So when those nice men from Mercedes-Benz offered me a Sprinter 616 CDI with tipper body for a week, I couldn't resist the chance to play at Bob the Builder, at the same time as undertaking some serious road-testing for the purposes of Fleet Van.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in its basic format is a pretty impressive performer, but the 616 sees this van having been fed on a diet of spinach and steroids until its muscles ripple.
When it comes to Sprinters, they don't come any bigger than this.
The 616 is only available in chassis cab form but is one of the few 'vans' that manages to bridge the gap between LCV and light truck. Models on offer are pick-up with standard cab or crewcab, tipper with standard or crewcab and chassis cab alone in both formats.
Payload varies from 2,820kg to 3,750kg depending on model and gross vehicle weight is 5,990kg - or close on six tonnes. VAT inclusive prices are £25,945 (3.55-metre wheelbase) and £26,445 (4.02m wheelbase) and the Tipmaster body (tested here) is £2,695 ex-VAT.
With figures like this under its belt, it is obvious that Mercedes-Benz has done quite a bit of work beefing up engine, body and brakes to cope with the hard work ahead. For example, while the smaller Sprinter's frame tapers at the rear, the 616's is square, and suspension is upgraded with stronger damper struts at the front and shock absorbers at the rear. The rack and pinion steering is stronger, too.
Brakes are on a hydraulic dual circuit system with internally-ventilated discs on all wheels.
The independent spring-loaded parking brake works by compressed air, as you find on the average truck, and the dashboard has a comprehensive set of warning lights: for brakepad wear, brake fluid level and parking brake status.
Mercedes-Benz was the world's first van manufacturer to launch common rail diesel engines and two are on offer in the Sprinter range, four- and five-cylinder units offering anything between 82 and 156bhp.
The 616 benefits from the biggest of these engines, displacing 2,686cc from its five in-line cylinders and pumping out 156bhp at 3,800rpm and 243 lb-ft of torque at 1,400-2,400rpm.
Even with the gearing adjusted for carrying heavy loads, the 616 is capable of topping 90mph with ease.
In the front
GETTING into the 616 reveals the sort of airy, upmarket cab that you'd expect from the German manufacturer.
The dash is neat, uncluttered and functional and seats are hard and supportive, just the way I like them.
With a six-tonne gross vehicle weight, this model has a tachograph fitted and it slots into the dash neatly below the radio/cassette player. There is a document clip on the left of the dash but generally, the cab lacks the plethora of cubby holes that many vans now have. Where, for example, do driver and passenger put their half-empty two-litre bottles of cola? The best the 616 can offer is a little holder just big enough for one medium latte with a dash of hazelnut syrup!
In the back
TURNING to the business end of the 616 reveals a massively-engineered chassis that looks as though it would support the weight of the world on its shoulders. It's a monster and double rear wheels add to the macho feel.
A large mesh grille protects driver and passengers from any flying freight and the side panels of the tipper fold down in two sections on each side as well as at the rear.
So as not to accidentally tip a load on to something untoward, such as a passing cat or a Big Issue seller, the tipper controls are mounted on a hand-held box which can be unclipped from inside the cab and used while the driver is standing towards the rear of the vehicle. It couldn't be simpler – one button for 'up' and another for 'down'.
On the road
MERCEDES-Benz boasts that its Sprinters are endowed with car-like driving qualities but once you get above the magic 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight, there is no doubt that you are in very different territory.
While the 616 has a small car-like steering wheel, that's about where the similarity ends.
And it's no bad thing in my book as the driver of the 616 should never forget that this vehicle is much wider and more business-like than its smaller brothers.
I discovered this fact when I attempted to park our test model outside my house in the busy city centre of Peterborough.
After several futile attempts at winkling it into an impossibly-small space, I gave up and returned the vehicle to the office car park, where it stayed overnight.
Firing up the engine reveals a lack of the old diesel rattle that plagues vans which don't have common rail engines and progress up the road is as lively as you would expect from an engine pushing out 156bhp.
The truck would have been better tested with a half load on board to stop its friskiness but as I didn't happen to have a spare ton of sand handy, it spent its test week unladen. The dash-mounted gearstick offers slick changes, but the box somehow seems heavier and more businesslike than I remembered from the Sprinter vans I had tested in the past.
THE Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is generally recognised among the lcv cognoscenti of Great Britain as being top dog, despite the fact that it is massively outsold by the Ford Transit.
It certainly isn't cheap, but then again the best quality products never are.
Whether a fleet chooses this model or not is very much down to how far-sighted the buying decision-maker is: i.e whether he or she realises that the cheapest in the short term isn't necessarily the cheapest in the long term.
If I was tasked with buying a tipper truck, this is the one I would choose.
Engine capacity (cc): 2,686
Max power (bhp/rpm): 156/3,800
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 243/1,400-2,400
Gross vehicle weight (kg): 5,990
Wheelbase (mm): 3,550 4,025
Front axle weight (kg): 1,335 1,385
Rear axle weight (kg): 910 900
Total: 2,245 2,285
Payload (kg): 3,745 3,705
Overall length: 5,795 6,600
Overall width: 2,295 2,295
Overall height: 2,320 2,305
Price (£ ex-VAT): 25,945 26,445
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