Weekend Warrior for family of 4

vrrv

MY21 144 2WD HR Passenger
Hello everyone,
I will start this write up a bit earlier in the process than anyone else, so, please, bear with me and share your thoughts )

So, we're a small but pretty restless family. We have a toddler and planning to get another one... like one is not enough ) We did a lot of short/long trips along the east coast before. With the first kid things have definitely changed, but small getaways are still one of our vital needs, we really need a breath of fresh air, literally ) We did a careful assessment of all the things we already do, all the things we want to do and figured that we need something larger than a minivan for 2 main reasons: we need a normal place for the kid to sleep, and we're freaking tired of playing Tetris every time we pack our gear )

Here comes the Weekend Warrior project for the family of 4 )

PICKING A VAN

There are a few things that we have to consider:
1. We live in NYC. COVID definitely moved few people out of the city here in there, but parking, and overall... mmm... tightness on streets, is still a problem;
2. It will be our daily driver for at least a few more years, so, my wife should be able to park it on the streets without much cursing;
3. We cannot afford any major modifications, like installing a RIB bed, time-wise. Because of #2, the van should always be available, more or less, so, the whole conversion will be split into relatively short projects that I can accomplish over weekends;
4. Living out of the apartment, getting proper tools/space for a major modification is a problem. We have a Makerspace nearby that I plan to use, but, again, its not exactly a garage;
5. We don't want to do any major modifications: while I'm totally fine carrying some of my colleagues in a non-certified nor crash-tested seat (you got it, right? :]), I'm definitely not ok doing so with my kid(s).

To better understand what would fit our missions better, today I did a few test drives with a local dealer: a V6 4x4 144 and a 170 gasser. Full disclosure - I never drove anything larger than Pacifica, so, here are my thoughts and first impressions:

Engines:
I was surprised by gasser - much quieter than I would expect from a van, and I wouldn't say it's slow either. 9-speed tranny is very smooth and quick. A V6... well... it's a diesel. My first impression, after driving them side-by-side, is that the 9-speed tranny on gasser is waaay smoother than this 7 speed automatic on diesel. That 7-speed was kicking pretty noticeable. Overall, the V6 engine is louder too. This might also feel like that because that V6 was a 4x4, so, if you think the regular 2WD V6 shifts better and not really that loud, please let me know.

Wheelbase:
170 feels like a bus. I wouldn't want to be my wife parking that thingy. I remember my thought after a few turns: "well, parallel parking in that thing is not going to happen". 144 feels much more nimble. The keyword here is 'much'. When in 170 you feel like a train... with the last car somewhere far-far-far behind you, in 144 you feel much more confident for sure.

4x4:
Well, the short answer is 'I didn't like it', the long answer is 'I didn't like it and here is why...' It's noticeably louder and feels much stiffer. There is much more weight on the wheel to the point I wouldn't want to drive that thing every day in the city. I know all that is very subjective, but I know for sure that my wife will not appreciate that either. Also, you definitely feel the weight of that 4x4 shorty: that longer gasser felt lighter and peppier. Given all that, plus a really archaic design of that 4x4 system, plus a sh## load of money Mercedes is asking for it... for me, that's not worth it in day-to-day operations. Besides that, you giving up about 350lb of weight capacity compared to 2WD V6 and almost 600lb compared to 2WD gasser.

Based on the things above, I think the best way for us to start is a 2500 144WB Crew van. Yes, we will pay for things we do not need, like side windows, but we will get a factory-installed and tested bench, which is pretty comfortable once you add that 'Crew Van Comfort Package'.

Availability
Now let's talk timing. It's still possible to find a nicely equipped gasser on lots. It's pretty much impossible to find a properly configured V6. My dealer told me today we're not going to get anything with V6 until late September/October of 2021 at the earliest. Doesn't makes any sense for us to wait for so long. The only viable option right now is to order either gasser or a new l4 diesel that they bring this year. Here we're talking mid-to-late May. Personally, I would want a diesel, my impressions from other diesel cars I drove - you can load them to the gills and they would just go without making a sweat. I like that. At the same time, I have to say, I'm intrigued by gasser...

