Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Artic Drive; Part 3Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Artic Drive; Part 3
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Arctic Drive; Part III. Click image to enlarge

Day 1
We headed outside and found our chariots were all nicely pre-warmed and running for us; we would not receive pampered treatment like this again during our journey. I jumped into one of the tall-roof, long-wheelbase Sprinters and prepared myself for the drive.

As we headed out of Anchorage en route to Fairbanks, everything from the morning’s information session was still circulating inside my head. Don’t honk at wildlife if they are blocking the road, they can be unpredictable and charge the van.  Survival gear is in the support vehicles in case of an emergency like an avalanche or road closure. Use our transmission’s manu-matic feature for engine braking on steep descents.  Run with rear fog light on during ice fog, constant blowing snow and reduced visibility. Be wary of stopping distances on ice; brake hard initially, then ease up as speeds slow down.

All throughout the driving legs, we were in constant radio communication with the support vehicles and fellow Sprinter warriors. After a few long days, in areas where radio stations do not exist for hours on end, the banter on the two-way radios got, um, interesting.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Artic Drive; Part 3
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Arctic Drive; Part III. Click image to enlarge

Our first day of driving would prove to be our easiest. The weather was perfect, with bright sunny skies and hardly any wind. We were given a spectacular view of Mt. McKinley this day. The roads were a mix of pavement, snow and ice, but never any real challenge for the Sprinters; the steeper, slipperier mountain passes were yet to come. The roads themselves, though, were quite rough and I really got a chance to experience the highly touted (by Mercedes reps on hand) suspension geometry. It allows for offset road imperfections, like frost heaves and minor snow drifts, to be swallowed up with little rebound off-load. This allows the driver to maintain better control of the truck. I was impressed by the setup and never found the Sprinter to be jittery on rough roads. In addition, the ride is so refined that I had to keep reminding myself I was in a commercial vehicle and not a sedan or crossover; it is just that good.

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