- Test the latest safety features
- Off-roading in a Sprinter 4x4
- Check out the latest finance deals
Van Experience Live is a unique offering from Mercedes-Benz, that allows van operators, customers and non-customers alike, to test out all of the latest Mercedes-Benz Vans products and hear about the latest service offers.
As well as being good fun, it’s very informative and helps Mercedes-Benz get its message across to customers. For the first time, the event was held at Millbrook Proving Grounds (previously held at Prodrive in Warwickshire) in Bedfordshire, and it welcomed almost 2,000 visitors over the two weeks.
Mercedes-Benz Vans Sales and Aftersales
The day was started with a presentation, highlighting the company’s achievements of 2014. Mercedes-Benz is one of three van manufacturers (along with Volkswagen and Iveco) to have a dedicated commercial vehicle dealer network, and customers can therefore benefit from longer opening hours and more suitable replacement vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz Financial Services now fund one in three vans sold, and it handed out £254 million of financing to van operators during 2014. Merc’s breakdown service, Mobilovan, attended the average breakdown in less than an hour, and around 80% were fixed at the roadside.
Safety systems to the test
Mercedes-Benz is keen to stress that their vans are the most sophisticated on the market when it comes to safety. The Sprinter, after all, was the first van to feature ABS as standard, and Crosswind Assist, Collision Prevention Assist and Blind Spot Assist all made their van debuts in the second generation version.
Attendees were allowed to test each of these systems around Millbrook’s high speed ring, and first up was the Crosswind Assist. Conditions were ideal, as the open circuit was susceptible to the strong gusts of that day, and the system coped well
As the crosswind attacked, there was a loud rumbling sound of the ESP kicking in, braking the wheels on the attacked side, and creating a “counter yaw”, which helps balance the van and makes it easier to push it back on track.
Collision Prevention is activated when the van’s sensors detect an impending collision, and it sounds a small alarm and flashes the icon on the dashboard. While it won’t apply the brakes automatically, it will ‘pre-arm’ them by optimising the braking power if the driver isn’t braking hard enough.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 Offroad
It just wouldn’t be a Van Experience without a test drive in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 and, luckily for us, Millbrook was equipped with a full offroad assault course. We started off on a light course, comprising of a muddy track with two metre high humps. To demonstrate the Sprinter’s ability, we were told to keep in first gear with no accelerator, as there would be limited wheel spin and enough torque to power up the ascent.
The most gruelling test was a 45-degree descent, complete with loose rubble, but the Sprinter coped well, with the traction control identifying the wheel with the most grip, and braking it.
Half way up a 30 degree ascent, we were told to stop to test out the Hill Hold Assist. With the clutch down, I cautiously released the handbrake, half expecting to roll backwards, but the vehicle stayed still, allowing me to effortlessly apply the accelerator and power forward.