If you’re looking to buy a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van to convert to a high-roof model, you probably know that Mercedes offers this kind of van in many sizes. Each of the three Sprinter van wheelbases offers its own unique benefits and disadvantages.
Which one you decide on will affect the amount of space that your van has, its off-road ability, its maneuverability in cities and regular roads, its fuel economy and gas efficiency, and many more. So, how do you determine which Sprinter van wheelbase is best for your van? Use this guide to find out the advantages of the different Mercedes Sprinter van wheelbases, and then decide which Sprinter is right for your van.
What is a Wheelbase?
Sprinter vans are designed for carrying cargo, and they are available with three different wheelbases. Wheelbase is simply the distance that separates the two rear axles of a van. Sprinter vans are available in three different widths: 144 WB, 170 WB, and 170 Extended WB.
Sprinter 170 and 170 Ext vans technically have the same wheelbase, but the Sprinter vans with the longer wheelbases allow you to build extra beds and other amenities. The van body extends farther back in the body than the rear wheels, which creates extra room inside the van.
The outside dimensions of these vans are often ignored because it does not really matter a lot how long the van exterior is. All you should know is that the 144 Sprinter is less long than the 170 Sprinter when it comes to the inside.
The Differences Between 144” vs 170” Sprinter Vans
Let’s compare the 144 and 170 Sprinter vans side by side. If you’re gearing up for the van life, then it will be beneficial for you to know the differences between the 144 and 170 Sprinter vans.
Parking and City Driving
In regards to parking and maneuvering in tight spots, the 144′′ Sprinter is the better option. 144 wheelbase Sprinters have a wider turning radius, and they easily fit into standard parking spots at most parking lots.
It’s possible to park more easily in city parking lots with a 144′′ wheelbase Sprinter, but using a 170′′ wheelbase Sprinter is much more maneuverable. They are able to easily maneuver on busy roads and in towns. They do barely fit in parking lots, though.
For driving in cities, the handling is nearly identical between the two wheelbases. But turning around in the 170 wheelbase Sprinter isn’t quite as easy as the 144, and you’ll have to be a little more careful when you’re making U-turns. Keep in mind that a 170″ Extended wheelbase is even harder for parallel parking, due to the added length.
If you plan on using your Sprinter van to drive to and from work every day, a 144 wheelbase is the best option for you. It really all depends on the average time you have to spend driving around urban areas compared to driving in rural areas. If you regularly go to a big city or live near an airport, going with a shorter 144′′ van will be easier to drive.
Sprinter vans do not have the clearance and maneuverability that a Jeep or a lifted pickup truck does, and they don’t have the extra horsepower to handle serious terrain. Sprinter vans are very popular, partially because of their excellent off-road capabilities. They can be equipped with optional 4×4 systems and suspension upgrades that provide even more clearance and stability when driving off-road. This lets drivers reach tucked away campgrounds and mountain bike trails that are difficult to access by other vehicles.
Sprinter camper vans are capable of performing fine on light to moderate trails. When equipped with a 4×4, all three sizes of the van should be able to handle reasonably well. If you plan to use your Sprinter van in situations where it will need to have a lot of clearance or some highly maneuverable equipment, you may want to stick with the 144 wheelbase model.
To put it briefly, the longer the wheelbase is, the more room you will have to build a floor plan that will allow you to put all the things that you need inside it. There is quite a difference in the amount of space between a 144 and a 170′′ wheelbase Sprinter. This isn’t something that you would think about at first, but it really is a big difference in reality.
You can build beautiful, fully-featured camper vans in all sorts of different Sprinter vans. It is possible to build any of the 4 types of Sprinter vans that provide adequate height and space to accommodate the amenities that you would want.
Keep in mind that full-length beds cannot be used horizontally in Sprinter vans, so they must be oriented vertically (from front to back). If you have a full-length bed that is oriented from front to back in a 144 Sprinter, you will have very limited living space. 170 wheels offer more space, making a full-length bed the obvious choice. Because everyone has different needs, while some people need more space, the smaller 144 Sprinter may seem plenty big for others.
Try to consider what you’ll need the van for. If you plan to spend the weekend in your 144 and are fine with a simple design, that may be just what you need. If you plan to live in your van full-time or take more frequent trips, or if you have a large family or pets and are looking to spread out a bit more, a van with a longer wheelbase or a van with an extended wheelbase is a great choice.
If you compare gas mileages between two vehicles, the 144′′ Sprinter performs slightly better than the 170′′. However, if you stuff them with a bunch of heavy items and put a bunch of stuff on the outside, you’ll lose gas efficiency. The gas efficiency between 144′′ and 170′′ Sprinters is pretty similar. If you have any exterior modifications or added weight, these will affect fuel economy more than the differences in wheelbase.
Max AnthonyMax is a gizmo-savvy guy, who has a tendency to get pulled into the nitty gritty details of technology and cars. He attended UT Austin, where he studied Information Science. He’s married and has three kids, one dog and a GMC truck and a Porsche 911. With a large family, he still finds time to share tips and tricks on cars, trucks and more.
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