 is here if you’re in the market for a Sprinter-based minicoach, and in the sub-20 seat category the Mercedes chassis is by some margin the most popular option. Its solid residuals and three-pointed star’s prestige make sure of that.

But it’s also reliable – a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty comes as standard, extendable to five years – and can be specified to suit a wide variety of work, from short-distance school transport to top-end VIP movements.

EVM’s UK dealership at Horsham has recently delivered two Euro 6 Sprinter-based minicoaches, one of which is a more basic version and the other a high-end, well-specified cruiser for Grange Travel of Kent. EVM Direct Sales and Marketing Manager Peter Flynn kindly made the higher-specification model available to test drive.

EVM covers full range of the minicoach market
EVM covers full range of the minicoach market

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[tab title=”Build”]
The Sprinter under the microscope is a top-of-the-range vehicle. Underneath the bonnet sits a three-litre V6 developing 190bhp and 440Nm of torque, which is handled by a 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox. Mercedes’ Blue Efficiency package squeezes the most out of every drop of diesel.

Blue Efficiency ensures best fuel consumption
Blue Efficiency ensures best fuel consumption
Front engine gives good access
Front engine gives good access

EVM’s well-specified X-Clusive body benefits from a sleeker front bumper arrangement compared to factory Sprinters and includes daytime running lights. Its Chrome Pack is added to further enhance the X-Clusive’s appearance, including polished wheel trims and mirror backs.

Unmistakeably Mercedes despite additions
Unmistakeably Mercedes despite additions

Its luggage capacity is good for a minicoach. The rear boot extends from within a foot or so of ground level all the way up to roof height, and has a heavy-duty shelf in the middle which folds away when not needed. Added to this is good internal storage thanks to the layout of the test vehicle, so conveying all its 13 passengers’ luggage should pose no problem.

The boot’s maximum permitted load is 300kg and it is accessed via a large, one piece door which is hinged at the top.

Large boot gives ample storage
Large boot gives ample storage

One of the most impressive aspects of the X-Clusive body is its roof. Two large double-glazed glass sections – bigger than those used on earlier models – admit exceptional natural light and allow excellent views. A pair of manually-sliding blinds are fitted. Side windows are large, and heavily tinted.

Glass roof admits lots of natural light
Glass roof admits lots of natural light

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[tab title=”Passenger Access”]
EVM fits an electrically-operated plug door to the X-Clusive, behind which are three entry steps. The steepest – climbing from the floor – is 260mm with the other two at 200mm and 180mm respectively. The door is wide enough, but one of the two on-board fridges is immediately to the left when boarding, slightly narrowing the entrance. At 640mm, it is no real problem.

Twin handrails are present in the entrance. Passing the driver’s area is easy, with a guard in place to prevent passengers accidentally grasping the ratchet handbrake lever as a handhold. All internal steps and the gangway are lit by blue LEDs; the flooring is wood effect.

The front six seats are at floor level, with a further step necessary to reach the rear seven. All are at full-size tables with the exception of the back row position which faces the gangway. The 2+1 layout allows a reasonably wide aisle, at 344mm.

One benefit of having back-to-back seats around tables is that extensive luggage storage is available between them. That’s complemented by overhead racks, which are carpeted internally.
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[tab title=”Passenger Comfort”]
The Sprinter is first and foremost a van, but the uninformed riding on this vehicle would be blissfully unaware of its alternative cargo-hauling application.

Van-derived, front-engined vehicles of old often delivered a choppy ride when lightly loaded thanks to a lack of imposed weight on the rear axle. It would be wrong to say the Sprinter soaks up bumps with the competence of a heavyweight coach, but for what it is, its ride quality is more than acceptable.

The X-Clusive body also keeps external noise to a minimum, and even at full speed it is possible to speak to the driver in a normal tone.

EVM’s Executive seats are finished in two-colour leather and rival those fitted to any high-end full-size coach for comfort.

Interior finish is of the highest quality
Interior finish is of the highest quality

They have three-point belts and full recline, which thanks to their layout does not impinge on the space of others. 240v sockets are present.

Tables are sturdy and have non-slip coverings for the most part, with a small lip to prevent items rolling off when cornering. Drink holders large enough for a can are standard.

Perimeter convection radiators are fitted, which work off the engine’s coolant. They are complemented by an Eberspcher heating and air-conditioning unit; an in-dash air-conditioner is also present.

A top-of-the-range passenger entertainment system, Parrot’s Asteroid Smart, is provided. It functions as a tablet computer and its touch screen can feed movies to the X-Clusive’s two flat screen monitors. The front one drops down and projects rearwards, and the other is fixed and can be viewed by passengers in backward-facing seats.

The Asteroid Smart can also play music via a Bluetooth connection from a mobile phone, and has a slot for an SD memory card via which movies can be shown. Music may also be controlled by voice command, and the unit can also play internet radio channels.

