2023 wasn’t expected to be a big year, but Mercedes went ahead and dropped some ENORMOUS CHANGES…
No More V6 Diesel!
This was the big shock to us. The V6 diesel was originally introduced in 2006 and has proven to be a WORKHORSE of an engine. Pushing fully-loaded delivery van and big RV builds, we see vans with 500,000 miles or more on them regularly. Since 2006 the engine has been updated with new emissions equipment and newer turbochargers to make more power and better MPGs. The new generation VS30 van, introduced in 2019, finally mated the V6 to the 7-speed automatic to improve responsiveness and fuel economy even further. It was also the only engine that was available with the venerable 4×4 system, a must have for those awesome off-road adventure van builds!
Honestly, at first glance we were disappointed by this news. But then we got to reading…
The OM654 Arrival
Our sadness that the V6 Sprinter was discontinued was quickly replaced by joy when we learned that the OM654 would be its replacement. We wrote about the OM642 engine way back in 2017. Suffice to say it is the epitome of all Mercedes Diesel engine experience, engineering and design all in one compact and powerful unit. We lamented back then that there were not announced plans to bring it stateside. We wrote at that time that the “OM654 has a quarter LESS internal friction versus the OM651…” meaning that not only was this thing WAY more powerful it also was WAY more efficient than the existing 4-cylinder. When Mercedes reintroduced the OM651 into the VS30 Sprinter in 2020 we thought for sure this meant the end of our hopes of seeing the OM654. We’re HAPPY to be wrong!
Anyone worried about the power loss of dropping 2 cylinders will be comforted to hear that the New 4-cylinder unit is making 20 MORE horsepower than the outgoing V6 turbodiesel. Torque figures haven’t been announced, but the OM642 was a torque monster so we wouldn’t be surprised if the torque figure came in a bit lower. However, seeing as it has superior efficiency to the current 4-cylinder, the fuel economy improvements compared to the V6 should be enormous. Combined with better DPF design and location leading to easier regens and longer filter life – not to mention the fact that we can finally leave the dreaded OM642 oil cooler seal issue behind us – we can’t wait to get our hands on a van with this new engine.
OM642 V6 VS OM654 I4 Comparison Sheet
208 hp (+40)
Pour one out for the OM651
Noteworthy, but admittedly less important, is the end of the 2.1L OM651 turbodiesel. We always liked this engine as it always felt peppy and seemed more powerful then it was rated for while returing great MPG numbers regardless of what platform it was in. We were sad to see it go back in 2018 and pleasantly surprised when it cam back in 2020.
Now, though, this really is the end. In its place, however, Mercedes will offer a reduced output OM654 making just 168 horsepower, just a bit more than the 161 horsepower from the outgoing OM651 powerplant but 40 horsepower less than the high output version. One engine, two power levels. That’s pretty neat.
More Gears in More Places
We’re thrilled that the 9G-Tronic 9-speed transmission is being offered across all engine options. The old 5G and 7G were reliable, but as we passed 2020 they were showing their age – they were designed before 2000 or in the early 00s respectively! Mercedes was being shown up by competitors smoother shifting, better computer controls and more gears. The 9G-Tronic isn’t cutting edge by any means but it at least brings the Sprinter vans into the modern era.
No More 4×4! Say is isn’t so!!
You read that right, Mercedes is discontinuing the selectable 4×4 system for MY2023. The new 9-speed transmission is not compatible with the aging selectable 4WD system. Like the engine changes, the new offering – a full time AWD system – could be considered superior.
Mercedes 4Matic is the king of winter traction (Watch R320 4Matic in Austria Snow) and this new system can do an even 50/50 front-rear power split, unlike the old system that was always stuck with a rear bias. You also won’t need to worry about turning the system off when the roads get dry.
If You Can Get One
Unfortunately the global supply chain disruption has hit Mercedes and the Sprinter line hard. While these changes were announced for MY2023 we expect that we may not see vans with the new configurations until mid-2023.
We have the inline 4 cyl diesel in our GLK 250. Rated at 201hp and 369lbft Tq. It has been a wonderful motor and at just over 105000 miles, we expect this thing to out last the rest of the car. Nearly 40 MPG and spirited enough to dash into high speed freeway traffic without straining.
Pretty sure this is not a good time to be rolling out ANY new internal combustion engine. Everyone and his dog are going to be looking for electric vans soon…..if they aren’t already.
We’re still a long way from an electric van being able to do long distance travel, nevermind off-grid overlanding.