Whats new with the 2023 Sprinter AWD?

Posted by Andrew Knox on

Do you hear that?

It's the inevitable march of progress. Yes, the 2023 Sprinters are starting to land in the laps of dealers, builders and many a patient customer. This update has been waited for by many, with hopes that progress will bring us smoother power, increased capability, and better economy. What's new? The biggest news is the 2.0L twin turbo 4 cylinder, 9 speed transmission and 50/50 capable AWD transfer case. While a lot of the focus is on the new engine and transmission, and it's potential for smoother power delivery it's important to look at the transfer case. The new unit is capable of up to 50/50 power distribution, variable between front and rear. The previous unit was only capable of a 33/67 distribution front and rear, making it's 4x4 title questionable.

Yes, I said it. The old '4x4' Sprinter isn't really a true 4x4. We would define a true 4x4 as one that has the ability to 100% lockup the front and rear differentials, without a torque split/bias. While this certainly sounds more capable in extreme situations, it's often less than refined in user experience, and not a fitting configuration for what most customers are using their Sprinter for; nor will it deliver the level of refinement they seek. Good on Mercedes for bringing a system that will add usable, real-world functionality.

After getting a new van to bring into the R&D department to start development, we wasted no time at all tearing the vehicle down to figure exactly what was changed and how we'll address fitment of our best sellers moving forward.

The same, but different.

The new van looks virtually identical on the outside, and you can expect much of the same from the 2023 Sprinter. This mid-cycle refresh isn't about reinventing the wheel, so much as polishing and refining it's motion. However, peering beneath the skin, we found plenty of subtle differences that will require some updates from us.

The new 4-cyl does seem to be slightly longer overall, but there is also additional cooling added to help keep the heat in check. After all, with essentially the same output from roughly 30% less displacement, the specific output of the engine is MUCH higher. This additional cooling has removed valuable space behind the bumper and grille, so we are redesigning/revising our Floating Light Mount and Hidden Winch Mount to be compatible with the new van while retaining all the popular features and functionality we added in these best sellers.

Underneath, we found more subtle surprises. The fuel filter assembly has been moved just in front of the fuel tank, which will complicate fitment for some of the popular aftermarket fuel tank upgrades. Our fuel tank skid actually still fits, which is a welcome relief.

The 2 other items that seem to be drawing a lot of attention aren't really related to us, but still interesting to the inquisitive minded. What appears to be an exhaust brake, has been installed mid-stream in the exhaust. In theory, this should help add compression braking on long grades, helping to prolong brake life.

The other big mystery is 'the box'. What's in the box? Well, nothing really, save for the first part of the rear driveshaft. As best we can figure, this was a reinforcement added by Mercedes to help brace this area of the chassis between the output shaft and driveshaft carrier bearing. The added mass and rigidity seems to have made the van noticeably quieter and smoother, a common problem that plagued previous 4x4 Sprinters of all shapes and sizes. In our testing, the new van seems more refined at all speeds.

The big diff.

It seems that most of the difference underneath comes down to a taller front subframe with subtle revisions. The front differential is a little taller and shaped differently, which resulted in a slight front ride height boost for everything to fit. In order to minimize the increase in front driveshaft angle when lifted, we will now be rotating the differential slightly. The transmission mount has changed too, and was replaced with a differently shaped tube cross member; easy enough for us to adapt an existing transmission mount spacer to fit our Striker 2" lift kit. Our non-lift kits still fit, so Stages 1 through 4.5 are currently compatible.

The different front subframe is necessitating a 2023 specific set of skid plates, but overall the same concept is in play. These should be one of the first products to come online for us, and are a perennial best-seller for us.

Everything else in the Striker kit fit, with only some subtle revisions here and there. We're really pleased with the stance and results of a 6.3 install on this van. We are chugging right along with new product updates for this new platform and will be shipping 23+ compatible parts by Spring 2023, so keep your eyes posted to our website and social media for more updates as the official releases come!

 


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