2007 Dodge Sprinter – All New Work Truck in a European Van Body
No, this is not your mother’s minivan. It is a full size, ‘more is better’, professional utility vehicle with European flair, and it’s not about to deliver Girl Scout cookies. It all began in the mid-1990’s when some Germans left their Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagen inside the garage at their Austrian Chateau next to their R.V., after nine months they had ‘Sprinters’. These illegitimate lovechildren were gathered up by Freightliner and Dodge (Both currently Daimler Chrysler companies) branded ‘Sprinter’ and sold mainly for commercial use. Sprinter’s ended up replacing the Mercedes-Benz T1 in Europe (which dated back to 1977) and eventually the Dodge Ram Van in the North American market, which is really where our story begins.
VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondent Keagan Patrick reviews the new Sprinter.
New van, new plant
Since its 2001 launch in North America, sales of the Sprinter have increased ten fold to reach 21,961 units in 2006. Production of the all-new Dodge Sprinter takes place in Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde, Germany while final assembly (as of the 27th of March 2007) begins at an all-new plant in Charleston, South Carolina. This $35 million new plant is capable of assembling 32,000 units per year. (Note: The last plant was at capacity.)
So, with increased production capacity will sales of the Sprinters competition be affected? We expect growth to be slow but steady because the Sprinter is a pricey piece of equipment. The starting price for a stripped Dodge Sprinter comes in just under $31K and balloons to around $60K all decked out with options. That might be a little hard for your basic sole proprietor to swallow. Considering the base price of a 2007 Ford Econoline is over $5K less and a 2007 Chevrolet Express van is almost $10K less, I’m not sure your local plumber or locksmith is running over to their Dodge Sprinter dealership. However, prospective Sprinter buyers are out there… and the build numbers aren’t lying. There are folks who really want the Sprinter.
Gaining a Loyal Following
In North America, (The second largest single market for the Sprinter; second only to Germany), most Sprinters are sold as cargo vans and they are becoming more and more popular with delivery and supply people. Companies like DHL, FedEx, UPS, Ryder and Microsoft are replacing their trucks with the more aerodynamic, flexible and fuel-efficient Sprinter vans. Fleet managers and trade workers also recognize the benefits of the vehicle. But it’s not just big companies or specialized outfits that are buying Sprinters. Hotels, restaurants, big families and the (rich) surfer next door all see the benefits of owning a Sprinter.
How it Measures up
During the presentation I felt as though we were specking out a C-130 transport plane before take off. I kept looking around for flight suits, helmets and goggles. But before we flew our sorties, Mike Pultorak, the Sprinter Product Planning Manager, gave us our pre-flight walk around on the Sprinter. He broke down choices one would have when deciding to purchase a Sprinter. Basically, you have three (3) body styles, three (3) roof heights, two (2) engines, and two (2) wheelbases. They even build a ‘truck’ version.
During the ‘best-in-class cargo capacity’ demonstration we learned of the Sprinters max capacity of 600 cubic feet and a maximum payload of 5,770 pounds. With these numbers Sprinter obliterates the competition (Ford E-350 Super Duty: Cargo capacity = 236.5 cubic feet, Max Payload – 2730lbs / Chevrolet Express 3500 Ext.: Cargo Capacity = 316.8 cubic feet, Max Payload 3957lbs.). The base model Sprinter comes with a 3.0L V6 diesel cranking out 154 horses (and 280 lb. ft. of torque) or you can opt for the 3.5L V6 gas (add: $1840) with an extra hundred horsepower (250 lb. ft. of torque).
Adaptive ESP – Electronic Stability Program
Meet Thomas. Thomas was flown in from Germany to show us a thing or two about adaptive ESP. Sitting cool and composed in the driver’s seat Thomas showed us the amazing control exhibited by the Sprinter. His demonstration not only showed us how the Sprinter could avoid something at speed or how it could come to a dead stop from 60mph within about 100 feet but it also demonstrated how perceptive the adaptive ESP actually was. I now know why DaimlerChrysler uses the term ‘adaptive’. The Sprinters electronic stability control system actually takes into consideration not only the weight of the cargo but also the location of the cargo. To me the Sprinter has always looked top heavy so when Thomas handed me the keys to the Sprinter we tried to tip it over and I must submit the adaptive ESP simply won’t let you. The system felt seamless and you really can’t tell when it’s cutting in or out; turning down the power to the engine when necessary.
Driving the Sprinter
After lunch I had the opportunity to drive a 2007 Sprinter 2500 (As Tested Price $44,750) with the 3.5L V6 Gas engine and I really enjoyed it. Forward visibility was panoramic, rearward visibility was really good, while power was adequate with smooth and controlled steering. The Sprinter really does have a relatively tight turning radius and it maneuvered comfortably around the twists and turns. The team in front of us found out the hard way that you can’t cut the corners in a long wheelbase van with dual rear wheels; but they eventually got used to it. Coming back down the mountain I was impressed at how collected the Sprinter felt and I really appreciated the ‘autostick’ (auto/manual) feature of the transmission as you can down-shift instead of using up the brakes.
The Sprinter’s interior may be sparse but there were storage pockets and compartments everywhere; overhead, under the seats, in the dash, foot wells, etc. You could tell that the HVAC controls and instruments were taken straight from the Mercedes Benz G-wagen but overall the build materials were anything but Mercedes Benz. The passenger seats looked like they were out of a transport plane and the seat backs would NOT fold down flat. I thought this was a major flaw that could have been easily rectified. What happened to building a ‘versatile’ passenger van? You would have thought the engineers over at DaimlerChrysler had never heard of ‘stow-and-go’ seating.
On Sale this Spring!
All things considered the Sprinter is a great vehicle in its class. It offers more features, comfort, safety, visibility and choices than any other vehicle in its segment. However, it also costs a lot more and I’m not sure what the typical service or maintenance costs would be over the life of the vehicle. My experience tells me that importing parts from Germany is not exactly inexpensive which may also help explain the MSRP.
We’ve heard rumors that DaimlerChrysler plans to put twenty 2007 Dodge Sprinter Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) into the hands of a few lucky consumers before the end of the year. A number of them use Lithium-ion batteries and can drive up to 20 miles solely on electric power.
Favorite Quote by Mike Pultorak – DCX PPM
Keagan: “So Mike, what’s the difference between the Freightliner and the Dodge (Sprinter)?”
Mike: “They’re spelled different…”
Main North American Competition:
Ford Econoline (E-Series)
Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna
Main European Competition: