Let’s be honest, we sell 4×4 van conversions, so any arguments we make about why 4×4 vans are the most amazing vehicles on the planet are going to be unavoidably biased, no matter how objective we try to be. We’ve been converting vans for almost 40 years while at the same time operating one of the largest general 4×4 drivetrain shops in the western United States. While we might not be totally objective, we do have some great insight into what makes a 4×4 van the ultimate SUV.
It is hard for one vehicle to be all things to all people. If you are choosing an SUV for your family, you’ll use different criteria than if you are a business transporting passengers to and from a ski resort. Most SUVs are going to serve one group of people well and be virtually useless to the other. Over the years, however, we’ve seen 4×4 vans meet the needs of people in almost every situation imaginable. Whether its passenger capacity, cargo room, versatility or price, a 4×4 van will beat every other SUV on the market, hands down.
Passenger Carrying Capacity
If you need to move people around, there simply isn’t a better option than a 4×4 Van. Most SUVs max out at 8-9 passengers. Vans start at 12 passengers and most are also available in 15 passenger configurations. Vans give the added benefit of multiple seating configurations. True, most SUVs will allow you to remove a rear seat to increase the amount of cargo space, a visit to Nissan’s commercial vehicle website claims that the new NV series vans have 324 total seating configurations (we’ll let you shuffle the seats around to see if that’s actually true).
Most of the 324 configurations are probably pretty useless, but the fact remains that a 4×4 van gives you much more flexibility in managing passenger capacity, legroom, and cargo area than any other SUV on the market.
Winner: 4×4 Van
If you are strictly interested in carrying cargo from one location to another, there are plenty of 4×4 pickup trucks on the market that will meet your needs. But, a 4×4 van is probably a better option for a several reasons.
First, vans generally have larger cargo spaces. Take for instance the Nissan NV series vans vs. the Nissan Titan pickup. A Titan offers a bed width (max) of 63.8” and a length of 79.1” while the van offers 64.4” in width and 120.7” in length with all the passenger seats removed. Even with the first row of seats still in the van, the bed length is 86.1 inches (7 inches more than Titan) while still allowing you to comfortably carry 5 passengers. Even if you manage to fill the cargo space inside the van, you can still carry up to 500 additional pounds of cargo on and installed roof rack. If you want a vehicle dedicated to moving cargo, a pickup is a viable option, but with a larger total cargo area and the versatility to switch between cargo and passengers in various configurations, a 4×4 van is definitely the go to choice.
Winner: 4×4 Van
Choosing between multiple passenger and cargo configurations isn’t the only area where 4×4 vans exhibit extreme versatility. The Nissan, GM, and Ford van chassis is the base chassis for many other types of vehicles. Work vehicles, Camper vans, ambulances, school buses, resort shuttles, RVs, and other specialty vehicles are all based on the van chassis and can all be converted to four wheel drive. There is not any other vehicle on the market that lends itself to so many unique and useful variations.
Winner: 4×4 Van
Trim and Options
For years, vans were viewed by the various manufacturers as strictly commercial vehicles and many of the luxury options available in other SUVs were not available as trim options on vans. In recent years, that perception has changed and most vans are available with power windows and doors, premium sound systems, navigation, back up cameras, leather seats, and some of the other luxuries found in only the highest end SUVs. When equipped with a 4×4 conversion (and perhaps a little bit of a suspension lift in the process), today’s 4×4 vans can truly turn some heads while cruising down the street.
With conversion prices starting around $11,000 (in 2015), it might seem like a 4×4 van conversion is out of reach for most people. However, the cost of the van plus the conversion is usually several thousand dollars less than a comparably equipped 4×4 SUV. For example, a 2016 Yukon XL starts at an MSRP of $50,440. A comparably equipped Savana passenger van starts at $32,190. With the added cost of a 4×4 conversion, the total cost of a 4×4 van is almost $10,000 less. Most dealer financing companies and banks will even allow you to include the cost of the conversion in the financing when purchasing a new 4×4 van. From a price perspective, there is simply no contest, 4×4 vans are the way to go.
Winner: 4×4 Van
Durability and Warranty
Durability and warranty are a difficult subject to compare. If done correctly, the durability of a 4×4 van conversion should meet or exceed the longevity of any other SUV on the market. But, if the conversion is installed incorrectly, uses parts that don’t meet or exceed OEM specifications, or is performed by unqualified mechanics, the conversion could spell disaster for you and your vehicle.
At Advanced Four Wheel Drive we go out of our way to reuse as many OEM parts as possible. Where we can’t use OEM parts, we use parts that are industry standard and will be easy to find for years to come. Because of our commitment to quality engineering, we’ve been able to establish relationships with Nissan, Ford, and GM that allow us to convert vans to four wheel drive while maintaining the original factory warranty.
Assuming you have the 4×4 conversion completed by a qualified converted with manufacturer approved status, you’ll end up with a vehicle that is as rugged and durable as any other SUV on the market.
We’ve been in the four wheel drive business for over 40 years. That’s long enough to have thoroughly examined what makes a four wheel drive vehicle amazing. There just isn’t any other vehicle that can compete with a 4×4 van. Not in cargo space, passenger capacity, versatility, or in price. When compared to any other SUV on the market, a 4×4 van is hands down the ultimate SUV.