The road-holding ability of the Sprinter is brilliant: at 120km/h, it is a rock-solid drive with its permanent AWD. When overtaking big trucks and other vehicles in 5th gear, the Sprinter is (as its name suggests) a sprinter.
Engine: Intercooled 4-cyl TD
Power: 110kW @ 3800rpm
Torque: 330Nm @ 1400-2400rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
AWD: Permanent with centre diff lock
Towing unbraked/braked: 750kg/2000kg
Ground clearance: 192mm
Price: R920 800
The big mirrors give a good view of what is happening behind you.
The driving position was more comfortable than in a lot of 4x4s I had driven before. The six-speed manual gearbox is very easy to operate, and the clutch is not tiring.
The view out of the Sprinter is superb for game-viewing: that extra height helps one to see what other 4x4s cannot see. The aircon kept us cool and fresh, even when outside temperatures were well above 40 degrees.
Operating the 4×4 system is simple: In a straight line, come to a dead stop, depress the clutch, press the 4×4 button, and then wait for the system to be activated. Drive off in a straight line, and you have a 50/50 power split between axles.
When we hit the first thick sand in Moremi, it became clear that the Sprinter could handle it without trouble. We won’t mention any names, but one member of our team kept getting stuck in the really thick sections, and we used the 4×4 system to tow the vehicle for 19km through thick Kalahari sand in second gear. Sometimes even in third gear. The Sprinter did this effortlessly, but we mostly made use of the permanent AWD drive system that delivers 35% power to the front axle and 65% to the rear axle.
Some of the vehicle’s ability has to be attributed to the BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain tyres fitted, which gave impressive traction in the sand when deflated to 1.5 bars.
The vehicle is surprisingly dust-proof: driving at the back of the convoy tested this aspect thoroughly.
The power steering is feather-light, and it handles the narrow tracks in the Moremi Game Reserve very well.
When we entered Moremi, the officials first said that we could not go in with this bus. Once we’d showed them the ground clearance and 4×4 systems, they allowed us in, but were sceptical about this Mercedes-Benz. On our return, they rushed out to have a look at it again and were very surprised that we had not become stuck!
We all know that Botswana has cattle and donkeys in the road, and we tested the all-round disc brakes on several occasions – they get this van to a stop in record distance.
This is, for sure, an off-roader that will be on my shopping list, for the simple reason that you have a complete touring/camping vehicle in one that will keep up to the speed limits at all times, and get you there in comfort.
It’s a 4×4, SUV, double cab and an off-road trailer/caravan in one unit. The turbo diesel engine provides 110kW @ 3 800rpm, and 330Nm @ 1400-2 400rpm, which is plenty of power for towing.
It also comes standard with Electronic Stability Program, which takes the vehicle-load into account and will stabilise it with individually modulated intervention action. This new ESP comes with Trailer Stability Assist, so the system will intervene selectively if a trailer begins to sway, thus helping drivers to stabilise.
The overall diesel consumption on the 3800km trip came to 6.9 litres per kilometre, and that included tar, gravel, tweespoor and plenty of off-road driving through thick sand.