So, a few questions regarding that:
1. What do we know about that new l4 diesel? How it's going to be compared to a gasser and a V6? Is it going to be the same 7-speed that we have for V6 now, or that's going to be that 9-speed that gasser has?
2. How's fuel economy and performance under load with a gasser? I know everyone on youtube reporting a very good economy, like 20-22mpg... but in most cases, that's for an empty van. Once people start loading them, it feels like 12-14mpg becomes very common and I would assume they're going to become louder as well. I would imagine my build could get me fairly close to GVW... how would gasser perform then? Anyone carrying a lot of stuff in their gasser every day, please share your experience;
3. Now the complexity of the build and, specifically, heating. I would hate to carry multiple types of fuel and with diesel it's easy - add an Evo from Webasto and you have both heat and hot water, pretty convincing. At the same time, how would you heat water with a gasser?

Please comment and share your experience/thoughts.
 
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jjmcclure

2020 HR 144 4x4
We have a similar setup with small kids and just got a passenger 144 4x4 high roof (everyone loves it). Agree with your move for factory installed seats, I wanted the same peace of mind. We needed another row of seats for our kid’s friends, etc. and did not have adequate time for a complete diy build.

We lived in the city for many years w/out a car, then had one, a Subaru Outback, for 6mo before moving to a suburb. We had it on the street (W Village) for a week, then gave up and paid a double rent for our car in a garage that was 5 blocks away. Unless city parking is better post covid, this would be a total nightmare to park, even w/ 360* parking package which is awesome. Anything is possible, but would recommend bringing cones to the dealer to test your parallel parking skills.

They make heaters for both diesel and gas. I’ve watched a youtube video by wranglerstar where he uses a Rixen set-up and as I recall that was gas.

I don’t have any info on the engines to compare. It certainly has a different feel than our gas cars, consistent pull up hills, etc., love the torque. Although with the newish emissions requirements, these engines (monitoring systems) are far less forgiving than the diesels from a different era that could run on anything. I would have dug into some research if I had a choice, but had to have the 4x4 because we ski a lot.

We got ours from Danbury, CT, Mike Dushay. They have a good van flow there and are straight forward.

Good luck with everthing!
 

RVBarry

Well-known member
Now the complexity of the build and, specifically, heating. I would hate to carry multiple types of fuel and with diesel it's easy - add an Evo from Webasto and you have both heat and hot water, pretty convincing. At the same time, how would you heat water with a gasser?
Hi, it looks like the H12 heater might be available on the 2021 gasser.

Otherwise, you can find gas versions of the Espar and/or Webasto heaters.

Or, you could do propane; Propex air, or Truma makes propane water and air 'combi' heaters.

Or, if you're going to have solar OR be driving every day, you can make hot water from the engine and/or solar with an Isotemp tank heater. (you'd need one even with an H12.)
 

vrrv

MY21 144 2WD HR Passenger
CONFIGURATION
Let's talk about options. I am not going to discuss all those different packages that give you a better and larger screen, that would be a personal choice. I would just mention that I would be pretty uncomfortable letting my wife parking this thing without a 360 camera... and once you pick that, that would pretty much define the set of packages that you're getting in terms of 'bells and whistles'.

But let's talk about other options that are not mentioned in MB configurator. The one at mbvans, after a recent update, is now pretty useless and wouldn't show them.

B25 - Electronic parking brake
This one is a must-have for me. We plan to add aftermarket swivel seats (more about that below) and this option will make the process so much easier: no need to fold/relocate the parking brake lever, no need to adjust/replace cables... From personal experience, this one improves the quality of life big time!

CB1+CT1 - Suspension for comfort and load protection and Rear springs vibration absorbers
There were few debates about those options here. As I understand the bottom line - it's better to get the same suspension that limo has, as it's designed to work at max weight capacity and, presumably, more comfortable. Well, that's the combination that limo has by default according to DOG. What is not clear for me, still, is whether it makes sense to add CB7 or CB8 stabilization options on top of that. Please share your thoughts on that.

CM0 - Painted front/rear bumper
Don't know. From one point, painted bumpers do look good, and we're not getting 4x4, so, not really going after an 'offroad' look... However, we live in a city where having bumpers that look like sh#t is considered a 'normal wear and tear' ) So, meh... don't think we're getting it. Let us know would you get one?

