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Old 12-23-2016, 01:16 PM   #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
I don't own a Sprinter.

The Sprinter has an independent front suspension where the Ford has a floating axle. No disrespect, but the short comings and capabilities of each are well established. Ford vs Sprinter is Apples to Oranges. Ford has true rock crawling capability. The Sprinter does not. If you need that true rock crawling capability, then the Ford is your huckleberry.

No offense, but I question whether you've actually been offroad in any of the places you linked, because places out here in the west are littered with all kinds of vehicles getting into places you'd never imagine.
You are letting this get way too personal. I have lived for long periods and offloaded in both east and west. It's time to chill out. I will not continue to engage you if you persist with this tack.
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Old 12-23-2016, 03:04 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by Christopher Thwaites View Post
The post on the Sprinter Forum is great. I look forward to some challenges in my Sprinter off road. It certainly isn't built as heavily as my SMB but it also will not weigh as much when it's fully built. Factory stock the Sprinter cargo van weighs about 5800#. My build will add less than 2000#. The SMB weighed about 9000#. Maybe the lighter weight will translate into added agility off road!
Chris does have a point about weight. I've seen a lot of videos and pics of Ford 4x4 vans doing some fairly difficult trails but most of these vehicle do not weight in excess of 10,000 pounds either. There are several different trail rating systems out there and some are more specific than others but I've liked the Mitchell Scale. To me rock crawler means something that is not street legal. It's a poor description for a fully outfitted SMB build on a 4x4 platform IMO. I'd guess the 4x4 Sprinter's would be limited to class I through class-III, where the most technical trail I feel comfortable in my SMB would be in and around a class IV. A lighter (and shorter RB) van should be able to out perform mine if its outfitted with similar equipment. I don't have a clue on the torquing of the Sprinter body and frame but there is a point where I access a trail and say I'm not taking a $100,000+ vehicle down a hairy trail.

The Mitchell scale:
It begins with Class I, the easiest trail conceivable, to Class VI, the impossible.

This includes just about every type of semi-improved road, which receives little or no maintenance, over which you can drive a standard passenger car with little fear of damaging the undercarriage.

Class II
This road might have a high center, or an occasional rock sticking up, either of which could cause problems for ordinary passenger cars. While this class of road may possibly be negotiated by a skilled driver operating a low-slung automobile, we nevertheless recommend this road for two-wheel drive vehicles having higher ground clearance than most passenger cars. Four-wheel drive and dual range gears are not needed.

Class III
The surface of this road may be very rocky, very sandy, or very steep. This is the easiest type of road that would prudently require the driver to use four-wheel drive. A transfer case offering low range gears and locking axles is not needed. Unless they are excessively wide, most off-the-shelf SUVs and pickups, even those being driven by drivers having limited off- road experience, should be able to handle this road without any vehicle damage.

Class IV
Here we begin to separate the men from the boys, both in terms of driver experience and the type of vehicle. We only recommend this severity of road for fully experienced drivers, who know the capabilities of their vehicle very well. A transfer case with ultra low-range gears is necessary, as is at least one full-locking axle, skid plates protecting everything vital underneath, and oversize tires of at least 33 inches that can be easily deflated and inflated on the trail. Be aware that some minor vehicle body damage could occur, unless the driver has an outside spotter to act as a guide. Roads and trails having significant portions of Class IV are unsuitable for more than half of the unmodified pickups and SUVs on the market today.

Class V
This is an extremely difficult road, totally unsuitable for 98% of new vehicles as they leave the factory. The following items are a must: A transfer case with low range gears, two to four-inch lift of the suspension, locking axels both front and rear, skid plates protecting the entire undercarriage, roll bars, and a winch. Even with a spotter, some vehicle damage will occur. This is not a trail for the faint of heart, a novice four-wheeler, or a stock right out of the factory vehicle.

Class VI
This is extreme four-wheeling for hard-core rock crawlers only. Besides the equipment and modifications listed above, a full rigid cage is recommended. Even with an experienced driver in a highly modified vehicle, the chances of a rollover are quite high!


