Fastest van track battle: Transit vs Sprinter

Fastest van track battle: Transit vs Sprinter

I like big vans and I cannot lie, no other
van can deny. I like big vans. Front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, four wheel drive,
coupes, hot hatches and supercars. We’ve tested them all in Auto Express track battles, but
we’ve never tested a pair like this. There’s a huge choice when it comes to the new Transit.
It’s available with front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, with various wheelbases and different
heights of body. We test the rear wheel drive 470L4 H3 version in the base trim. Powered
by a 155 horsepower 2.2 TDCi diesel engine, it has 385 NM of torque and a gross payload
of 1,195kg. IN the spec tested, this van will set you back just over £34,000. The Mercedes
Sprinter is one of the most famous vans in the world. Like the Transit, there’s a huge
choice. We test the Sprinter 313 Cdi BlueEficency in long wheelbase trim, and a gross payload
of 1,145kg. In the trim tested, this van will cost you £33,000. OK, so we’re going to start
with the reigning Auto Express van of the year, the all new Transit. This van is the
twin rear wheel setup. The Transit’s a real icon of the van world. Ford have always managed
to inject a little of the chassis magic of their cars into their vans. And I’ve got to
say, this is one of the genuinely pleasant vehicles to drive, and driving around a circuit
might seem like a crazy thing to do in a van, but it does highlight just how stable and
safe and how much grip modern vans have got. There’s more steering feel in this thing than
a lot of cars I’ve driven. The gearbox is lovely, just like any Ford car gearbox, but
what really blows you away is just how much grip its got. You can really turn the thing
hard into the corners as you can sense the wright rolling onto the front wheels and its
very, very, very stable despite the fact this thing is two tonnes and can carry up to a
tonne of weight. You wouldn’t think you could drive it round a race circuit like this. Now,
its got stability control which you can’t turn off, so to extract a lap time you’ve
got to sort of get the thing just to the limit of grip but not so far over the limit of grip
that you get the stability control working too aggressively and, to be honest, this seems
so dynamically well sorted, that you can actually do a lap without too much stability control
intervention. So, for the first time ever on Auto Express track battle, we’re starting
a lap time in a van. So fourth gear, we’re going to stay in fourth gear in to here, so
braking, just rolling the weight onto the front axle, really lean on it and it just
gentle little bit of understeer, really can feel the limit of grip. Given how high this
vehicle is, the way it copes with that change of direction is really impressive. So, hard
on the power up to fifth gear, just coming up to 70mph, over 70 now. Really light on
the brakes here, about 200m before the corner. Hard on the brakes, really good feel through
the brake pedal, use the kerb on the apex. It changes direction there really really well.
I’ve got to say I’m really enjoying this. This is good fun. So, fourth gear again, again
nudging up towards 70, we’ll stay in fourth gear through here, so on the brakes, use that
weight over the front axle to help the thing turn in. Little bit too quick in there so
a little bit of stability control intervention. Again, use the weight over the front axle
to trim off the brake as you turn in. On the power hard all the way through – really stable.
Now, we’re coming up to our high speed esses, absolutely flat out through here so 70mph
through the middle. Really stable again, you’d think that the weight transfer through there
would be quite scary, but it really is not, it’s really well balanced. Into this last
corner, there’s actually enough feel in the brakes that you can start to feel the car
rotate the van on the brakes on the way into the corner and get the weight moving where
you want it. It’s really impressive that Ford has managed to engineer so much of its magic
into the handling of this van. And across the line. The transit lapped our test track
in one minute, thirty five point five seconds. So, we’ve been impressed with the Transit,