D13 - Mounting rails for roof rack

For me, that's a no-brainer. It will be more expensive to get aftermarket... and factory ones will save my time.

EE3 - 115V in the dash
I feel it might be a good backup for the solar system. Also, the build will take some time, it's nice to have 115v in the meantime.

ES2 - 12V in the rear of the van
The same thing - it could be good to have 12v wired in the back of the van while the solar system is not there yet.

ES5 - Charging package, dashboard
You cannot have enough USB-Cs in a van, really.

F49 - Electrically heated windshield

Well, while we have good snowstorms here in NYC from time to time, the majority of the time, I think, I wouldn't need that feature. If you have it and use it, please share your experience.

FF8 - Overhead DIN slot
This option will give you a standard sized slot right above the overhead panel. The nice thing about it - you have direct access to main power lines that make it easy to install something, either CB/HAM radio or some additional switches/electronics. I think it's nice to have.

FY1 - Security system
Haven't decided yet. From one perspective, it's better than nothing and you could get some (small?) insurance discount? From another - interior sensors become a problem when you sleep inside? It looks like the system is activated only when you close the van from the key fob, not when you close it from the inside. If you have it, please share how it actually works and if you think it makes sense to get this option?

H12+H88 - Autonomous heater + rear heater prep
I spent my time digging through the forum figuring whether I need it or not. It looks like an easy way to add a hot water to your build (search forum for 'H12 Isotherm'), plus you can preheat the engine/saloon during wintertime. Not an easy decision as a) you can install it yourself and b) the standard installation comes with some stupid limitations: does not work above a certain temperature, have a time limit for the heating 'session' and, as I understand, is limited to a few 'sessions' a day. Here is my take on that one: there are ways to overcome that temperature limit and there is a way to improve heat transfer by plumbing the Isotherm in series as opposed to parallel to the heating core... plus, getting H12+H88 from the factory will save my time. More importantly - it looks like factory-installed H12 can now be controlled via the Mercedes Me and Mercedes Pro apps, which is much better than using a remote for us... remember, we live in the city and will have to park, sometimes, far from the place we live. It would be nice to be able to precondition the van before a ski trip.

HH4 - Thermotronic AC.
I think it's nice to have, but, how it's different from the default AC? If you have a default one, please post some pictures and share whether you miss Thermotronic :)

Q24 - Trailer hitch
Cheap enough to get it and stop bothering. Also, I've noticed that some folks say it has really good paint that does not rust easily.

QA9 - Right step on hitch
I do not think I need it. Please prove me wrong.

RL5 - Allow wheels
Noo way. Remember, Mercedes will not give you your steelies along with your alloys that you just paid for. For the same price, about $900, you can get the same OEM wheels aftermarket and use your steelies for some winter tires. I think that will make more sense as we're not getting 4x4 this time.

T55 + T60 - Electric sliding door + door opening limiter
I have a tiny wife and an even tinier kid. I know some folks say its pretty unreliable, but I feel like I need one, or I'm risking a divorce )

V43 - Wood floor with D-rings
It looks like we have a plastic floor by default, that comes with D-rings, and you can use it as a template for any sheet stuff that you plan to put on your floor. So, MB offers you 2 sheets of plywood for $418. Doesn't make much sense for me, but, what am I missing here?

W54 - Door opening 270 deg
Not getting it. I've noticed that 270-degree hinges are different. The regular ones have 2 holes that could be used to mount some accessories on them, I would imagine a bike rack or something. I think the stock ones are a better deal.

X69 - Swivel seats
I do not know what smoked that Mercedes guy who built the options list for Sprinter, but, for some reason, MB decided to include the swivel seat option for Cargo vans... where you do not have anyone behind you... and to not include it for Crew vans, where you might have 3 people behind you. Again, that's above my understanding. Anyway. It looks like you could be able to order one if you find a dealer who can order you a fleet version, those are more flexible and could even be ordered as 'incomplete', without some glass, for example. In a worst-case scenario - there are quite a few aftermarket swivel bases, I guess we will find some suitable for us.

Tires
It looks like Continental is what we get by default, right? Should I bother and pay $100 more for Michelin?

Production
Charleston vs
Duesseldorf? How that impact lead times and quality?

