For 54 years, Sportsmobile has been building rugged campers on a variety of base van platforms. We recently took a look at its work in transforming a Ford E-Series Cutaway into a custom-built van, but that wasn't the only new model it had on show at this year's Overland Expo West. With the recent introduction of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 to the US market, Sportsmobile now offers an efficient, all-terrain Sprinter diesel camper.
Sportsmobile has been building Sprinter campers since 2003, but they've long been limited to 2WD. In 2006, when the Sprinter was being sold under the Dodge brand in the US, Sportsmobile developed a Sprinter 4x4 conversion with parts from Oberaigner, the Australian outfit that builds the Sprinter 4WD hardware for Daimler/Mercedes. Sportsmobile showed the van at the 2006 LA Auto Show and planned to be the exclusive US installer and supplier of Oberaigner-based Sprinter 4x4s beginning in Spring 2007. That never materialized.
Some reports suggest that Mercedes stopped Oberaigner from moving forward with the Sportsmobile deal, but Sportsmobile told us it was more of an internal decision to shelve the project based on word that Mercedes planned to bring the 4x4 Sprinter option to the US. Either way, the result was the same: no Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 for the better part of a decade.
It took a few years, but Mercedes finally brought the Sprinter 4x4 over the Atlantic for the 2015 model year. Many people looking for a quality van with four-wheel drive have been ecstatic about the news, the folks at Sportsmobile chief among them.
"After years of working with Mercedes-Benz to bring these vans to the US market, we are excited to finally have our hands on these vehicles for our customized camper conversions," president of Sportsmobile West Jonathan Feld says. "We know the features of this Sprinter 4x4 van will fit the needs of our customers for years to come."
Beyond just adding the prestige of the three-pointed star, the Sprinter's real selling point for the Sportsmobile customer is better fuel economy for a 4WD Class B motorhome. The base Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 with 188-hp 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel engine is estimated at 20 mpg (12 l/100km), and Sportsmobile is telling customers to expect 14 to 18 mpg (17 to 13 l/100km) for a converted camper van. It calls the model its lightest, most fuel efficient 4x4 conversion ever.
Sportsmobile offers a wide variety of floor plans, packages and options for the Sprinter 4x4 camper, with prices starting around US$70,000. The van can sleep up to four adults with the available Penthouse Top and folding in-cabin bed. Available equipment includes kitchen with sink, propane stove and refrigerator, in-cabin heating and air conditioning, hot water heater, cassette toilet, shower, TV and entertainment equipment, and solar panels.
The company estimates that the average Sprinter 4x4 build will run around $90,000, based on popular equipment and options. The model in our photos from Overland Expo, with its snorkel, exterior shower, Penthouse Top, wheel and all-terrain tire upgrade, and other equipment, prices in at $110K. The Sprinter 4x4 is proving quite a popular product for Sportsmobile, with the converter saying that it's already sold out of 2015 models and is now taking orders for 2016 Sprinter 4x4s.
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