Class I through class V pics.
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Old 12-23-2016, 03:18 PM   #43
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Good stuff Dave. In my limited experience offroading (or perhaps moderate experience I guess) I would say most Ford based SMBs, if the driver is willing, would stop at about class IV with maybe a few who would attempt a known class V trail. I would also think most Sprinters, due to height, length and moderate lift would stop at about class III. Being from the East I'm pretty unfamiliar with marked or categorized trails. We simply don't have them. I don't think anyone in my part of the world would go down a new trail in a van or Sprinter that they hadn't been down in another vehicle before.

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Old 12-23-2016, 04:17 PM   #44
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Yeah Eric, I have got into some trouble running a trail w/o knowing the condition. Things can change quickly and at times there is no way to go back.

I also like how the Backcountry Adventures book series rate their trails. It's a bit more defined but the trails are rated for stock or slightly modified SUV's. Even in that book a class 5 trail is about the limit of where I want to go.

Pics of what the book considers class 5 and class 4. The class 4 is the pic where Cindy is spotting Craig (Calclimber).
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Old 12-23-2016, 04:35 PM   #45
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This is the Cruise Moab Trail Rating system.

Cruise Moab - Trail rating system

This is what SMB says re. Sprinters and retrofitted Fords in relation to this 1-10 system:

In Moab on their trails and how they are rated, we would say a Sprinter is good on 1 & 2, and may struggle on a 3, where the Ford is great up to 3 and may have some clearance issues due to size on 4's.

We have had Ford customers do some class 5 trails, vehicle was able to handle the trails, but did experience some body damage due to the size and wheel base of the chassis.
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Old 12-23-2016, 04:48 PM   #46
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Well this thread has morphed into a Sprinter vs Ford thread, but I guess that's inevitable and it does provide a 'baseline' against which to measure from.

Here's a video I came across showing a Ford SMB going over some rocky terrain. Not terribly challenging, but it does a good job of highlighting the benefits of clearance.



This video above did get me thinking that I really, really need to get out on another epic trip, maybe with Bill Burke again. Shameless plug of me and my Bronco on a trip with Bill (starting at the 1:55 mark). I think an SMB could have made this particular trip, except one or two spots where the level, sandy trail suddenly hit the slickrock at about a 40 degree angle. An SMB would have left some significant tail-drag marks, and maybe some sheet metal and/or paint.




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Old 12-23-2016, 05:10 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by daveb View Post
Chris does have a point about weight. I've seen a lot of videos and pics of Ford 4x4 vans doing some fairly difficult trails but most of these vehicle do not weight in excess of 10,000 pounds either. There are several different trail rating systems out there and some are more specific than others but I've liked the Mitchell Scale. To me rock crawler means something that is not street legal. It's a poor description for a fully outfitted SMB build on a 4x4 platform IMO. I'd guess the 4x4 Sprinter's would be limited to class I through class-III, where the most technical trail I feel comfortable in my SMB would be in and around a class IV. A lighter (and shorter RB) van should be able to out perform mine if its outfitted with similar equipment. I don't have a clue on the torquing of the Sprinter body and frame but there is a point where I access a trail and say I'm not taking a $100,000+ vehicle down a hairy trail.
I've seen some built up Fords on a Class V, but they had minimal interiors, excellent drivers, and were not afraid of taking some body damage. I'd guess a Sprinter is good for class 3 with undercarriage protection (including sliders) and a good driver. Class II for most other folks.

With the Agile suspension setup, you get a bit more of a lift and quite a bit more articulation in the Sprinter. But, I without proper diff locks and floating axles, I don't see that a Sprinter will ever be as good as a Ford in the nasty stuff.

We drove Georgia Pass in our Cayenne, and it did fine. Probably a Class II in the above rating. I think a Sprinter could have handled it just fine, but a few of the deeper hairpins would have put the van body too close to obstacles for my comfort.

Going slow in a big vehicle over obstacles is not my cup of tea. The places we need to access high in the alpine that would be within a Ford's ability are too remote to do alone. We'll do some of the remote overlanding routes in a Sprinter 4x4, but not the big Jeeping routes that have tons of obstacles. I think that will be the Sprinter's sweet spot - long distance offroad routes that don't have big technical features.

