First Drive: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 Review

The Sprinter 4×4 is the more capable and comfortable version of the Mercedes-Benz van, so we tested it in the snow-covered caps of the Austrian Alps to see how capable it really is.

Mercedes-Benz will be rolling out the new Sprinter 4×4 into UK dealerships next year, 12 months after the launch of the front and rear-wheel-drive versions.

Sprinter 4×4: Background

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is now almost 25 years old, and 4×4 versions have been available under special order since the model was introduced in 1995. Four-wheel drive versions were especially popular with the second-generation, launched in 2006, when a new four-wheel-drive system and improved technology greatly increased its off-road capabilities.

Presented in 2018, the third-generation Sprinter is now the most advanced panel van to be produced to date, with features like the Mercedes Pro Connect and MBUX digital assistant.

Less than a year after launch, Mercedes confirmed a 4×4 version was on its way. The Sprinter 4×4 features the upgraded chassis, interior and technology of the new, third-generation model, but it will inherit the same 4×4 technology as its predecessor.

Sprinter 4×4: Engine and Driveline

Let’s start with the basics. There are two engine options on the new Sprinter 4×4; the 2.1-litre OM651 unit producing 143hp and 300Nm, or the 3.0-litre V6 OM642 engine, which also features in the X-Class X350D, generating 188hp and 440Nm. The smaller 2.1-litre engines are hooked to a six-speed manual transmission, while the large 3.0-litre V6 models come with the seamless 7G Tronic Plus automatic as standard.

Sprinter 4×4: How It Works

Four-wheel drive is engaged by the push of the button when stationary or at speeds of up to 6mph, which prompts an electric motor to engage a spur-gear pair on the transfer case (35:65 front to rear) and reduce the gear ratio by 42%.

The system onboard the Sprinter 4×4 works differently to its competitors in that it’s not a rigid through-drive; instead, power is transmitted variably depending on the conditions, although with the drawback of a very slight humming sound when engaged.

Instead of using mechanical differential locks like other models, the Sprinter 4×4 uses 4ETS Electronic Traction System. This automatically applies the brakes intermittently to the spinning wheels while increasing the drive torque to wheels with traction at the same time. It’s incredibly effective, cutting in before we could tell we’d lost traction, although Mercedes does offer differential locks as an option, if needed.

In addition to this adaptive ESP, which remains fully functional in all-wheel-drive mode, there are a number of other technological aids like the Down Speed Regulation, which detects if you’re travelling too fast for the conditions, and automatic brake intervention.

Sprinter 4×4: Interior

Inside, it’s pretty much business as usual for the Sprinter. With the introduction of the latest generation Sprinter, Mercedes-Benz has raised the bar in terms of comfort, style and refinement, with a well-presented and modern interior with a wide range of standard features.

One such feature is the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) which includes a high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen with intuitive touch controls, voice controls, a geo-coded map system from What3Words, and a permanent internet connection which enables Mercedes Pro services.

Steering-wheel mounted controls, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a DAB radio are also all standard.

Sprinter 4×4: Loads and Dimensions

UK specifications have yet to be announced, but Mercedes-Benz will not be offering every variant here. However, we can tell you that, compared with other four-wheel-drive systems, the product is relatively lightweight and compact.

This means there’s very little intrusion into the payload (just 135kg for the 3.0t and 3.5t derivatives and 105kg for the 4.6 and 5.0-tonners) and also the chassis doesn’t need to be lifted quite so high (just 120mm at the front and 80mm at the rear). Payloads are therefore expected to be as much as 1,150kg on 3.5t versions.

Sprinter 4×4: Price and Availability

Prices have yet to be announced but on the previous Sprinter, 4×4 models were a £5,800 plus VAT premium. Given that the technology has remained the same, it’s expected the premium will only increase slightly. We imagine the medium wheelbase, low roof model in 314CDi form (the lowest spec Sprinter 4×4) will cost around £37,500 plus VAT.

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