The age old question: what is the best tool for the Job? For decades that monicker has fell across an entire realm of vehicles, from SUVs to pickups to wagons. But even as time-tested as those platforms are, there is another that is equally as proven in the commercial world—the van.
Cargo vans are exceptional in the trade market. They are built on truck frames with truck engines, have remarkable load capacities and cavernous holds in which to store and transport goods and materials. However, they have always lacked one key feature that kept them from entering the off-road market, no four-wheel-drive. Since the late ’80s there have been a number of aftermarket companies that convert your run-of-the-mill Ford Econoline van into a 4×4 monster with the assistance of full-size truck parts. While these are wonderfully adept at navigating the world unpaved, it’s a costly endeavour.
Not only do you have to procure the vehicle, but then you need to have it transformed into a rock-god by those with the skills necessary to do so and their stockpile of parts (assuming you don’t just do it yourself). At that point, unless you’re dead-set on the platform, it becomes cost prohibitive and the normal platforms keeps their market share.
However, Mercedes-Benz listened and has fielded a factory 4WD option in their Sprinter van. While not as agile as their solid-axled brethren so thoughtfully converted by the aftermarket, the 4×4 Sprinter has every bit of muscle that its normal counterparts have. With features like an exceptionally robust truck-based transfer system and skid plates, its price is considered reasonable, if you don’t discount the fact that it comes with a 3.0L oil-burning turbo diesel under the hood.
What is your preferred platform for seeing the wild unknown?
If you haven’t already seen it, be sure to check out Roambuilt’s 4×4 Sprinter in Sprinter Life Elevated (September/October 2017 issue).