The Dodge Sprinter is a versatile commercial van available in a wide range of body, wheelbase and interior configurations ranging from a two-door, two-passenger cargo van or cutaway van up to a passenger van with room for 12. The Dodge Sprinter Chassis Cab cutaway and Passenger Van models are manufactured in Dusseldorf and Ludwigsfeld, Germany, while the Cargo Van model is manufactured in Ladson, S.C. Main competition to the Dakota include the Ford E-Series, Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana.
When Dodge looked around at the full-size van market after parent company Chrysler merged with Daimler in 1998, it became clear that their current van offerings were no longer competitive. As a result, Dodge decided to abandon their Ram Van lineup and instead sell a re-branded version of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. A very popular van in Europe, the Sprinter was first sold under the Dodge badge in 2003.
The 2008 Dodge Sprinter represents the second generation of the German van, after having been completely redesigned in 2007. The van differs from its North American counterparts in several important respects. The first is the height of the cargo or passenger compartment, which is much taller than that offered by Ford or GMC vans. The second is the availability of a turbo-diesel V6 engine. In combination, these characteristics set the Sprinter apart from traditional vans, putting it largely in a class by itself.
The Sprinter can be had in either Cargo, Chassis Cab or Passenger configurations. Each of these is powered by the same direct-injection 3.0 liter turbo-diesel V6, which makes 154 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. The diesel is connected to a 5-speed automatic transmission. If desired, a 254 horsepower gasoline V6 can also be ordered in the Sprinter 2500 model. The Sprinter can be further subdivided into chassis weights and overall vehicle lengths, with quarter ton and full ton versions of the van available in sizes ranging from 144 to 170 inches long.
The Cargo version of the Sprinter includes 600 cubic feet of hauling capacity, which is light years ahead of the competition. The tallness of the vehicle also makes it easier to stand up straight while loading. HID headlights and a low-step rear bumper round out the list of features. The Passenger Sprinter adopts the same body style but adds large side windows and seating for up to 12 passengers – not quite the 15 offered by Ford. Optional side air curtains help to keep occupants safe in case of a rollover, and once again the tall roofline makes it easy for people to move about the vehicle’s cabin. The Chassis Cab Sprinter is designed to accommodate a standard box or cargo compartment to the rear of the vehicle, and total hauling capacity is over 5,700 lbs.
In terms of performance, the turbo-diesel engine gives the Sprinter a significant advantage over the competition when it comes to fuel economy. The average overall fuel economy for the three-quarter ton van when empty is an impressive 21 miles per gallon, which makes it 25% more fuel efficient than the diesel V8 found in the full-ton Ford E350. The Sprinter has a tight turning radius which helps to make it more nimble when delivering to tight locations.
The Dodge Sprinter definitely has a much different look than its domestic counterparts, but that European styling is backed up by serious performance and excellent capabilities. While the Passenger edition may lag behind some of its competitors in terms of seating capacity, the Cargo version of the Sprinter is unparalleled for space and utility. The majority of the Dodge Sprinter van has remained the same in 2009, but there are several small changes that have added some comfort and convenience to the Sprinter as well as changing the way the vehicles are fueled.
The standard radio with CD player and AM/FM now includes MP3 capability standard. There are options for a sliding two-stage door, a six-CD changer and a sliding door powered by electricity. While roof rails were standard on the 2008 models, they are an option on the 2009s. The premium optional sound package that was available in 2008 has been discontinued.
The gas engine on the Dodge Sprinter is no longer being made. The only engine type now available is the 3.0 liter V6 turbo diesel. There is no longer a 3.5 liter V6 gasoline engine option as with the 2008 models. The 2009 Dodge Sprinter is available in two trim levels. The 2500 and the 3500 are carryover trims from the previous years. For each trim level, 144 inches and 170 inches are the two options for the wheelbase size. Each trim level also has three body lengths and choices of roof height. The available body lengths are 233 in., 273 in. and 289 in. The roof height options are 65 in., 76 in. and 84 in.
Both trim levels have four seating rows and can seat 12. Both have five-speed transmission with overdrive standard as well as 16-inche wheels, power windows and doors locks and a sound system that includes 13 speakers. Sprinters with a 144 in. wheelbase have 141 cubic feet of space inside while the 170 in. wheelbase models have 187 cubic feet. The 144 in. wheelbase can tow 3,082 pounds while the 170 in. wheelbase models can tow up to 2,610 pounds. An optional tow package is available that allows the Sprinter to haul up to 5,000 pounds.