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2015 MERCEDES-BENZ SPRINTER

If you hope to survive the inevitable zombie apocalypse or just want to deliver plumbing supplies when it snows, you need a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 van. Mercedes revolutionized the big-van segment when it introduced the Sprinter here more than a decade ago. Until then, there were just full-size vans. Now there are Ram ProMasters, Ford Transits and several smaller commercial vehicles. So to stay ahead of the curve, and the damned zombies, Mercedes is adding a 4x4 option.
Sure, the old 4x2 drivetrain was good and is still available. But to get places you never thought you could go in something this big, the 4x4 expands your delivery route considerably. To see for ourselves, we went to Canada's Monashee Mountains, halfway between the Cariboos and the Bugaboos, midway between Vancouver and Calgary. Mercedes assumed there'd be snow. We could see snow on the peaks around us, but below our Bridgestone Blizzak W965s, there was just mud. That was fine, since mud works just as well as snow as a low-mu test surface. Did it work? Did the Sprinter 4x4 conquer all in its path? Mostly, yes.
For the $6,500 more the 4x4 costs over the $36,990 base 4x2 Sprinter, the added confidence you'll feel in snow or mud might be worth it. Throw in another $300 for the optional low range and drive out the showroom doors with all wheels spinning for $43,790. For that, you get an extra 4.3 inches of lift in the front and 3.1 in the rear. The AWD engages via a dash-mounted button, sending 35 percent of traction to the front axle. The shortcoming is the whole drivetrain runs through open diffs front and rear; but Mercedes counters with traction control, grabbing the slipping wheel's brakes to send traction to the tire getting the grip.
This works well up until you're in really steep, deep mud, whereupon (for our convoy, anyway) a Mercedes guy with a shovel appears and digs you out. That happened to another Sprinter 4x4 on our excursion and not us, but it might have just showed that a snow tire isn't necessarily a mud tire. While the 4x2 Sprinter comes with either a 161-hp four cylinder or a 188-hp V6, the 4x4 gets only the V6. It's a good V6, though, with Bluetec diesel power, 325 lb-ft of torque and a nice, smooth five-speed automatic. While the EPA doesn't issue fueleconomy numbers for bruisers of this size, we estimated it gets 26.7 mpg.
The Sprinter's biggest selling point is versatility. Mercedes says it offers two wheelbases, three body lengths, three Gross Vehicle Weight classes, cargo volume up to 547 cubic feet, up to 5,415 pounds of payload, cargo area height of up to 6 feet 6 inches, loading length up to 185 inches, towing capacity up to 7,500 pounds and a tongue weight of up to 750 pounds-and that's before the 50 or so aftermarket upfitters get a hold of it. Problem is, it's already sold out through September. So unless you've already ordered it, you can't get yours until Halloween. Just in time for the aforementioned zombies.

2015 MERCEDES SPRINTER 4X4
ON SALE: Now (but sold out till October)
BASE PRICE: $43,490
DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-liter, 188-hp, 325-lb-ft V6 diesel; AWD, fivespeed automatic
CURB WEIGHT: 5,898 lb
0-60 MPH:12 sec (est)
FUEL ECONOMY (EPA
CITY/HWY/COMBINED): N/A

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