Wi-Fi is provided by an Icomera unit.
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[tab title=”Driver Comfort”]
The Sprinter’s driver is looked after, and on a moderately cold day hot air was blowing through the dash vents almost before we’d left EVM’s premises.

The seat is fixed, rather than air suspended. It is comfortable, and offers good adjustment rearwards. Thanks to the handbrake lever and gear selector’s location, access is best from the offside door.

Cab is well laid out
Cab is well laid out

Two front sections of the overhead luggage racks are partitioned and fitted with locking doors for the driver to store his or her valuables.

Visibility from the cab is excellent, particularly to the nearside. The X-Clusive’s large windows and compact nature means that it is not a stretch for the driver to observe goings-on there over his or her shoulder if necessary, although the mirrors do give a good view to both sides.

Stalks control functions such as wash/wipe, indicators and headlight flash. Present on the left is a third, multi-purpose switch for variable cruise control and speed limiter functions.

The signalling window is powered, and a two-piece manually-operated sunblind is fitted. They retract with some force when no longer required.

When the Sprinter is laying over the driver can occupy him or herself by using the multi-functional Parrot Asteroid Smart unit. This includes full internet browser capability, and as with the tablet computers on which it is based, apps can be downloaded. It also has an in-built sat-nav.

A multi-function dash computer allows the driver to check fluid levels without needing to open the bonnet, and advises him should any need topping up during the journey.
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[tab title=”Performance”]
With 190bhp on tap it should be no surprise that performance is sparkling. That’s helped by the 7G-Tronic gearbox, which is exceptionally slick-shifting even when starting from cold.

The V6 has a purposeful growl, particularly when its speed passes 2,000rpm.

Normal driving sees the gearbox keep revs below 2,500rpm, but if the accelerator is fully depressed it is not frightened to let the engine spin round the red line, which is just shy of 4,000rpm.

Such a driving style sees the Sprinter positively hurtle along, and its acceleration when pushed hard is sure to upset passengers, to say nothing of fuel consumption.

Attempting to mitigate heavy-footed drivers’ tendencies is the Blue Efficiency package. Centrepiece of this is stop/start technology, cutting the engine when the vehicle is held stationary on the footbrake.

This is rather uncanny at first, as the engine stops as soon as the vehicle reaches a halt, with no delay. The system is clever, though, and as soon as it senses the brake pedal being released will restart the engine instantly.

There is no lag time at all, and it works well even when pausing briefly at a roundabout before finding a gap.

It is necessary for the brake pedal to be depressed for stop/start to work. If the handbrake is applied and the footbrake released, the engine restarts, but for operators whose duty cycles include much running in congested areas, the fuel savings will be significant.

Efficiency gains also come thanks to the gearbox. Cruising at 62.5mph sees the engine spinning at 2,100rpm, which Peter Flynn explains is around a 600rpm reduction over an earlier automatic and translates to a 3-4mpg saving. Realistically, he adds, 26-27mpg is an achievable overall figure, depending on journey type.

Fuel returns are also helped by the variable cruise control and speed limiter, which will be familiar to drivers of Mercedes-Benz cars. It is easy to use. When applied and the Sprinter begins to overrun downhill, the gearbox drops one or two cogs as necessary to bring speed down to the set figure.

Besides driving the V6-equipped Sprinter, Peter also made available a Euro 6 example with the much more common 160bhp, 2.2-litre engine. Fitted with the same 7G-Tronic gearbox, it offers a good comparison of power outputs.

Results are as would be expected. The smaller unit is easily capable of moving the Sprinter along rapidly, with the V6’s 80Nm torque superiority only really noticeable at high engine speeds.

In a sensible world, the 160bhp unit would be a default choice for every buyer, even were both vehicles not limited to 62.5mph. But at the top end of the market, a V6 might tick the right boxes, and if working regularly in particularly hilly terrain may be more suitable. Presence of a V6 is also unlikely to harm the Sprinter’s already sound residuals.
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[tab title=”Verdict & Specs”]
The Sprinter is a jack-of-all-trades vehicle, but it’s also a highly-competent vehicle whatever the application, which is reflected in its market share of the minicoach sector. Coupling it to EVM’s X-Clusive body produces an impressive top-end product, which would be quite at home on VIP transport duties.

Rear aspect is a sleek as the front's
Rear aspect is a sleek as the front’s

The principal differences between it and a full-size coach other than size are a lower floor and one less seat per row.

Apart from that, interior fit and finish is comparable to any of its larger brothers, and the glass roof is an attention-grabbing addition which is sure to be noticed. It is, in short, a fine minicoach.

The V6 engine is perhaps unnecessary for the job at hand, and its 160bhp cousin is more than powerful enough.

But this is a prestige product, and the V6 goes quite naturally with such a vehicle. An operator in the market for such a minicoach is unlikely to be disappointed with one of these.

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