The huge popularity of vanning and overlanding has really given the Astro van a whole new lease on life. It’s hot, as there’s very little else in the category for folks looking for a fairly cheap and compact AWD van. A Mercedes AWD Sprinter is mighty big bucks. I’m seeing more and more of these on the road, out in the boonies, and here in the neighborhood, like this one.
Doing a bit of research indicates that the basic drive train (4.3 V6/4L60e) is of course durable, although certain components like the fuel injection “spider” and other items are likely to need replacement at some point. Apparently the last model years (2002-2005) are the ones to have, as they have improved brakes (disc at the rear) and a few other upgrades. Swapping the fiberglass rear leaf springs for steel ones, and modest 2-4″ lifts are popular. Fuel economy is not so hot (14-17 mpg), which is well below what my much larger Promaster gets. And the Astro van’s AWD system isn’t true 4WD, and is not exactly Rubicon-ready, but it certainly can make the difference between getting stuck in soft sand or snow, or not.