The new eSprinter from Mercedes-Benz is a big thing. A very, very big thing. Twenty-two and a half feet long, to be exact, but I didn't truly appreciate how big it was until I threw open the double rear doors, stepped inside, and stood up straight without issue. Immediately, my mind was filled with bad ideas about converting one into the ultimate emissions-free RV, which could do double-duty as a pinball machine delivery vehicle.
Big vans like this are all about possibility, and while the intent here is clearly to provide an emissions-free option for businesses of all sizes, I was left with one thought: I think I'd almost rather have this than a Ford F-150 Lightning.
But how well does that hold up on closer examination? Let's find out.
|2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter: Quick Stats
|134 or 201 Horsepower / 295 LB-FT of Torque
|113 Kilowatt-Hours LFP
|273 Miles (WLTP) / 200 Miles (Unofficial est. EPA)
|488 Cubic Feet
|$71,886 + $2,295 Destination
An Electric Van That Can
Let's dig into the numbers first, because capability is the most important thing for a business-oriented machine like this. That starts with cargo capacity. The eSprinter carries a whopping 488 cubic feet of cargo space. That's a lot of room, whether you're hauling dirtbikes or bags of literal dirt.
Whatever your cargo, you can carry up to 2,624 pounds worth, secured via the plethora of tie-downs scattered on the floor. That bay is also generously illuminated, with composite panels on the walls, floor, and ceiling to protect the van and your stuff.
The 113 kWh LFP battery pack is situated down in the van's floor, ahead of a de Dion-style non-independent rear axle that houses one of two electric motors offering either 134 or 201 horsepower and a maximum of 295 pound-feet of torque. Yes, that's right, it's rear-wheel-drive, but even with the higher-power motor, you shouldn't expect much in the way of acceleration.
Though the performance is mild, the starting price seems reasonable: $71,886 for a base eSprinter or $75,316 for the higher-power model. Both are built in the U.S. at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Charleston, South Carolina, and both undercut Rivian's electric cargo van by about $10,000.
The eSprinter seats two in a pair of comfortable captain's chairs that you must climb way up high to get into. Those seats are heated, and if the blank next to that button is any indication, cooled seats might become available. The sporty Mercedes-Benz steering wheel is likewise heated and loaded with the full complement of touch controls on the brand's latest luxury sedans.
An Interior That's Clever And Tough
Like in those cars, it's with those controls that you can command the optional MBUX infotainment system, running on a 10.25-inch touch display and complete with "Hey Mercedes" voice controls. The navigation shows chargers along your route and quickly and easily tells you the current you can expect from them. But, with a maximum charging rate of 115kW, you won't have to be too picky about where you juice up.
The only disappointment is that those navigation commands aren't communicated through the small digital display centered in the gauge cluster, but it's a far more comprehensive user experience than you'd typically expect in a commercial van, complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
There's no heads-up display here. That space on the dash is taken up by a series of curious storage areas, one for the driver and a second for the passenger, complete with cupholders. On one hand, it's a convenient place to put your morning coffee. On the other, I'd hate to think what would happen should that coffee overflow and run into the vents up there.
Other cubbies abound, including one with a lid and numerous USB ports in the center of the dash, generous pockets built into the ceiling above the sun visors, and even a hidden one beneath the passenger's seat.
Those seats are comfortable, but there's only a little room to maneuver them. The bulkhead that separates the passenger cabin from the cargo department necessitates an upright seating posture, but from up there, you're given a commanding view of the world around you.
Well, the world ahead of you, anyway.
A small glass window lets you see back into the cargo area, but rearward visibility is predictably nil. A digital rearview mirror helps that significantly, but the camera that drives it is perched so high on the rear of the van that even crossover SUVs waiting behind me at traffic lights disappeared out of my field of view.
That's just one part of getting used to driving the eSprinter, which, with its generous proportions, requires a little extra care when merging, turning, or moving in general.
It also requires some extra time when accelerating. Despite driving the more powerful model I knew the eSprinter wouldn't be quick, but when I started off in Maximum Range mode, I practically had to put the pedal to the floor to pull out of a parking space. I'm all for hypermiling, but I didn't make it five minutes in this mode.
The next step up, Eco mode, is a little better. The van is perfectly driveable here, but on the highway, I struggled to accelerate in time to quickly and authoritatively pass other cars. When navigating LA traffic in something five feet longer than an Escalade ESV, I felt like I needed a little more oomph.
So, I spent most of my time in Comfort mode, the most responsive offering, which still delivers a relaxed throttle application but otherwise perfectly reasonable performance. At the end of my time behind the wheel, with plenty of time spent on the highway, I still averaged 2.2 miles per kWh, which would mean a theoretical 250 miles of range without trying to be frugal.
Regarding actual range estimates, Mercedes-Benz indicated 273 miles is possible on the European WLTP cycle, which would likely mean somewhere in the ballpark of that 250 miles on EPA.
In addition to the three driving modes, the eSprinter has five regen modes, cycled via the generously sized paddles on the back of the steering wheel. On maximum mode, the big van delivers a satisfying amount of decel when you lift off the accelerator, but as it doesn't come to a complete stop, you can't quite call it one-pedal.
For those who prefer to coast, disable the regen and the eSprinter is happy to waft its way down the highway.
Wafting is perhaps a bit generous, but for a giant van with a cargo rating of 2,624 pounds, the eSprinter is remarkably compliant and comfortable. The van I drove was loaded with almost 500 pounds of cargo, so I didn't get the unladen experience, which would be significantly more harsh. Regardless, I was impressed at how well the van handled pavement imperfections.
It even offers easy, reasonable handling. Despite the low battery pack, there's a generous body roll, but given the nine-foot height, that's to be expected. Steering is slow, you'll be shuffling your way through even casual bends, but again it was all quite easy. Pleasant, even.
Again, at the end of the day, I’m thinking I'd rather have this than Ford's electric F-150. But while this thing is nice to drive and in many ways more practical when it comes to hauling cargo than a Lightning, it falls short elsewhere.
Towing and payload for one, with the eSprinter good for towing 4,277 lbs vs. the Lightning's maximum 10,000 lbs. But the bigger missing areas are when it comes to job-site flexibility. The Lightning is chock full of outlets and inverters that can charge everything from a frunk full of cordless drills to other full-size EVs.
The eSprinter, replete with clever cubbies though it is, isn't nearly as well suited for powering a job site—or, indeed, for hauling a crew to get there in the first place.
But as a high-tech delivery machine or perhaps a taco truck that emits no emissions beyond the enchanting smell of barbacoa, the electric eSprinter is a stellar option—and one that is available for order now and shipping sometime later this year.
Gallery: 2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter Live Photos
Tim Stevens is a veteran editor, analyst, and expert in the tech and automotive industries. He helmed CNET's automotive coverage for nine years and acted as Vice President of Content. Prior to that, Tim served as Editor-in-Chief at Engadget and even led a previous life as an Enterprise Software Architect. Follow Tim on Twitter at @tim_stevens and catch his Substack.