2008 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 515 2.1 turbo diesel from UK and Ireland
Ask why so many countries make this their emergency vehicle of choice?
Full Mercedes service this year £(2,500) and regular oil/filter changes.
An ex-ambulance here in the UK on a modular body. Heavy duty 5 tonne (5000kg) chassis, suspension upgraded etc. Also has Telmar braking system fitted.
Dually (4 wheel) rear axle.
Obviously its previous owner being the NHS (National Health Service) meant that most servicing items were replaced new like for like (including an engine at 250k). The paperwork was pretty extensive but primarily wear and tear (and a couple of small accidents). The original 2008 bill of sale shows £243,000 (after all the emergency equipment was fitted in the back) and £186,000 for the actual truck itself with the mechanical upgrades.
It’s just a tweaked 2.1 litre 4-cylinder 150hp engine, but even weighing in at 3400kg, it really pulls away swiftly when asked, and I’ve seen North of 160km/h (via dash-cam GPS display). The actual speedo showed a bit higher.
It’s remarkable how much torque that this (by some standards) ‘tiny’ engine actually has. It won’t embarrass you, and again mine is not just a regular 3 1/2 ton chassis!
It has been converted to a FT home on wheels and for the past 4 years of my ownership, it literally has not failed on any score.
It has a great cabin with loads of space and storage all over the place. Nice controls and good switchgear. All very Mercedes! Lovely windscreen view with a commanding view over other vans, excellent electric dual-zone mirrors with built in indicators.
Mine has a 5-speed automatic gearbox, but can also be ‘side-shifted’ to hold or change gears. Around town I hold it in 3rd gear mostly (up to about 2000rpm/ 50kph anyway) so as not to labour the engine unnecessarily. (Mercedes engineers built in the option, so why not make use of it and drive smart!)
The steering is smooth and precise, and the turning circle is ridiculously good!
Although mine is just a MWB with the unique extended box body on the back, its rear interior is only a couple of inches shorter than a LWB, so I have the best of both worlds really when it comes to parking and manoeuvring.
I can’t really speak about bodywork as the only standard Mercedes doors I have are the driver and passenger one, but both of those have got rust on them below the black panel as per Mercedes circa 2000+ I guess.
Recommendation I can give ultimately is that this drivetrain and body has done over 300,000 miles, and being an ex emergency vehicle, will have been driven fairly hard at times, but it seems to have just taken all of that in its stride - and is now in its retirement phase plodding around, only doing about 5000 miles a year.
As a point of interest for its expected longevity, when the NHS retired this vehicle, which they do at 10 years service, it was due to be sent to Eastern Europe to continue duties as an ambulance in Ukraine but I snagged it first (this was in 2019 by the way, so before the Russian invasion).
So there was every expectation that it would continue to give good service for many more years to come in, probably tougher conditions.
I would say that’s a pretty good recommendation!
I would drive this thing anywhere without any concerns at all (in fact, I will be planning to do exactly that for a trip around Europe next year and I have every confidence that my Mercedes will look after me).
I spoke to the mechanics at a local ambulance fleet repair centre and they said that Mercedes ambulances rarely break down and usually they will just make a funny noise to let you know that they are not happy (which usually gives you a chance to deal with it).
Contrast this with the new cost saving exercise that the UK are doing by replacing all of the Mercedes with newer but cheaper Fiat vans as frontline emergency vehicles.
The paramedics really hate driving them (cheap cabin, clattery engine and underpowered, even in 190ps 3.0 litre V6 version, claustrophobic and with stupid tiny foot pedals).
And the mechanic's adage is that FIAT stands for, ‘Fix It Again Tomorrow’.
You pays your money, you takes your chances.
But I know which vehicle I would rather have to depend upon if my life depended on it, and I also know which one I would prefer to drive every day for four years…
And finally, don’t you just love that Sprinter front end? Has character and a big 3-pointed star that says, ‘I’m a Mercedes - discussion over”
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 16th October, 2023