Mercedes-Benz Sprinter AWD
(Photo/Mercedes-Benz)

Van Life: 2023 Mercedes Sprinter Drops 4×4 for Full-Time AWD System

For 2023, the Sprinter van gets a new all-wheel-drive system, a new nine-speed automatic transmission, and a more powerful diesel engine.

Yep, the selectable 4×4 system, with low range, will no longer be available next year on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Neither will a six-cylinder engine option, with the diesel engine option now going to a more powerful and efficient four-cylinder design.

A new nine-speed transmission should help with efficiency and off-the-line acceleration.

2023 Sprinter AWD

The big update for 2023 is the new AWD system. Mercedes says the new driveline will offer more power, better endurance, and a more seamless transition when engaging the system when compared with the outgoing van.

The current Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 comes with a selectable 4×4 system, a part-time system that requires the driver to stop and engage the system on a level surface.

That means that you need to have it engaged before you need the extra traction — not always the most convenient, especially when you encounter bad weather on your travels. The new always-on AWD system will help you avoid getting stuck in the first place.

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And while the old 4×4 system could send only 35% of torque to the front wheels, this new AWD system can send up to half of the torque to the front axle. That means a better chance of getting through conditions when you need all four wheels finding traction and moving the van, as well as a better-balanced feel when driving through mud or snow.

Mercedes says that most of the Sprinter van’s off-road capability will remain intact. For drivers taking their vans through some seriously rough conditions, the ground clearance and approach and departure angles match the old 4×4 models. Yes, the breakover and departure angles will be just as horrible as before.

Sprinter buyers who have extreme off-roading planned for their van, though, will miss the old 4×4 system. They’ll lament losing its low range and its ability to crawl through tough conditions up and down hills using ultra-low gearing.

MBUSA - sprinter van
(Photo/Mercedes-Benz)

Engine: 2 Fewer Cylinders, More Power

A shrinking engine lineup means the end of the 3.0L six-cylinder diesel. In its place, Mercedes-Benz says the new OM654 2.0L four-cylinder turbodiesel will offer smoother acceleration, more torque, decreased emissions, and lower levels of noise and vibration.

The new diesel engine will come in two versions — one with 168 horsepower and one with 208 horsepower. The 208-horsepower offering boasts 20 horsepower more than the old six-cylinder.

While Mercedes didn’t reveal torque figures for the new diesel engines, it did say that they would have an aluminum block and steel pistons. The engine also gets dynamic exhaust gas recirculation to reduce emissions and improve performance.

Mercedes didn’t mention the gas engine at all, suggesting that it will be the same 188-horsepower 2.0L turbo-4 offered in the current Sprinter.

New 9G-TRONIC Transmission

Both engines will transition to a new nine-speed automatic transmission in the 2023 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. With fuel prices at record levels, the increased gear ratio spread offered should help boost fuel economy for both gas and diesel options. This would be achieved by letting the engines spend more time at their ideal rpm and by lowering rpm in highway cruising.

Mercedes said that the new gearbox will also help decrease noise levels. The new transmission offers faster downshifts and a new first gear ratio, both of which should help improve acceleration.

The changes to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans were announced during the 2022 Work Truck Week show in Indianapolis. Expect the updated vans, built at the Mercedes-Benz plant near Charleston, S.C., to arrive at dealers early next year.

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Evan Williams
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Evan has been drooling over cars since the time he learned to walk. Since then he's worked on controlling the drooling and expanded his interests to include hiking, cycling, and kayaking. He went to school for engineering but transitioned into a more satisfying career and has been writing automotive and outdoors news for nearly a decade