DUSSELDORF, GERMANY. A new 4-cylinder diesel engine and 7-speed automatic transmission along with a host of safety-system options are the highlights of the newly redesigned 2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, which is due to go on sale in the U.S. starting September 1.

Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, noted during a press conference here at the Alte Federfabrik facility that unveiling the new Sprinter is the first time the company has dedicated a “rollout” event especially for North American journalists. “That shows how important this region has become for us,” he said.

For example, Mornhinweg pointed out that while the large- and medium-van market contracted 16% in Western Europe during the first quarter this year compared to 2012, the company’s global van sales actually jumped 3% due to strong demand from North America as well as Latin America and Eastern Europe.

“In the first four months of this year, our [van] sales increased by almost 12% in the U.S. and over 20% in Canada compared with last year,” he added.

As a result, Mornhinweg said Mercedes-Benz, the global car and truck manufacturing operation of Germany's Daimler AG, seeks to build on that momentum with its newly redesigned Sprinter model.

The biggest upgrade to the Sprinter, said Claus Tritt, gm of commercial vehicles for Mercedes Benz, comes in the form of fuel economy improvements due to the introduction of the new 156-hp OM651 4-cylinder diesel engine in combination with a new 7-speed G-Tronic Plus”automatic transmission. Tritt said this pairing delivers an 18% improvement in fuel efficiency vs. the previous OM642 6-cylinder diesel mated to a 5-speed automatic.

Five new safety systems are being offered on the new Sprinter as well, he pointed out:

  • Crosswind Assist, to help steady the van during highway operation.
  • Collision Prevention Assist, which involves automatic braking
  • Blind Spot Assist, which is radar-based, to detect vehicles in driver blind spots
  • Highbeam Assist, to automatically maintain highway illumination without blinding oncoming vehicles
  • Lane Keeping Assist

Sprinter executives at the event said that Crosswind Assist -- which only activates once the vehicles exceeds roughly 50 mph– will come standard as part of the Sprinter’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) system, with the others offered as stand-alone options or as part of safety system “packages.” Ordering such technology as a complete package would roughly cost $1,780 MSRP, according to numbers given out at the event.

The new Sprinter also features a redesigned front grille and headlights along with other body style tweaks to help improve airflow around the vehicle. Inside, new upholstery for the seats, a redesigned steering wheel, shift knob, instrument panel, and optional Becker Map Pilot navigation system round out the changes..

Mornhinweg also noted that Mercedes Benz will begin building what it now calls its “classic” Sprinter van design – the second-generation model currently in production and originally rolled out in 200 – in partnership with Russian manufacturing GAZ in Nizhny Novgorod before the end of 2013.

“The Sprinter is now sold in 130 countries and is being made more attractive to customers on a global scale,” he added. “Our strategy will be to expand that global position.”