One of the universal appeals of Airstream’s capable motorized touring coaches is their ability to adapt to a wide spectrum of scenarios. Whether you’re setting a course for your favorite vacation destination or looking for an off-grid, remote location to boondock for a long weekend, these flexible Class B motorhomes provide the perfect mix of full-featured capabilities and luxurious amenities to satisfy every type of adventure seeker.
When selecting a specific model and choosing from available options, the choice between a 2-wheel drive (2WD) or 4-wheel drive (4WD) chassis is one of the most important you’ll make. An optional feature on Interstate 24GT, Interstate 24GL, and Interstate 19 – and standard on Interstate 24X – 4WD will help you take your adventure a bit further off the beaten path. Whether you select the optional 4WD or go with the standard 2WD, each option offers its own set of advantages. Your decision depends on a variety of practical factors and personal preferences, such as:
- What is your preferred travel style (mapped-out or road-less-traveled)?
- Where you will be traveling (paved or dirt roads; leisurely or challenging conditions)?
- What will you have in tow (boat, recreational toys, or none of the above)?
To help you decide which option best suits your taste for adventure, let’s take a closer look at the available drivetrains and explore the potential benefits and considerations of each.
Built Upon a Legendary Mercedes-Benz Chassis
Regardless of which drivetrain option you choose, the longstanding partnership between Mercedes-Benz® and Airstream ensures that you will experience nothing less than best-in-class performance. Each of our Class B RVs are built on the legendary Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van chassis, so you can be confident that your Airstream touring coach is ready for anything that the road ahead may bring.
When shopping for an Interstate 24GT, Interstate 24GL, or Interstate 19, customers have the option of choosing 2WD or 4WD. While the available power is similar regardless of which drivetrain you choose, each has performance advantages and understanding how these Sprinter Van drivetrains work will help inform your decision.
- Engine: Mercedes-Benz 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel
- Transmission: 7 Speed Automatic
- Output: 188 hp and 325lb torque
- Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs
Rear-Wheel Drive as Standard
In our standard 2WD option, power is sent to the rear wheels (rear-wheel drive, or RWD), allowing the two non-engaged wheels to spin freely. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van chassis that forms the foundation of our touring coach fleet features a 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel engine that delivers ample power. Two-wheel drive is perfect for smooth roads and highway driving where you want to get the best mile per gallon.
The Upgraded Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with 4WD
The selectable 4WD option allows you to toggle between 2X4 and 4X4 modes for maximum adaptability. In 4X4 mode, power is split between the front and rear axles at a ratio of 35 to 65. When driving conditions are favorable, the 2WD system conserves fuel. Among the rocky trails, soggy mud traps, and rugged terrain is where the 4X4 mode proves its mettle. To activate (or deactivate) the 4WD option, simply press the 4WD button while the vehicle is slowly rolling forward.
From an overall performance comparison perspective, the 2WD option offers greater fuel efficiency and a relatively smoother drivetrain, while 4WD delivers off-road stability. The 4WD option also adds some height to the vehicle, raising the front almost 4 inches and raising the rear three inches. Keep this higher clearance in mind when venturing out.
Driving On (and Beyond) the Pavement
For most of us, the decision to go with 2WD or 4WD rests primarily on our comfort level with off-road adventures. Keep in mind that the term off-road doesn’t necessarily refer to blazing new trails through the untamed wild. It typically means driving on roads that are simply not paved — such as sand, dirt, mud, gravel or rock. If you’re seeking to gain access to more remote locations or trailheads beyond conventional campsites, 4WD provides that additional assurance.
But don’t underestimate the capability of a 2WD touring coach or its fitness in challenging terrains. By taking appropriate cautions and following smart navigation strategies, our 2WD motor homes have traveled countless dirt roads to reach prime locations off the beaten path.
Weather conditions and seasonality also play a role in the drivetrain decision. If you live in northern climates or travel year-round, you’re more likely to encounter snow, ice, and the increased probability of other potentially sticky situations. Although 4WD provides an advantage in these conditions, there’s simply no negating the challenges of driving in icy conditions, where safe driving best practices apply regardless of vehicle capabilities.
The Sprinter 4X4 technology is designed to keep the driver in control when encountering challenging terrain, and both 2WD and 4WD options include these premium Mercedes-Benz features:
- Selectable 4X4: Activate 4X4 with the touch of a button.
- Electronic Traction System 4ETS®: Automatically brakes the spinning wheels with short impulses if one or more wheels lose traction, while increasing drive torque to wheels with good traction.
- ADAPTIVE ESP® stability program: Analyzes vehicle movements to detect a high center of gravity and adjust accordingly, providing improved balance on inclines.
- Trailer coupling with stabilization: Counteracts trailer sway with targeted braking on individual wheels.
Of course, if you plan on venturing off-road in either the 2WD or 4WD option, it’s important to make sure that your tires are up to the task. Our 4WD Interstate 24X is equipped with six all-terrain tires, while other models feature all-purpose tires selected for their handling, stability, and long-lasting tread.
Ability to Go, Capacity to Tow
As you consider which drivetrain is right for your travel style, consider how often arriving at your destination means enjoying some of the extracurricular sports and activities that your home base simply can’t provide. This often means bringing your toys — or animals — with you. Whether you’re towing a boat, snowmobile, jet-ski, all-terrain vehicle, or horse, having sufficient hauling capacity is an essential factor in the traveling equation.
The good news is that both the 2WD and 4WD Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis support up to 5,000 lbs of towing capacity, so either option is more than capable. But if hauling is a frequent part in your traveling routine, then you may want to consider the extra traction advantage that the 4WD option delivers.
Choosing the Option that Best Suits You and Your Adventure
At the end of the day, selecting between the 2WD and 4WD drivetrain for your touring coach is simply a matter of personal preference. Either option delivers zero compromises in terms of best-in-class performance, traveling reliability, and nimble navigability. Whatever drivetrain option you select, you’re traveling with the power and performance of Mercedes-Benz under the hood and staying in style with Airstream’s handmade craftsmanship.
Ready to hit the road to your own Airstream adventure? Explore the available options and start building your own Airstream touring coach today.