The dodge sprinter, first arriving on our shores as a 2003 model, is anything but a traditional Mopar mover. Designed and built by Mercedes-Benz -- remember the DaimlerChrysler partnership? -- the Sprinter replaced the hoary Dodge Van as the company's dedicated people- and stuff-hauler.
Beyond the general layout -- engine in the front, rear-wheel driven, generally boxy shape -- the Sprinter shares nothing more than the crossbar grille with the previous Dodges. In the European delivery-van idiom, the Sprinter is a familiar face: tall, narrow, long, and just powerful enough to keep ahead of the M-B diesel taxis and scooters driven by Kraftwerk-adoring teens.
When Dodge brought the Sprinter over here, it included most of the variations -- high and low roof plus three combinations of wheelbase and overall length, seating from eight to 10 in the passenger versions. Where the old Dodge Cargo Van came in one wheelbase (127.4 inches) and two lengths (208.5 inches and 234.5, by way of a cheesy "end cap" between the body shell and the bumper), the Sprinter could be purchased with a 118-inch wheelbase (197 inches long overall), a 140-inch wheelbase (225 inches long), or a 158-inch wheelbase model (at a whopping 263 inches long). Cargo and passenger layouts were available.
Regardless of what's behind and above the driver, for these years of the Sprinter, the engine ahead of his right kneecap would always be Mercedes-Benz's 2.7-liter inline-five turbodiesel driving a five-speed automatic transmission. Its 243 pound-feet of torque sounds good, but it puts out only a paltry 154 horsepower. Options? Sorry, no pushrod V-8, no all-wheel drive. If you've graduated from bellbottoms, glasspacks, and Don McLean, you realize a van doesn't have to be fast -- and the Sprinter isn't. But it does have the thrust to stay with traffic and rewards even a heavy foot with mileage in the mid-20s; a Cargo Van never did better than 14 mpg with the V-8, shuttle-bus driver or not.
Owners rave about the Sprinter's fuel economy as they dismiss its lack of acceleration, and are quick to point out its many safety features, including standard all-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and stability control. Another plus is the fact that the Sprinter actually handles, a feat long past the abilities of the Cargo Van.
Almost no changes were made from 2003 through 2006, but a comprehensive redesign took place for the 2007 model year that increased body size and offered a new turbodiesel V-6. Reliability is somewhat tough to gauge, because the Sprinter is used in a lot of fleet applications, and the reliability data isn't as widely shared. Individual consumers have reported problems with the electrical system, transmission leaks, poor paint, and rattles from the doors and other crannies in the cavernous interior. Needless to say, try to find one that hasn't seen fleet life, and inspect the service documentation carefully -- not all dealerships apparently had enough trained technicians. You absolutely don't want a Sprinter that's been driven like a taxi and maintained like one.
|2003-2006 Dodge Sprinter|
|Body type||4-door van|
|Drivetrain||Front engine, RWD|
|Engine||2.7L/154-hp DOHC I-5 turbodiesel|
|Brakes, f/r||Disc/disc, ABS|
|Price range, whlsl/ret (IntelliChoice)||$10,885/$13,175 (2003); $28,800/$30,100 (2006)|
|Recalls||Too many to list; see www.intellichoice.com|
|NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/pass||Not rated|