Yes, this is a very pricey option, but the techy features and on-road behaviour of the new front-wheel drive Mercedes, combined with Hymer’s SLC chassis, make it highly desirable. It also combines superb storage and legendary Hymer quality with a realistic payload on a 3,500kg chassis. If you can afford it, it’s a winner!
Base vehicle: Mercedes Sprinter Price from: £65,920 Berths: 3 Travel seats: 4 Length: 6.99m Gross weight: 3,500kg
The three-pointed star has always carried a cachet in the motorhome world, albeit usually with a substantial premium to pay over an equivalent Fiat/Peugeot-based model.
Fans have justified the cost on the grounds of its superior automatic gearbox, arguably better build quality and some high-tech options (such as Crosswind Assist to keep things stable in tricky motorway conditions), as well as the appeal of rear-wheel drive.
Now there’s a new Mercedes, the first Sprinter ever to be offered with front-wheel drive. Rear-drive models continue – and are available as coachbuilt motorhomes from Auto-Sleepers, Dethleffs, Frankia and Hymer – but the last of those is unique in seizing the opportunity of building on the front-drive Merc, adding its own SLC super-lightweight chassis to create a range of low-profile and A-class models.
For some owners the switch to front-wheel drive may seem like heresy and, for them, there is still Hymer’s ML-T, but for the rest of us the potential for double-floor storage and lighter weight with the SLC chassis more than makes up for any loss.
Exclusive to and developed by Hymer, the SLC (first seen on the Fiat-based SupremeLine A-class here) has many advantages.
As well as a flat floor from the cab through to the living area, it has a smooth underside for reduced noise on the road. It keeps the centre of gravity low, too, and not only offers a deep double floor for storage but also includes generous water tank capacities (180 litres fresh, 150 litres waste), with all the mass low down between the rear wheels.
Then, there’s the weight saving (16% less than a conventional chassis) for a payload of up to 600kg on a 3.5-tonne chassis, while the design of the structure allows for as much as 350kg to be carried in the garage.
On the road, this B-MC is as reassuringly stable in cornering and at motorway speeds as any Fiat Al-Ko-based rival but with a much more cosseting ride. Banished is the wobble and lurch of so many past Mercedes-based motorhomes - even driving over a level crossing failed to elicit rattles from the furniture or creaks from the body.
From the small, leather-bound steering wheel (with a plethora of switches for cruise control, Bluetooth, radio, etc) to the keyless push-button starting, this new Sprinter feels like a proper Mercedes-Benz from the moment you settle into the multi-adjustable Aguti captain’s chair.
Then, there’s the 10.25in Mercedes MBUX multimedia system with sat-nav, DAB radio and superb hi-resolution touchscreen display. That alone is a £3,170 option, but one that you’re sure to want when you’ve seen it (the more modest 7in display version costs £1,810).
Now we come to the downside of this high-quality and top-notch tech – the cost. The automatic gearbox is £2,440 extra, the adaptive cruise control £810, the high-performance LED headlights £1,810. The front foglights with cornering function add a further £260, while Active Brake Assist is another £540. Then there are the purely aesthetic aspects – £1,080 for alloy wheels, £260 for a chrome grille and £1,260 for black paint. In all, our test ’van had almost £25k-worth of options – so many that we haven’t got room to list them all in the Fact File!
However, standard equipment does include a passenger airbag, Crosswind Assist and a reinforced alternator.
Hymer has crafted a fairly conventional – if beautifully made – low-profile motorhome body. The B-MC comes in 6.99m or 7.39m lengths, each with double or single bed-based layouts. This 580 is the shorter of the two twin bed models and you’d be surprised by how much more manoeuvrable a seven-metre ’van can feel compared with one that’s half-a-metre longer.
Inside, it feels up-to-date but has nothing to match the wow factor of the Mercedes dashboard.
Furniture can be ordered in rich, dark Noce Cognac (with contrasting gloss white), as shown, or the much lighter-coloured Grand Oak. The part-leather Creola trim here is a £900 option – it’s one of 16 upholsteries offered, including three leathers.
All this talk of extras makes the £65k starting price a bit unrealistic and you could go further than the £90,800 of our test vehicle – think Arctic Pack with Alde heating (£4,350), Autonomy Pack with lithium battery and inverter (£4,260), satellite dish (£2,620) and silver Hymer bodywork (£2,350).
Don’t just contemplate the impact on your bank balance, but also the reduction in your payload. Our test vehicle had almost 200kg of options, so it’s highly commendable that you’d still have a usable 400kg payload – although that’s with just 20 litres of water on board. If you get really carried away with added kit, there are 3,880kg and 4,430kg chassis, too.
The Comfort-Line Pack – semi-automatic climate control in the cab, cruise control, a flyscreen for the door, a reinforced front axle, and overcab sunroof – should surely be standard. As should the Comfort door, (with window and waste bin but not central locking). Even the Comfort L-shaped seating is an option, though it certainly does live up to the name.
This is quite a compact lounge area but, for up to three people, it will be a great place to relax. Reading lights over the cab armchairs make these the top choice whether you grab a book or switch on the TV – the latter can be up to a whopping 32in screen.
The galley possesses one of the heaviest options fitted, the 29kg Thetford Caprice cooker. Standard spec is a simple, continental-style hob and XXL-sized kitchen drawers. Here, an extra £790 sees a more UK-friendly cooker with three gas rings and a separate grill and oven. And you still get five drawers, all with a top-quality soft-closing system.
The tall, slim 142-litre fridge comes with automatic energy selection.
Alongside the cooler is a wardrobe that is even slimmer than the Thetford fridge, but has hanging rails top and bottom. There’s a third wardrobe under the foot of the offside single bed.
Both beds are 1.90m long, though it is possible to specify a 2.20m-long bed on the offside as an option. However, you won’t be able to sit up in bed because, as is so often the case, there are overhead lockers in the way. Pity, because this is a stylish boudoir with easily accessed beds, good reading lights and plentiful ventilation.
Heating is by Truma’s 6kW Combi boiler – gas only as standard, or gas/mains for an additional £530. More unusually, the unit is buried low down in the double floor for quieter operation as well as underfloor heating, including the fresh and waste water tanks. All-year round use is clearly another B-MC forte.
A full version of this review was published in the March 2019 issue of MMM magazine - to buy a digital copy of it, click here.