The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has long been a favorite of our staff for its practicality and frugality. If there was one area the Sprinter fell a little short, it was off-road ability. We don't typically think of the Sprinter as our first choice for pounding through the Rubicon or hopping the red rocks of Moab, but for certain buyers, the availability and capability of four-wheel drive was important. For European Sprinter buyers, the days of waiting for a factory 4x4 are over.
From the exterior, the Sprinter 4x4 doesn't look much different than a standard Sprinter, other than a noticeably higher ride height, 4 inches in front and three 3 in the back. The gaping wheel well gap looks a little goofy to us, especially with wheels and tires not much larger than the standard two-wheel-drive model. But the odd stature and proportions serve a function. The raised height increases approach angle from 18 to 28 degrees, and the departure angle on the short-overhang model from 22 to 27 degrees.
Unlike Mercedes' more typical 4Matic system, the Sprinter 4x4 employs a part-time system engaged by the driver by pushing a button on the dashboard. A low-range is optional, with a modest gear reduction of 1.42, compared with the typical 2.72, and much less aggressive than the 4:1 reduction on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
The potential markets for the high-riding van include vacation resorts in snowy or mountainous areas, and contractors and construction workers that need to get to remote locations or drive on unpaved roads.
It's unknown whether the Sprinter 4x4 will be offered in the U.S., or what the option price will be. Although the first upgrade we'd make to the riding-tall van are some beefier wheels and tires, we'd love to see this factory option come to the States.