2023 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Gets 50/50 Split AWD System for Better Off-Roading

Much like the Ford Transit, Benz's cargo vans are looking to grab the attention of outdoor-loving individuals and businesses.

In case you haven’t heard, it’s Work Truck Week this week, which is a bit like Shark Week except instead of a week’s worth of shark programming on the Discovery Channel, makers of work trucks are showing off their wares at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. Mercedes-Benz showed up and is announcing some pretty major revisions to the Sprinter’s powertrain options for 2023. For the upcoming model year, Mercedes’ work van will exclusively feature more efficient four-cylinder engines, a new nine-speed automatic transmission, and a new all-wheel-drive system that could make it more capable off the tarmac, and therefore more appealing to outdoor-loving individuals and businesses.

Replacing the Sprinter’s previous 4×4 system is a new all-wheel-drive setup that’s been borrowed from the company’s passenger cars. It can send up to 50 percent of torque to the front axle (versus a max of 35 percent previously). According to a Mercedes spokesperson, the AWD system here does not feature a physical differential lock but instead uses the automaker’s “4-ETS” tech to monitor traction on a per-wheel basis and split torque accordingly between the axles. 

Merc says this new system lets the Sprinter go over all types of terrain without fuss, not exactly surprising when you consider the fact that every single press photo that came with this news depicts the Sprinter on the dirt. If this Sprinter’s new AWD really is the real deal, those looking for immense space and go-anywhere capability have another, decidedly more luxurious option on their hands that isn’t a Ford Transit, the vehicle that has dominated this spot in the marketplace. Should be useful not just for hobbyists looking for a base to build a whole overlanding rig on, but also delivery drivers whose routes may not always involve tarmac. 

50:50 AWD is not all that’s new, though. Starting in model year 2023, the Sprinter will only be available with four-cylinder gas and diesel engines, cutting the model’s six-cylinder diesel out of the menu. Available here with either 168 or 208 hp, the OM654 diesel four-pot is said to be smoother, quieter, torquier, and more efficient than the mill it replaces. A new nine-speed automatic is now standard across the board and, like that engine, contributes to a quieter, quicker, more efficient, and more comfortable-to-drive Sprinter.

The 2023 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and its overhauled powertrain lineup will be available in the U.S. in early 2023.

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