The van's development is still in the early stages.

Mercedes-Benz has its next-generation Sprinter test mule on the road again, and these fresh spy shots give us another look at the forthcoming van.

We don’t expect the next Sprinter to debut until 2018, so development is still in the early stages. The most conspicuously new thing about this test mule is the heavily camouflaged nose. It’s very difficult to make out many details, but there appear to be cues from the Vito/Metris in the way the headlights connect to the grille. The rest of this one comes from the current Sprinter, but the ability to haul stuff in a commercial van is more important than being stylish, which means the overall look should remain boxy.

These photos also offer a tiny glimpse inside, but we can see that the engineers have the dashboard partially covered. Anytime an automaker keeps something hidden, there's a chance the company is working on something new underneath. This indicates the Sprinter may receive cabin updates, too.

Expect the new Sprinter to remain rear-wheel drive as standard and have available four-wheel drive. A range of hard-working diesel engines should remain in the lineup, but Mercedes might update some of them for improved emissions and efficiency. A bevy of driving aids would also be there to keep operators and their cargo safe.

Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Spy Photos