2023 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: Vanlife, Elevated

Strong points
  • Interior space remains the same for this new model
  • So versatile
  • New technologies and upgraded interior amenities really elevate the van
Weak points
  • Can be an expensive base for up-fitting
  • You'll want to sell your house and move into one
Full report

Vancouver, BC - There’s absolutely no denying that the idea of dropping it all and hitting the open road to live in a tricked-out school bus or van hasn’t crossed my mind at least once or twice over the past few years especially since the pandemic hit.

And I’m not the only one.

The popularity of upfitting buses and vans has taken on a whole new life and a whole new market. What used to be considered a lower-income means of living is now viewed as something luxurious, and let’s be honest, pretty damn cool.

So, what does the new Mercedes Sprinter have to do with all of that? Well, the Sprinter is one of the more popular models out there when considering these kinds of modifications. Like the Honda Civic was to compact car modifications, the Mercedes Sprinter is to upfitted vans for that nomad life.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

AWD All the Time

One of the most impressive and perhaps the best upgrades on the new Sprinter is that it now comes equipped with permanent all-wheel drive. Whereas the previous generation featured a 4x4 system that required activation via a button by the driver, this new system is active at all times.

This ensures that the Sprinter can (and will) handle any and all terrains. And it truthfully can. We took it on some pretty rocky and muddy terrain in rainy Vancouver weather up and down the side of Grouse Mountain just outside the city, and the Sprinter did not disappoint. In fact, it thoroughly impressed.

The new full-time AWD system works on an intelligent system that can send up to 50% of the torque to each axle as needed. It’s constantly monitoring the driving conditions, your throttle input and the terrain. If it senses a wheel slipping, it will quickly figure out the best course of action to keep the Sprinter headed in the right direction.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Larger than the Lifestyle of Your Choice

Here’s the thing about the Sprinter: It’s a big vehicle with so many configurations available it’s almost hard to keep track. This thing can be tricked out and transformed to suit any and all needs and wants. From cargo van to passenger carrier to delivery van to living quarters, the Sprinter can do it all. And it can do it all with ease and finesse - something that the commercial van market is extremely competitive about.

While some might look at the Sprinter as simply a delivery van, it really is and can be so much more than that.

The first Sprinter I ever drove was way back in 2014. I was moving and had requested a Sprinter to act as my moving van. It was brilliant. With a completely empty back, it acted as the ideal hauling vehicle for all my boxes and furniture. And my then toddler loved it even more when it was empty and he could run around the back while we were parked.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

Since then, the Sprinter has gone through some serious changes, and all for the better. Most notable: the interior space up front. Gone are the days of super-simple, sparse centre consoles and steering wheels. Instead, the Sprinter now features a much more Mercedes-esque optional display both on the dash and in the gauge cluster. The steering wheel has also been updated and is much plusher and more comfortable to hold.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

There is also an available digital review mirror that solves the problem of not being able to see out the back if you choose a windowless rear door model or have the back too packed to see. It’s a brilliant and necessary upgrade to the Sprinter model.

In terms of exterior looks, the Sprinter maintains its large, boxy presence and yet somehow remains sophisticated. Of all the work vans out there, (read: Transits, ProMaster, etc.) the Sprinter is definitely the best-looking of the bunch. Perhaps it has something to do with the large tri-star symbol in the front, but it definitely stands out from the crowd, especially in bright red or khaki grey livery.

Photo: Miranda Lightstone

Powered for #Vanlife

Now, of course, the most aspect of any vehicle - even a cargo van - is the performance and power. So, for this generation, Mercedes nixed the 6-cyl and now the Sprinter exists with just a 4-cyl option. But don’t be sad about it.

The latest generation 4-cylinder 2.0L is a completely new engine and good for 168 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and the diesel version; a 4-cylinder two-stage turbocharged unit produces 168 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque which is an increase from the previous generation by 7 ponies and 29 lb-ft of torque respectively. And coupled with that improved engine is Merc’s 9G TRONIC transmission that suits it perfectly.

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

On top of an improved engine and transmission is the introduction of Mercedes me App that allows businesses to properly monitor their fleet vans. Not only can they keep track of service appointments needed but also vehicle locations, routes taken, and even when potential break-ins happen.

Sprint to the Finish Line

I’m not shy about it: The Sprinter Van is my favourite of the larger transit vehicles. Not only is it versatile, but it’s also well appointed, comfortable to drive, and adaptable. All of that is so important when it comes to transit vans either for personal use or commercial. Mercedes continues to impress and improve in this market, and this latest iteration of the Sprinter is proof.

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