If so, weren’t you totally knocked sideways by how comfortable, refined, well-equipped, well-mannered, easy-to-drive and actually-remarkably-fast it was?
A couple of house moves recently gave me cause to become acquainted with the rarefied delights of the modern commercial vehicle market. In the space of two months, I had weekends in the latest Renault Master and Mercedes Sprinter panel vans. I did more than 400 miles in both, to-ing and fro-ing from old gaff to new. And not once did I consider myself unlucky to be doing so: it was great fun.
For starters, everyone loves a high driving position, but in today’s cargo-carrier, that comes with decent grip, performance and steering, good economy, surprisingly good refinement, a decently-appointed and designed cabin, and often the kind of equipment you associate with luxo-saloons. Suddenly, careers in construction and logistics look a lot more appealing to me.
The Mercedes Sprinter I drove was particularly impressive, not least because it was Mercedes’ ‘Safety Van’ – a demonstrator designed to showcase many safety systems you can spec on your Merc workhorse that’ll keep it, and you, from a nasty accident.
It had a reversing camera, airbags, antilock brakes with brakeforce distribution, automatic wipers and headlights, a speed limiter and ESP. And it was bright yellow, which must have made it that bit more visible, loaded as it was with beds, fridges, sofas, wardrobes and such, on the southbound M40.
The Renault I drove wasn’t exactly sparsely kitted out either, with sat nav, a CD player, electric windows, and more. Of the two, it was the marginally smaller, more workmanlike device, but the manual gearchange was slick, the clutch light, and the ride quality quiet and pliant.
All things being considered, I reckon the modern commercial vehicle is wasted on builders, plumbers, gardeners, couriers et al. They’re limousines really - they just happen to have a bit more boot space – and it’s a shame they’re not driven a bit more gently, and treated with a bit more respect here in Britain.