I'm not going to lie, though. The little kid in me wants a Ford just for the presence. Nothing beats a Ford SMB when it comes to parking lot presence Can't tell you how many rumble strips I've hit rubber necking as a big Ford SMB drives by.
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Old 12-24-2016, 10:21 AM   #48
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A Sprinter Owner's Perspective

I think Wrinkledpants said it best in post #37 above when he said:

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Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
If you're rock crawling, articulation is king. But, I don't think any Sprinter owners are under the assumption that they can rock crawl this van.
Excluding the Sprinter (happy owner of Flint for almost four months and a bit over 6,000 miles now), over the years I have owned two AWD's and five 4x4's ranging in size from a 1 ton International to two Land Rover Discoveries.

We did NOT buy the Sprinter for it's rock crawling abilities. Were I 25 years younger I would be all in for a big Ford and all that goes with it, but for where we are in life now the Sprinter checks most of the boxes for the purposes we want it for. Am I spending a lot of extra $'s adding things to it that (in someone else's eyes) would make better sense being installed on something more capable to start with? Quite possibly, but it's my van and I'm having a lot of fun doing what I'm doing to and with it, and isn't that what we all want to do with our vans?

We live in the Bay Area and anywhere we go takes a lot of highway driving. The Sprinter handles this well, we take turns driving (or I should say that I get to drive when Laura lets me!) and we put the miles behind us fairly effortlessly when we want to go somewhere.

Laura is a geologist and loves spending time in the desert. In this case we find ourselves in challenging situations due more to sand and gravel than big rocks requiring articulation. Thus the air compressor and soon-to-be recovery ramps. Both will also be great to have for trips to the sand at Pismo Beach, another favorite destination where we will comfortably watch our son-in-law put his heavily modified Tacoma through its paces.

As for the winch up front? I see it as a tool and I have pulled many more tree stumps out of the ground with a winch than vehicles out of the mud, but I have had to use it for self-recovery in the past and I consider it a cheap insurance policy. Besides, I like the idea of having a big chunk of metal up front standing in the way of whatever the world may throw at us as we go down the road. It's there for a lot of reasons other than hauling the van up the face of a steep hill where I have no business being in the first place.

In post #46 above BroncoHauler rightfully observed that this may be turning into a Sprinter vs. Ford thread. Please don't let it become that. These vehicles are different, built for different purposes, wants and needs. When we went on the Valley of Fire run this past summer we were the lone Sprinter on the trail with six big Fords, and I for one was glad they were there with their superior off road capability. It turned out we didn't need any help that day, but I know that as we push the vehicle to find its limits we will in the future.

A while back Chris and I had a brief exchange regarding putting some Sprinters on a known trail to see what they can do. Not to find out how much more capable a built-out Ford is, but to help answer the question that this thread started with - Sprinter 4x4 - what can it handle? We all know it can't handle the really rough stuff, but speaking as a Sprinter owner, that's not the goal of having one. Please, let's continue the discussion and hopefully some of us can get together in the near future and put some of these vehicles through their paces, not to find out which is "better" or "more capable", but to have some fun getting to know each other (the best reason to get together) and our vehicles more.

Happy Holidays!
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Old 12-24-2016, 12:41 PM   #49
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I like the Sprinters... How capable is the 4x4? I won't be doing the Rubicon trail, but certainly want it to handle any forest road.
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Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
I'd guess a Sprinter is good for class 3 with undercarriage protection (including sliders) and a good driver. Class II for most other folks.
I feel this is the answer the PO was after but I could be wrong.
You can push any vehicle past what is advisable. Yes, in my opinion I think that a 4x4 Sprinter will be way more capable than need be on the typical forest service roads because most (FS roads) rarely exceed a class II rating. Some people may not know there are different trail rating scales and why I posted it.
Although I wouldn't like to see anyone damage their vehicle, I'd love to see a 4x4 Sprinter do Mengel pass or the Lippincott road. Those are generally considered class IV with weather permitting.
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Old 03-03-2018, 09:45 AM   #50
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daveb, this may be a silly question but there is limited info out there, maybe for a reason. Anyway, have you seen or anyone here seen a Sprinter 170 4x4 dually on a class II road, class III?
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