4 x 4 Sprinters are hard to get. Our Sprinter dreams started with an opportunity to buy a barely used 4 x 4 Sprinter from our local dealership. We did not expect to have the opportunity to get a 4 x 4.
We were already tossing around the idea of getting a Sprinter when we took a Mother’s Day trip to Manzinta. We drove along the coast from Pacific City, through Tillamook and past Cannon Beach. The scenery was beautiful. There were people in Sprinters everywhere. A high roof Sprinter 170 passenger van drove in front of us from Pacific City to the Cheese Factory parking lot at Tillamook. A family of 4 hopped out and looked happy. We chatted with them for a bit. They recommended the high top because they liked to sit on the roof and see the view. They were also the first people we spoke with that recommended rear AC. They had spent the previous summer driving to Texas and were unable to keep the back passengers comfortable.
That night, I typed “Sprinter for sale, Oregon” into a search bar. A Sprinter 4 x 4 popped up. Did the Eugene dealership really have a 4 x 4 in stock?
I called as soon as I woke up. They were selling their 4 x 4 floor model. What? I really wanted to buy this van.
One of my top reservations with buying the Sprinter was the rear wheel drive. I spent my late twenties driving a Chevy Trailblazer 4 x 4. In putting 200,000 miles on it, I learned that rear wheel drive is useless and kind of scary in snow or other variable road conditions. Now that I had two children and my mom brain was in full effect, I just couldn’t imagine driving my kids around in the snow in a full size rear wheel drive van. CD wasn’t too concerned.
As you know, we met at a ski area. We appreciate winter. We love snow. We hope to instill the same in our kids.
With winter driving on my mind, we looked at the only front wheel drive cargo van, the Dodge ProMaster. Since there are four of us, we would need to have backseats. CD found a local company that was able add seats. The next step would be to add windows. CD looked in to that as well and felt like this was possibly something he could do himself. Ultimately, adding seats and windows erased any potential costs savings of getting the ProMaster. We went back to looking to used Sprinters. After all, the Sprinter diesel engine should go forever.
The day after we got home from Manzanita, we drove to Eugene to see the 4 x 4. Since Sprinters are a niche market, we hadn’t driven one yet. It was a high roof and had a few extra inches because of the four wheel drive and more aggressive tires. It seemed huge. We weren’t ready. We discussed the van every day for two or three weeks. We drove it a hand full of times.
The price tag was too much. We weren’t ready. It felt big and tall. I was worried that we would sell our other car, spend more than the money we had on this one vehicle and then not want it. To our relief and the sales person’s relief, we decided not to buy it.
Well, I regret it a bit. Although, we didn’t have enough money for it anyway.
Here we are two years later. We bought and sold a low roof Sprinter, looked at every truck trailer combination imaginable, designed every DIY camper trailer we could think of, drove Dodge ProMasters, Ford Transits, and settled on a rear wheel drive Mercedes Passenger van.
I have watched YouTube videos of Sprinter vans losing control on snowy roads. I have also watched the videos of guys driving their vans in the snow with snow tires and chains. They swear their Sprinters do fine in the snow and ice. Again, my current mind set is that of a mom.
Tomorrow we head to British Columbia for Christmas. Our route is Seattle, to BC and then East through Kelowna to Big White. The roads should be fine. I am not really worried about it.
Big White recommends snow tires and chains. I grew up in Michigan and went on to drive high mountain roads in Colorado for years. I am sure the van can handle it. I watched full size passenger vans drive in and out of the ski resort and over Vail pass every day. I am sure the Sprinter would be fine.
So what are we doing? We put our Thule rack on our AWD Sienna and packed our clothes and Christmas gifts in the back. Tomorrow we head to BC in our Sienna. I am a bit disappointed. CD wouldn’t have made this choice so I own it. We could be enjoying the view of Okanagan Lake from our Sprinter while drinking homemade hot cocoa, standing and stretching in front of our Lil Buddy heater, or laying on our bed to rest. Instead, we will be sitting in our seats and then stretching our legs while standing outside in the wind and cold.
I know that my mom-brain is reasonable and helpful in some ways. I also wonder if it is over cautious in other ways. In any case, I will stick with the AWD until CD and I leave the kids at home and take the van up and down snowy mountain passes of the Pacific North West. Until then, I will be grateful that Toyota makes an AWD Sienna.
I will indulge in all of the minivan perks that cargo vans lack. The first thing I will do in the morning is a turn on my seat heater and check out my smile in the visor mirror. Merry Christmas!