Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 Vs RWD For A Campervan

Campervan 101

Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 Vs RWD For A Camper Van

By Kyle Rusak | July 21, 2022

Whether you are buying a campervan or building your own if you are using a Mercedes Sprinter van as a chaise you have probably asked the question: Is 4×4 or RWD better for a Sprinter campervan? I have decided to compare the two drive trains based on the following categories: cost, fuel efficacy, daily driving, and capability.
4x4 Sprinter

How much does 4×4 cost?

It comes as no surprise that four-wheel-drive is going to cost more than the rear-wheel-drive counterpart. On the Mercedes website they show a $8,460 between RWD V6 diesel and the 4×4 V6 diesel. Another thing to keep in mind with the 4×4 is only the 2500 and 3500XD (dually) and both have a lower payload capacity compared to their RWD counterparts. So for heavier conversions or people planning to pull trailers you may have to budget for a more expensive class. The Mercedes Sprinter is the only van that has a stock 4×4 option from the factory in 2022, so it still is cheaper than converting any of the competitors’ vans (such as a transit or promaster) into a 4×4.

Sprinter 4x4 average MPG

What is the Fuel Efficacy Of a 4×4 Sprinter?

At VanCraft we sell both 4×4 and RWD Sprinter vans, but we only rent out RWD campervans. I turned to Fuelly to get data on 4×4 fuel efficiency and according to the data they have collected the 3.0V6 diesel get between 14.3 and 17.6 MPG. Based on our own RWD vans we rent out the 4 cylinder engines average just above 22 MPG and the V6 engines average 20 MPG. The RWD Sprinter takes the easy victory in the category being better for your wallet and improved range.

Which One Drives Better?

According to Mercedes, the turning radius for the 4×4 is 3 feet wider in both the 144” and 170” compared to the RWD Sprinter. Though this may not have a big impact when driving down the road, it will be noticeable when navigating parking lots and driveways. The 4×4 Sprinter also comes stock with a 3 inch lift which can make entering and exiting the van difficult; at VanCraft we recommend anyone purchasing a 4×4 also purchase the running board upgrade for a better quality of life. Since the RWD van sits lower to the ground the center of gravity is lower, this makes the van feel more stable when driving and turning at higher speeds. For these reasons it is safe to say the RWD Sprinter drives better than the 4×4 sprinter.

Sprinter driving down road

When Do You Need 4×4?

For the capability section I want to rate each of the drive trains based on performance in 3 different terrains: Snow, Sand, and Rocks. For snow the 4×4 allows multiple to be powered at once which increases the traction and grip when accelerating and driving normally. When braking all 4 wheels break equally in both the 4×4 and the RWD, so both perform the same here. 4×4 Takes the victory in the snow section since the vans are less likely to get stuck or slip during acceleration. The 4×4 also meets the traction law requirements that mountain roads in ski areas will often have. When it is snowing some roads will require 4×4 or chains so with a four wheel drive you don’t have to worry about getting turned away when heading up to a ski resort or driving through a mountain pass. Tires are going to make the biggest difference in the van’s snow driving capability.

Sand is difficult to drive through, momentum is your friend and stopping can be your worst enemy. The size and weight of the vans help increase the momentum of the vehicle, so if you are already moving before reaching the sand both vans can tackle this terrain without many problems. In the experience of our team the 4×4 helps a small amount to keep you from getting stuck while driving or when starting from a complete stop. But both drivetrains can get stuck in deeper sand pretty easily. Just like with snow; the tires are going to make the biggest difference in your capability. If the campervan does get stuck tow ropes or track boards are the best way to escape. Sand is going to be a tie between RWD and 4×4 since the increased performance of the 4×4 is almost negligible.

Rocky roads/trains can be anything from gravel and dirt forest service roads to rock crawling trails in Southern Utah. Besides a different drivetrain the 4×4 comes stock with a higher lift compared to the RWD Sprinter van. This extra clearance can be helpful when navigating around rocks and potholes. For most gravel and dirt Forest service roads both the 4×4 Sprinter and the RWD Sprinter will perform the same. At VanCraft we take our vans down those roads to reach most campsites. Mud is where the 4×4 has a real advantage. With extra wheels being powered the campervan is much less likely to get stuck. For off roading on rated trails the 4×4 Sprinter is probably not your best option. The weight and length makes it difficult to navigate tight trails when compared with 4×4 jeeps and trucks. If you are travelling on trails that require higher clearance keep in mind that adding black and gray tanks to your van will lower the clearance. At VanCraft we don’t use gray or black tanks to keep the higher clearance.

Sprinter in the Desert.

Is 4×4 Worth The Cost?

After comparing all the categories one thing is very clear, the 4×4 Sprinter costs more but is more capable than the RWD Sprinter. The RWD is cheaper and more fuel efficient while the 4×4 can go more places due to better traction and higher clearance. Based on our rental fleet and over 100 customers we have concluded that 4×4 is useful if you plan on using the van for ski trips where roads may require 4×4 to reach the resorts. For people who live in warm areas or take most trips in the summer the RWD Sprinter is probably the better option due to the better price and more availability.

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