Adventure for hire

We drove the very first Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 in the country over two years ago, and featured the story in the December/January 2007 issue of Leisure Wheels. We got “Mr 4×4”, Francois Rossouw, to drive it too, and to give us his honest, professional opinion. He was very impressed, and from the word go we thought this would be a fantastic vehicle for overland adventures.

We’re not the only ones, it seems, and Pierre Swanepoel saw the opportunity for a business venture, buying a 12-seater Sprinter 4×4 and aiming it at the rental market.

“Up until I purchased the Sprinter, I had been searching for a vehicle that would fit in between the normal ‘lead and guide the convoy’ 4×4 market and the traditional overland trucking markets,” says Pierre.

“The Sprinter enables me to cater for a more personalised overland market of all ages, which can be accommodated for any safari, from ‘mild to wild’, or a combination of camping, chalet, lodges, etc.

“The Sprinter means that I can transport any passengers that don’t have their own 4×4 or can’t fit into an existing 4×4, and would normally have to hire a vehicle or stay at home.
“4×4 adventurers can now plan their own safaris, and then contact me to transport additional adventurers in their group, and also to provide a backup on their trip.

“The options the Sprinter provides means I can cater for specific requests such as photography, birding, scuba diving, or whatever the clients want, for a group of friends, families, schools or companies, for local or international tourists.”

It all makes perfect sense. Having a group of eight or ten people all in one vehicle is much more sociable, and probably economical, than taking along three vehicles. And it’s certainly cheaper for a group to hire just the Sprinter, as opposed to hiring three 4x4s, if they don’t own any. And obviously one 4×4 is cheaper to run, to service and even to buy than the two or even three 4x4s that you’d normally need for 11 people.

But our first thought is how suitable the Sprinter is as a backup vehicle for adventure motorcyclists. The bikers can ride their bikes, while spouses, or non-biker friends, can travel in comfort in the Sprinter, along with all the luggage. And a trailer behind the Sprinter would be able to cope with crashed or broken bikes, or those of seat-weary riders.

For those of you who might be sceptical about the Sprinter’s off-road prowess, let us put your mind to rest right now. Ground clearance of 300mm; front, rear and centre diff locks; a low-range transfer case, and a 2,2-litre turbodiesel engine that is good for 110 kW and 330 Nm of torque, available from just 1400 r/min.

This means that the Sprinter 4×4 is the genuine article, and no shrinking violet when it comes to the rough stuff. When we did our test we did so on the Kroonland 4×4 route, and the vehicle dealt with the tough Elands Mountain trail admirably. So much so, in fact, that Mr 4×4 was tempted to get his own one for leading his Radiosondergrense 4×4 expeditions.

The Sprinter 4×4 is imported as a normal two-wheel drive sprinter, but then converted by Iglhaut-Allrad South Africa. This local company uses components from the Iglhaut GmbH 4×4 Conversion Company, a German firm that has been doing similar 4×4 conversions for more than 25 years now.

Another benefit of this conversion is that it is wholly endorsed by Mercedes-Benz, and doesn’t affect the standard manufacturer’s warranties.

So far Pierre, a registered national 4×4 overland tourist guide and experienced campaigner, has been involved in a number of trips throughout southern Africa, and even beyond. He and his Sprinter 4×4 have been through Zimbabwe and Zambia to Lake Malawi, returning via Mozambique, as the backup vehicle for 10 adventure bikers, and carrying five passengers in the vehicle.

Pierre has also orchestrated trips to the Cape winelands, to Botswana, and even to the 2009 Dusi canoe marathon, transporting athletes, their seconds, and their equipment on the three-day event.

As for where he is prepared to go, Pierre says that the Sprinter is available for any trips in southern Africa and for any length of time, providing everything is economically viable. Price, you ask? Unfortunately Pierre can’t give a general price due to the huge number of permutations and options on a trip, but he’s more than happy to put together a tailor-made trip for you, or give you a quote on your own itinerary.

For more information, get hold of Pierre on 078 754-2971, or email him at [email protected]

Iglhaut-Allrad South Africa

We spoke to Stephan Weber, managing director of the local Iglhaut-Allrad SA office in Centurion, to find out how the Sprinter 4×4 has been received locally, and to get a bit more information.

About 120 Sprinter 4×4 units have been converted and sold in southern Africa so far, which is an impressive record for a vehicle that must be ordered and custom built.

The 4×4 Sprinters can be ordered from any Mercedes-Benz Commercial dealer, and specced according to the customers needs. Prices start at “around” R590 000 excluding VAT, says Stephan, but it is very much dependent on what the customer wants. This price is based on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 315 panel van. The Sprinter 4×4 is available in other specifications as well, such as double cab, chassis cab, with different length wheelbases, and a range of different engines.

We were also curious about how long it would take, from ordering a Sprinter 4×4 to taking delivery, and once again it was dependent on a number of factors. “But about eight to 12 weeks can be expected depending on our production schedule and availability of the basic Mercedes-Benz Sprinter,” says Stephan.

For further information visit www.iglhaut-allrad.co.za, or contact any of the Mercedes-Benz Commercial dealers.