let’s see how the Sprinter compares. So this is a full size Sprinter, this has got similar
sort of carrying capacity, similar carrying wright to the Transit. In pure, sort, performance
terms its got quite a disadvantage in that its got 50nm less torque, 25 horsepower less
so its not quite got as much grunt as the Transit and initially you can feel that. It
doesn’t pull as hard as the Transit on the straights. But, what’s it going to be like
in the corners? What’s it going to handle like? It’s very safe, its got stability control
the same as the Transit and you can feel that working, but it doesn’t have the dynamic ability
of the Transit so there’s a little bit more slack in the steering. So you’ve got more
of an input into the steering the get the same action you’ve got in the Transit, so
it doesn’t turn in as well. There’s more movement and you can feel the higher centre of gravity
and you can feel the body movement more than you can in the Transit. So into these faster
corners it lurches over more than the Transit. Now, its not a problem in terms of safety
because the stability control is very good, but the problem is, when you’re trying to
do a lap time the stability control kicks in much earlier and much harder than the Transit
to make up for the Mercedes’ less dynamic chassis for want of a better word. And that
kills the speed which, combined with the fact you’ve got a less powerful engine, makes it
really critical to carry momentum trying to carry speed in the Mercedes, to try and keep
up with what we were doing in the Transit. So, it’s not quite as sharp and enjoyable
to drive as the Transit, but can it do as good a lap time? Well, let’s come round and
find out, again trying to release that steering, get the stability to control to release the
car, let it out of the corner. So, fourth gear as we come over towards the first corner,
carry fourth gear through here, same as in the Transit, get the weight over the nose
– doesn’t feel as responsive as the Transit. It still changes direction relatively well,
but again as the weight transfer comes over to the right there, just feel a little from
the stability control pulling the performance back a bit. So now it feels a bit sluggish.
Come on Mr Sprinter, here we go. So, its accelerating down the straight, 70mph, still quite late
on the brakes into the chicane, 70mph, braking just at the 300m board, a lot of scrumping
from the tyres, get the weight over the nose. Again, quite pliant suspension you can use
the kerb. come on Sprinter let’s go. And then, fourth gear, I prefer the seat in the Transit,
holds you in a bit better than the Mercedes. Coming into the next corner, in we go, lots
of scrabble on the front tyres, release the steering, get that stability control to back
off a little bit. Both these vans, though, it does show you, doing this test, it might
not seem that relevant, but it does just show you just how safe and how stable modern vans
are. And, that this is driving them without any weight in them, obviously, but its pretty
impressive just how well engineered the best vans in the world are. So, again like the
Transit, flat out through that chicane, bit slower there – just under 70 in the Mercedes.Coming
up to the last corner, third gear, hard on the brakes. Brake pedal goes a little softer
on the Mercedes probably because the stability control is working hard. And then, up to the
last couple of corners, carry the speed in on the power. Come on mister Mercedes, let’s
go. Use a bit of kerb on the exit, and hard on the power all the way across the line.
The Mercedes Sprinter lapped our test track in one minute, thirty-eight point five seconds.
So, the Transit was three seconds a lap faster around our test track, and was genuinely pleasant
to drive. But, given their size and weight, both these vans have incredible stability
at speed and lots of grip. And if you want to hear about crucial van ownership factors
like the cargo volume, and the running costs, then check out one of our Auto Express van
reviews. Click on the left to watch our review of the Mercedes Sprinter, and click on the
right to see the review of the Peugeot Boxer. And don’t forget to click on the Auto Express
icon to subscribe to our channel.

