A NEW generation of connectivity is being introduced by Mercedes-Benz and it is making its way on to the brand's vans too.
The MBUX system - which stands for Mercedes-Benz User Experience - brings the latest driver aids to life and is designed to keep you up to date wherever you are.
It made its debut on the new Mercedes A-Class hatch and now its being fitted to the latest generation of the Sprinter large-sized van.
Priced from £24,350 excluding VAT, the new Sprinter is the most connected van Mercedes has produced and comes with some 18 services as standard.
Offering rapid data transfer the so-called Mercedes PRO system links the van to the driver and to vehicle managers.
Operated via voice control from a seven-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash or from steering wheel mounted buttons the system can do everything from offering real-time traffic information to sending fuel consumption data back to base.
It can even send out an anti-theft alert if the vehicle is tampered with and integrate smartphone functions into the van's database.
It's all part of what Mercedes calls its AdVANce programme that will bring its vehicles into the digital age to make fleet management easier by minimising down-time and put the customer at the heart of operations.
An optional 10.2-inch screen is available and with MBUX compatible with all Apple and Android phones the new vans also come with a DAB radio.
Updates can be done automatically to extend the service as more App-based functions become available and as Steve Bridge, Mercedes-Benz Vans managing director in the UK, said it will change the way we do business forever.
The new Sprinter is coming on stream now and is available in some 1,700 different configurations to suit all big van needs.
With a new-look interior and the choice of semi-automatic air conditioning or fully automatic climate control for the cabin, comfort levels are high and the latest Sprinter is the only van available with active brake assist and pedestrian protection enabling it to brake automatically to avoid collisions.
The dash is nice and simple with a minimum amount of controls and there's plenty of storage space in the cabin including phone holders and bins as well as an overhead shelf.
We have just tried the Sprinter in 314 panel van guise and priced from £32,120.
Powered by a 2.1-litre diesel developing 140bhp and mated to a six-speed manual transmission it's lively off the mark and very car-like to drive.
With electronic power steering as standard the Sprinter is easy to manoeuvre and this one was rear-wheel-drive.
The Sprinter can be had in front-wheel-drive which offers an increase in payload of 50kg and a lower loading sill to make access easier while it is also available with a 3.0-litre diesel engine for those who need more pulling power.
Fuel consumption ranges from 29.1mpg to 41.5 depending on engine and vehicle configuration and the 314 we sampled averaged just over 30 to the gallon - not far off its official 34mpg with emissions of 218g/km.
Mercedes calculates that over three years and 90,000 miles the new Sprinter costs 43p a mile to run and that puts it ahead of the likes of the Ford Transit and Volkswagen Crafter.
Service intervals for rear-wheel-drive models are now a maximum of 37,000 miles or two years. Front-wheel-drive models have a maximum service period of 24,500 miles.