The stalwart and versatile Sprinter Van is getting a big boost in tough-terrain capability with a 4x4 system, low-range gearing, and body lift for the US market next year.
Mercedes-Benz maintains that the Sprinter 4x4 is "not an off-roader," but it will definitely give cargo-carriers more flexibility in where they can get their loads. That said, I'm dead keen to see what it can do on trail with some decent tires.
Previous versions of the Sprinter 4x4 have been sold in Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Austria, and France but the improved 2015 model will be available stateside in 144" and 170" wheelbases with both low and high roof configurations.
The 4x4 driveline will be mated to a 3.0 V6 BlueTEC diesel with 188 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes promises a minimal effect on payload, as the 4x4 system only adds about 265 pounds to the van. GVWR will be 8,550 lbs or 11,030 depending on wheelbase.
Four-wheel-drive mode will be push-button activated, distributing torque at a 35:65 front:rear ratio. The the Electronic Traction System (4ETS) kicks in simultaneously, adapting power delivery as appropriate in driving conditions. The Sprinter will be the only van available with this kind of traction technology and four wheel drive.
Low range, when equipped, shortens gearing by 42% for serious climbs and tricky terrain.
Bodies of Sprinter 4x4s will be lifted 4.3 inches in front and 3.1 inches in the rear, providing better ground clearance and a 20% improvement over the 2WD Sprinter's maximum slope-climbing angle.
Expect the 2015 Sprinter 4x4 in US showrooms in the first quarter of 2015 as Passenger Van, Crew Van, and Cargo Van body styles.