The first generation of the Mercedes Sprinter van was released in 1996, and since then has been a popular choice for commercial and non-commercial purposes alike. But, most Sprinter vans are being used as workhorses accumulating hundreds of thousands of miles in the process.
So it is only logical to choose the engine that can take such demanding tasks, and that might just be the OM602 or the OM617. These engines are capable of exceeding 500k or even 1 million miles if maintained as recommended without any rebuilds.
Mercedes Benz OM602 5-cylinder
The OM602 is offered in 2.5 or 2.9-liter variants, and these engines are widely considered as safe for continuous demanding tasks. These engines are also fairly common so if something does happen, finding replacement parts is not impossible.
The OM602 was produced in different variants between 1985 all the way up to 1999 offering between 88-127 horsepower. Now, these numbers may not seem impressive but the torque of these engines was as high as 300Nm.
The 2.5-liter engines were used in the early days of the OM602, and later the engine grew to 2.9 liters. Not only that these engines were fairly bulletproof, but they were also fairly fuel-efficient as well. Usually, these engines would return mid to high 30 mpg.
For towing purposes, it is recommendable to go for the stronger variants as the 2.5 liter 90-ish hp engine is not necessarily the best option for towing anything particularly heavy. The same goes for the transportation of heavy loads.
Mercedes Benz OM617 5-cylinder
The OM602 was, and still is an engine capable of delivering many miles of continuous use, but the greatest workhorse engine of the entire Mercedes Sprinter line-up is the OM617. The OM617 is a diesel-powered 3.0-liter engine produced between 1974.-1991.
OM617 is widely recognized as one of the most reliable engines not only in the Mercedes van community but the entire commercial automobile community. The engine was offered in many different variants pumping out 80-230 horsepower or 168-250Nm of torque.
These engines were capable of reaching over a million kilometers without any rebuild necessities. Furthermore, these engines were also used with many alternative fuels such as vegetable oil or biodiesel. In the 80s these engines reached a cult status in North America as they were the most reliable diesel vans at the time.
The OM617’s were offered as N/A or turbocharged variants. The N/A engines offered were the 3-liter 90hp variants, and were constantly improved during the production to achieve the highest levels of reliability.
In 1976 the turbocharged engine was introduced called the OM617A. These turbochargers upped the power of the OM617 to 190hp, and in 1978 the engine was improved upon once again to reach the 230hp mark.
Diesel or Petrol and modern-day Sprinter engines
It’s no secret that the best Mercedes Sprinter engines were the aforementioned diesel variants. Petrol engines don’t share the same pros and cons as diesel engines do, and diesel engines are better suited for long trips as they are mostly more fuel-efficient than their petrol engine counterparts, and surely last a lot longer.
As far as modern-day Sprinter engines are concerned, the most popular engine is the OM651. The OM651 is an engine in production since 2008, and ever since this engine was introduced, Mercedes kept on improving on it and reaching better emissions standards. Furthermore, these engines are expected to return 40-60 mpg.
Sure, these improvements definitely benefit the environment, but they do make the engines more complex which is not necessarily the no.1 priority for a long-lasting engine. The OM651 is being offered in 1.8-2-1 liter displacement variants. They are also turbocharged with power outputs between 134hp-210 hp depending on the version.
Is the Ford Transit a better option than the Mercedes Sprinter van?
The Transit offers lower maintenance costs, a smoother ride, parts that are easier to come by, a taller interior. These features are considered as important, so you should carefully consider if it makes sense to choose the Mercedes instead.
But, the Sprinter surely is not going down without a fight. The clear advantages of the Sprinter are the superior steering which is a lot more sophisticated than that in the Transit. Furthermore, the Sprinter also offers more comfortable seats, a roomier cargo room, and a heavier payload.
Both the Transit and the Sprinter offer 4×4 variants, but only Mercedes offers a diesel-powered 4×4. Moreover, the Sprinter is a longer-lasting van due to it using a diesel engine which is expected to last significantly longer than petrol-powered Ford Transit.
Should I consider buying a new Sprinter or a used one?
It is fairly obvious that used Sprinters are easy to come by, and that they should offer adequate performance for a lengthy period. So buying a used Sprinter might make more sense if you don’t use your Sprinter too often or for longer journeys.
A new Sprinter offers superior technology, comfort, and safety systems. Furthermore, many different warranties and financing deals are available for brand new Sprinters at any moment in time. Buying a new Sprinter makes more sense if your usage scenario entails longer and more frequent journeys.
But, buying a used Sprinter will still offer you all the commercial capabilities, mostly sacrificing technology and comfort.
Which model years of the Sprinter are the best-used Sprinter options?
The 2020 Sprinter costs around $36k base price and the price goes over $50k. These numbers are incredibly high for anyone not doing any major commercial business.
So, a used Sprinter seems like a better option, and a 2006 Sprinter could be bought for as little as $5k, high mileage of course. Most owners vote the 2006 model as the best-used option between 2004-2010 models.
The newest used Sprinters are the 2012 models and newer. These models have been significantly updated compared to older models and offer a bunch of safety and convenience features. The 2016 models were questionable to say the least, as many owners reported many brakes, fuel, and engine issues.