Rejoice, influential people who live in a van by the river! Your hashtag van life just got a little easier because 2023 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 is four-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive. That means when you’re headed to an Insta-friendly campsite on top of a glacier, on the edge of a volcano, or in the middle of a trout-filled river, you no longer need to press a button to engage the front axle. No, the Sprinter’s stock transfer case will do the job for you, transferring torque to the front axle as needed. That leaves you with more time to try on different hats, dry your bamboo laundry by an idyllic fire, or ask a camping toilet company to sponsor you so you can stop digging holes in the forest every day. RV life is busy.

So it’s also nice that the 2023 Sprinter diesel is probably faster than the old model. We say probably because we haven’t done any instrument testing yet, but it looks good on paper. The old V-6 diesel made 188 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, while the new Sprinter diesel delivers 211 horsepower at 3,600 rpm and 332 lb-ft between 1,600 and 2,400 rpm. What’s more, the power increase comes from a significantly downsized engine, now a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rather than a 3.0-liter six-cylinder. The excellent four-seater is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission instead of the 2022 model’s seven-speed. Thanks to the nine-speed’s wider gear spacing, Benz says first gear is the same as the older Sprinter 4x4s, which had a five-speed when their transfer case was in low range. That’s a good thing, since the 2023 Sprinter doesn’t have a low range.

Despite this, the new system is actually more capable. For example, with all-wheel drive engaged, the previous Sprinter 4×4 sent only 35 percent of the torque to the front axle. The new one can direct 100 percent to the front, 100 percent to the rear, or split it anywhere in between, as needed. From launch, it will aim for 50-50 front-to-rear, but on highways it can ditch the front axle and operate in rear-wheel-drive mode until conditions require assistance from the front. It’s all completely transparent, and there are real-world benefits, especially on pavement. Let’s say the road is wet or occasionally dry with icy patches – you don’t have to monitor the surface and engage four-wheel drive when things look slippery. There is always a craving.

And it’s useful now that there’s a little more power. It’s not like the Sprinter will give you whiplash off the assembly line, but the 2.0-liter feels wonderfully punchy, even with about 1,200 pounds of ballast strapped into the cargo area. Indeed, it’s very similar to a V-6, but it’s supposed to deliver better fuel economy. (The Sprinter, like heavy-duty pickups, is big enough to avoid EPA fuel-economy ratings.) The compression-ignition four-cylinder engine is largely free of rumble and vibration, with little cabin noise. The 7,500-pound maximum towing rating is the same as the outgoing model, so it looks like there really aren’t any downsides to the cylinderectomy under the Sprinter’s hood.

On the off-road side, Benz had grand plans for us to evaluate the new all-wheel drive system on the dirt bike track near Stuttgart, but heavy rain turned the terrain to mush, so the route was cut short. But we can say that the all-wheel-drive Sprinter handled a bit of mud with aplomb, despite the​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ winter winter tires in the tread blocks with the sticky Swabian clay. As before, this vehicle’s off-road abilities are defined by its size, not ground clearance or traction—you need a big track to accommodate a machine that can be more than 24 feet long and nine feet tall, depending on the configuration.

Despite the Mercedes star on the grille, the Sprinter remains a workhorse with a spartan interior — manual seats, handbrake, lots of hard plastic. There’s still a top-of-the-line petrol model, which uses a 188bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. and costs $46,795 in the form of a cargo van. The entry-level diesel is tuned for 170 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and costs $49,295 as a cargo van or $54,905 as a passenger van. All-wheel drive costs $6,400. That’s a significant discount from the outgoing all-wheel-drive system, which cost $8,500. Obviously, ditching that low range does save a few bucks. The starting price for the 170-inch wheelbase high-roof, high-powered cargo van with four-wheel drive is $64,635.

When we initially heard that the range-topping diesel Sprinter was losing two cylinders and one liter of displacement, it sounded silly. But in practice, most people won’t notice the difference one way or the other, even though the 2023 model is slightly more powerful and has a nine-speed gearbox. So, if you bought a 2022 V-6 Sprinter diesel, you don’t have to indulge in buyer’s remorse. And if you get a 2023 Sprinter 4×4 diesel that’s already in stock at dealers, you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out on the last great Sprinter engine. Indeed, the biggest difference is having four-wheel drive instead of four-wheel drive, but that’s more of an evolution than a revolution. For the latter, we’ll have to wait for the electric Sprinter that arrives next year.

At the same time, we’d like to convince Mercedes to bring the super-fun Sprinter pickup with a 4×4 cab to the US market. Influencers, get to work.

Technical characteristics

Technical characteristics

2023 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Cargo Van
Vehicle Type: Front Engine, Rear or All Wheel Drive, 2-Passenger, 5-Door Van

2500 standard roof, 144-inch wheelbase, rear-wheel drive, gas, $46,795; 2500 High Roof, 170″ Wheelbase, AWD High Power Diesel, $64,635

turbocharged intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0L diesel inline-4, 170 hp, 295 lb-ft; DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 188 hp, 258 lb-ft; 16-valve 2.0L DOHC turbocharged intercooled inline 4 diesel engine, 211 hp, 332 lb-ft

9-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 144.0 or 170.0 inches
Length: 234.0, 274.0 or 290.0 inches
Width: 80.0 inches
Height: 96.0-111.0 inches
Cargo volume: 533 feet3 max
Curb weight (C/D estimate): £5,500-£6,000

60 mph: 12.0-13.5 sec
1/4 mile: 18.0-20.0 sec
Top speed: 90 mph

Exempt from EPA testing and labeling

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