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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4

The Sprinter 4x4 ride was smooth and supple, bumps and potholes were soaked up without disturbing the inner calm in the cabin.

The regular two-wheel drive Sprinter is fine for most tradies, but for those whose work takes them off the beaten track Mercedes-Benz has launched a four-wheel drive version.

Mercedes new four-wheel drive Sprinter comes in three and five-tonne models, van and cab-chassis variants, the latter with a choice of single or dual cab bodies.

The company is quick to say it's not a "rock hopper", but will handle slippery conditions a tradie might encounter getting around a mine site, construction zone, or snow field, or getting down a forest road or over a farm paddock in getting to a remote power line or telecommunications tower.

The 4ETS four-wheel drive system is typical of the modern all-wheel drive systems that rely on electronics rather than cold hard mechanics.

It works in tandem with other electronic systems fitted to the Sprinter, like the weight sensitive any-skid control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, emergency brake assist and brake force distribution.

It's a switchable system engaged by punching a switch on the dash, so most of the time when driving the road it's in normal rear-wheel drive mode.

But when the driver selects four-wheel drive all four wheels are driven in the ratio of 35 per cent front and 65 per cent rear.

That ratio varies depending on the traction at each wheel as detected by the speed monitors at each wheel. If the system detects one or more wheels slipping it applies the brake to those wheel to minimise the slipping, and at the same time redirects the drive to the other wheels that have traction.

A second switch alongside the main four-wheel drive control on the dash engages low range when needed for extra drive in adverse conditions off road. When low is selected the transmission ratio is reduced by around 40 per cent.

Raising its suspension to increase its ground clearance, approach and departure angles, and ramp-over angle has further enhanced the Sprinter's offroad performance.

There's a choice of 110 kW/330 Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine or a 135 kW/400 Nm 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6, and a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed auto gearboxes.

Big Wheels was recently able to test drive a Sprinter 515 4x4 long wheelbase van powered by the 2.2-litre four linked to the six-speed manual gearbox.

The 515 CDI has a GVM of 4495 kg, will haul almost 16 cubic metres of cargo or a payload of 1885 kg, and tow up to two tonnes.

On the road the big 'Benz comfortably kept pace with town traffic, it hade plenty of pace off the line and easily maintained a comfortable cruise.

Out on the highway it showed the ability to run at the highway limit with the engine turning over at a comfortable 2500 revs, and there was sufficient left in the tank to overtake safely when needed.

The ride was smooth and supple, bumps and potholes were soaked up without disturbing the inner calm in the cabin.

Away from the black top the four-wheel drive system handled the only sloppy conditions that could be found at the end of dry southern summer with aplomb and seemed capable of handling much tougher going.

Back on the highway there was a noticeable whine from the front diff at the highway cruising speed. Not so audible at lower speeds the whine could become annoying in long spells on the highway.

The raised suspension, while great for going offroad made it more of a climb to get behind the wheel, something not aided by the Sprinter's rather poor assist handles that are even more out of reach than they are on the regular Sprinter with its lower ride height.

The Sprinter 4x4 is priced from $67,990, which includes the 4x4 option price of $22,000.


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