Please roast this list and share your experience :)
 

RVBarry

Well-known member
Hi,
whether it makes sense to add CB7 or CB8 stabilization options
Probably should get.
Level 1 seems to be for 2500's and level 2 for 3500's.

QA9 - Right step on hitch
I do not think I need it. Please prove me wrong.
Check yourself if you can climb in without the step. Definitely useful on 4x4 or lift.

V43 - Wood floor with D-rings
It looks like we have a plastic floor by default, that comes with D-rings, and you can use it as a template for any sheet stuff that you plan to put on your floor. So, MB offers you 2 sheets of plywood for $418. Doesn't make much sense for me, but, what am I missing here?
It's good, sealed plywood. Cheaper than most other options. Can put vinyl on top of it.
Also can be combined with a L-Track "cargo lashing rails" which are worth considering.

W54 - Door opening 270 deg
Not getting it. I've noticed that 270-degree hinges are different. The regular ones have 2 holes that could be used to mount some accessories on them, I would imagine a bike rack or something. I think the stock ones are a better deal.
Get the 180s if you are considering any sort of rack.
You can get them aftermarket, but they won't be painted.

Tires
It looks like Continental is what we get by default, right? Should I bother and pay $100 more for Michelin?
If you specify Michelins, AND the all-season option, they'll give you Agilis Cross-Climates, which are very good all-around tires and do have the 3PMSF snow rating.

FY1 - Security system
Cheaper or same to get from MBZ than parts alone on aftermarket.
 

vrrv

MY21 144 2WD HR Passenger
If you specify Michelins, AND the all-season option, they'll give you Agilis Cross-Climates, which are very good all-around tires and do have the 3PMSF snow rating.
Mmm... looks like Michelin 'M+S' not available for 2021? Or... are those Cross-Climates considered 'all season' and not 'M+S'?
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RVBarry

Well-known member
Mmm... looks like Michelin 'M+S' not available for 2021? Or... are those Cross-Climates considered 'all season' and not 'M+S'?
All-season. Make sure to choose both the Michelin brand, plus All-Season Tires
 

vrrv

MY21 144 2WD HR Passenger
How many sales persons do you need to enter a build sheet into the system without mistakes? Well, it seems more than one! ) While we shooting emails back and forth with our dealer, every time finding some missing options, let's discuss an important aspect that could be easily overlooked...

I am talking about the cost of obtaining a Sprinter from the factory in Duesseldorf, instead of Charleston. While it's not really clear if german production have any benefits, compared to Charleston, it definitely comes with the price )

When you order a german build, you must choose:
- X4Z: Interior trim upgrade package. It includes VA1: Sidewall paneling waist height PVC + VA3: Sidewall paneling full hardboard = $604
- V43: Wood floor with 6 D-rings + VC5: Door sil - protective edge = $418+70=$488;
There is an option to get a plastic floor as well, but it looks like people here prefer a wood floor for a conversion.
Total: $1092 for the privilege to drive a german built van :)

Here is the thing - the 144 Crew ordered from Charleston comes standard with X2V: Standard trim Crew Van Package, which includes the following:
- V25: Half-height load compartment trim;
- V35: Wheelhouse covering;
- V43: Wood floor with 6 D-Rings.

What do you guys think? Does the german build worth $1092? Will it affect the re-sale price in any way? :)
Also, we've got an offer for a 4% off of MSRP. How realistically it would be to get an Invoice + 1K above it, what you think? If you recently placed a factory order for a 144WB van, please share your sale price, experience, and your dealer contact if you were happy with the guy/gal :)
 

Roamers

2020 4X4 170 Crew
X4Z: Interior trim upgrade package. It includes VA1: Sidewall paneling waist height PVC + VA3: Sidewall paneling full hardboard = $604
I have a Feb 2020 German Build Crew. I did not want X4Z but had to get it. When the van arrived in May, most of the package components were not there. The dealer deducted my requested $500. Make sure when you pick up your van you have a detailed checklist of what you should have.
 

vrrv

MY21 144 2WD HR Passenger
I have a Feb 2020 German Build Crew. I did not want X4Z but had to get it. When the van arrived in May, most of the package components were not there. The dealer deducted my requested $500. Make sure when you pick up your van you have a detailed checklist of what you should have.
Are you sure you got a german build? Did you check your VIN? )
 

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