The 4x4 Van Market is a Tiny Niche, But You Do Have Options
To the average product planner, the four-wheel-drive commercial van is just about as niche as a vehicle could possibly be. In terms of mainstream demand they likely rank up there with convertible crossover vehicles (here’s to you, Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet). That’s not to say they aren’t practical or cool however, they are. But where there’s a niche, undoubtedly there’s someone to cater to it, and in the U.S. that “someone” is Mercedes-Benz, makers of the only four-wheel drive vans currently on the market—the Sprinter 4x4s. These rock-hopping commercial vans emerged in the early part of 2015, and it’s not hard to see why they’ve earned a good deal of praise already. RELATED: Take a Look at Volkswagen's All-New 2016 Transporter Van
The hearty 4x4 package lifts the standard Sprinter by around 4.3 inches in the front and 3.1 inches in the rear and can be called upon with the push of a button, switching on the traction controlled part-time four-wheel-drive system. A special low-range gearbox can be outfitted to further increase that trail-readiness, and if you so choose, you can even spec-up a dually rear axle.
The Sprinter 4x4 also comes available in a dizzying array of variants—low and high-roof, short- and long-wheelbase, and both cargo and passenger versions. One unchanging feature is the engine choice however, which remains limited to the Sprinter’s 188 horsepower turbodiesel V6. No four-cylinders to be seen here. Shiftwork is handled by a five-speed automatic transmission, and impressively, the package tips the scales at under 270 pounds of extra weight.
RELATED: Check Out the Blisteringly Hot 2016 Mercedes A45 AMG
Yes, they’re a bit odd, but for the guy who hauls cargo in the country’s most remote corners, or the ski resort that ferries skiers and boarders from mountain to mountain…the four-by-four tech can be pretty necessary. That doesn’t mean it comes cheap, however. The Mercedes Sprinter 4x4s start at a tad over $44,400 in lowest specification.
But don’t despair, because there are other options. A variety of aftermarket specialists have been upfitting full-size vans with four-wheel drive running gear for years, and Pennsylvania’s Quigley 4x4 is arguably the biggest in the business. The company offers 4x4 kits for the Ford Transit and E-Series, GM’s Express and Savana, and Nissan’s larger NV series.
That wide breadth of options allow buyers to spec-up turbocharged gas V6s, five-cylinder diesels, and an array of V8 engines in styles that range from bare-bones cargo haulers to huge four-row minibuses. The point being, if you need a 4x4 van in any configuration—an upfitter can likely build you one. And if you’re on a tight budget and don’t mind buying used, a good check through the Internet classifieds and auctions should reveal a few older conversions too. Happy Wheeling!
RELATED: The EarthRomer XV-LT is the Ultimate Off-Road Camper