Are AWD Sprinter Vans as Capable as 4X4s?
Sprinter vans have always been known for their versatility, comfort, and reliability. They are the go-to vehicles for many businesses, from delivery services to plumbing or electrical companies. However, if you are an avid outdoors enthusiast, you may have some doubts about the all-wheel-drive (AWD) version of the Sprinter. You may have heard that they are not as capable as their 4X4 siblings, but is that really true? In this blog post, we will explore the differences, advantages, and drawbacks of AWD and 4X4 Sprinter vans, and help you make an informed decision based on your needs and preferences.
Let’s start by defining the terms AWD and 4X4, and how they differ from each other. AWD, as the name suggests, is a powertrain configuration that distributes power to all four wheels simultaneously. It is a more advanced system than the traditional two-wheel-drive (2WD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD) systems, as it can detect wheelspin and adjust the torque distribution accordingly, without any input from the driver. This makes AWD vehicles more stable, efficient, and versatile, especially on slippery or uneven surfaces. However, AWD does not necessarily mean that all four wheels are always engaged or that the vehicle can handle extreme off-road conditions.
On the other hand, 4X4 refers to a system where the driver can manually select either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, depending on the terrain and the conditions. This gives better control and power to the wheels that need it the most, such as when climbing rocks, crossing rivers, or plowing through deep snow. 4X4 systems also have lower gear ratios, locking differentials, and stronger axles, which increase traction, torque, and durability. However, 4X4 systems are more complex, heavier, and less fuel-efficient than AWD systems, and require more maintenance and driver input.
So, which one is better for a Sprinter van, AWD or 4X4? The answer depends on your specific use case. If you mainly drive on paved roads, highways, or well-maintained dirt roads, AWD may suffice and offer better comfort and convenience. AWD Sprinters are also easier to find, order, and customize, as they are available in all trim levels and body styles. AWD Sprinters can handle light off-roading, such as gravel, sand, or mud, but may struggle with steep hills, rocky terrain, or steep descents. AWD Sprinters are also more affordable, as the base price difference with a 4X4 is around $7000-$9000.
However, if you plan to go off the beaten path, explore remote areas, or tackle challenging trails, a 4X4 Sprinter is a must-have. 4X4 Sprinters offer superior traction, torque, and ground clearance, thanks to their specialized components and features. 4X4 Sprinters also have a higher resale value, as they are limited in production, in high demand, and highly desirable for adventure travelers, hunters, or overlanders. 4X4 Sprinters are also more capable of handling weight, such as custom-build campers, equipment, or supplies.
One common misconception about AWD Sprinters is that they are as capable as 4X4 Sprinters when it comes to safety and control. The reality is that AWD Sprinters rely heavily on electronic stability control (ESC), which can interfere with the driver’s inputs, especially in extreme or unpredictable situations. ESC can apply the brakes, reduce engine power, or shift gears without the driver’s consent, causing loss of traction, or worse, loss of control. AWD Sprinters also have less aggressive tires, lower ground clearance, and less protection, which can further limit their off-road capabilities and safety.
AWD and 4X4 Sprinter vans have their pros and cons, and it is up to you to decide which one suits your needs and budget. If you prioritize comfort, convenience, and versatility, and plan to use your Sprinter mostly on paved roads or light off-road, AWD may be a good choice for you. However, if you crave adventure, challenge, and durability, and plan to push your Sprinter to its limits, 4X4 is the way to go. Whatever choice you make, remember that safety should always come first, and that proper training, maintenance, and judgment are essential for any vehicle, whether it has two, four, or all-wheel drive.