Now that Ford and Ram are launching tall, European-designed full-size vans in North America, just how is the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – the model that originally sparked this full-size van renaissance – going to stand out from the crowd? Perhaps the North American introduction of the new 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4, a full-size van with factory-installed four-wheel drive, might do the trick.
We reported earlier on both the latest iteration of the Sprinter 4×4, along with the chance it could finally come stateside, but official confirmation from the automaker itself arrived earlier this morning. Four-wheel-drive Sprinters are indeed coming to America under both the Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner nameplates, and should reach dealers by January 2015.
Four-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinters wear small “4×4” emblems on their rear doors, but they’re easily identified by their stance: the already towering Sprinter sees its ride height cranked up 4.3 inches in front and 3.1 inches in back in order to accommodate the 4ETS four-wheel-drive driveline. The system itself is similar to the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system used in the ML- and GL-Class models – including our formidable Four Seasons 2013 Mercedes Benz GL450. However, there is one notable difference: 4Matic is fully automatic, while 4ETS requires some driver assistance. Push a button to the left of the Sprinter 4×4’s steering column, and 35 percent of the engine’s power goes to the front axle. Don’t look for a series of locking differentials, like on the G-Class or the almighty Unimog; instead, the traction/stability control system can brake slipping wheels. If you truly require off-road fortitude, the 2015 Sprinter 4×4 will offer low-range transfer case gearing as an option.
According to Mercedes-Benz, the 2015 Sprinter 4×4 will be available in any form you like, so long as it’s a van. Buyers can add four-wheel drive to Sprinter passenger, crew, and cargo vans regardless of wheelbase or roof height. The only stickling point lies with powertrain. Although Mercedes launched a new 2.1-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinder/ seven-speed automatic pairing for the 2014 model year, the four-wheel-drive option mandates upgrading to the 188-hp, 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6, which is bundled with a five-speed -speed automatic transmission.
Pricing for the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 has yet to be announced, but like the Sprinter itself, which starts at $36,915 in base cargo guise, don’t expect the 4ETS system to be cheap. That said, it should be less expensive than prior four-wheel-drive Sprinter conversions offered in North America, which typically added anywhere from $18,000-$25,000 to the price tag. Better yet, Mercedes’ factory-built system is fully certified and warranted — something the aftermarket conversions can’t come close to matching.