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. Not the same spec van, not really a fair comparison. That Ford has a stiffer suspension because its rated for a higher load. It also has 2 more tires, more rubber on the ground=more grip. Its no wonder that it is faster.

    Although I will agree with the guy, the Ford really is a pleasure to drive, ergonomics and visibility are fantastic IMO.

  2. Nice review – I will add that the Sprinter is almost a 20 year old chassis design where the Transit was all new from the ground up.

  3. Did the extra tires on the Transit help or harm it's results on the track, given that the vans were both unladen?

  4. Well, Transits were developed in small part on the track, just watch the race videos of the earliest models. Makes sense us Americans would want a van that can corner well 😉

  5. Whole test was not accurate having the twin wheel on Ford vs single wheel on Mercedes . Im driving Mercedes 3500 ( twin wheel ) and is much better like Ford . I tested both on city and highway

  6. What a useless comparison, of which it wasn't. Drive both when 3yr old and 100k on them, I have and the Ford falls way short. For city drivers, even if you're not a city driver, merc's auto box is unrivalled. What do the others have?

  7. My 2005 Dodge sprinter has 400k+ miles on it and has zero rebuilds just basic maintenance best vehicle ever Ford would not stand a chance

  8. For those saying that dually wheels are better than single wheels when being stable at taking corners, that is not so.
    Also the longer wheel base over the shorter wheel base on the corners, the shorter wheel base is more likely to rollover in the corners.
    The Mercedes Benz van got both advantages over the transit and yet it lost to the transit.
    In 2018, the transit is the best tall van product in both the European and USA market.
    When it comes to diesel engines versus gas engines, the 3.5 Lt twin turbo with air to air engine cooler is it.
    It comes in two versions when it comes to horse power 385 HP with a 6 speed transmission and 525hp with a 10 speed transmission (my favorite)
    I prefer the

  9. Also forgot to add, the California, USA test emissions are the strictest in the USA and in the entire world.
    Antonio, the extreme 18 wheeler

  10. NA transit is available with 3.5L Ecoboost twin turbo making 310 hp, 400 lbs/ft of torque. Mountune would have a field day with that motor.

  11. The dually would have a 4.18 rear-end ratio. The single a 3.72. You could have put two identical Transits against each other, with the different rear ends, and got these different results.

  12. Nothing handles like a Sprinter, very very stable and confidence inspiring at high speed. The Transit is nimble in slow stuff but makes one very nervous at speed. As someone who does thousands of miles a week in a way you'd never expect a van to be driven, I know.

  13. This is a full test. This vans are to carry and work ,not to compete in Racing mode!!! They are diferent. They should test in a longue test, to see the cheat of engines of bouth. Transits don t do much than 25 k without break engine. And sprinters are like os Mercedes normaly crash injectors …if eant to test vans,do it in they invoirment..big vans big charges…

  14. Auto Express never seem to do absolutely like for like tests, however I had a 2013 Ford Transit Custom double cab Limited and I had a friend who had a similar age Mercedes Vito, have to say the Transit beat the Vito hands down in every way, don't remember driving anything that was so lethal going around corners in the wet as the Vito, reminded me of driving an old Ford Thames van.

  15. People who are saying that it's not fair comparing both don't know that they are comparing them on the basis of cost .

  16. Empty ok but When I put inside my generator tools ven have no power end gas its terrible not for america pice of sh***

  17. Had Mercedes Sprinters in our company fleet. Overengineered and expensive to fix. Constantly going into limp mode. After about 200k miles they would be quite rusty and have too many trouble codes for anybody too want to go near them.

  18. this review is rubbish. drive like that on and you’re get fined by the police. planning on robbing banks and need a get away van??

  19. All the specs for the ford nothing for Merc why pick a merc with less engine power what there is no equal ?

  20. Sprinter 1000 times better than transit ford, ford dont last like mercedes Benz, i have 2006 mercedes sprinter and i have no problems at all i love Mercedes Benz

  21. The review is flawed as the transit is a dual wheel rear axle and the merc is a single wheel rear axel that will affect handle surely

  22. sprinter Remove the speed control in the brain control top speed 80/85 power is weak at 70mph if set speed control to no it do 100 easy power at 80 mpg is great.

  23. 운전 참.. ㅈ랄같이 하네
    도로에서 저런애들 만나면 정말 속으로 생각하게되지

    죽을거면 혼자 죽어라.

    사고나서 혼자만 안 죽고 평생 식물인간 되버려라.

    라고 ..

  24. Mercedes sprinter is the best working van you can buy!Transit is smaller you also sit lower and Transit at highway speeds is very unstable when windy…

  25. Great in a world of vans rushing around the country many of speed limits the first thing you show is how fast around a track it can go. Not very responsible

  26. Just because transit cannot turn its safety system off why not use the off button on the sprinter? (Before folk say I know turning the sprinter one off only limits the system and still works but not as aggressive)
    Personally I would say the sprinter is far superior and possibly loads quicker round track as the ford would have the bonnet up after 1st corner. No mention of the unlimited mileage warranty 3 years if a fault dose happen and it's under warranty they will bring a van to the roadside and take yours and fix it do Ford?

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