The potential weak link for people pondering the possibilities of such a vehicle is the 154-horsepower, 2.7-liter common-rail fuel-injection five-cylinder turbodiesel powerplant. The company claims 22 mpg for the van, but with a vehicle of this size and the frontal area of a billboard, that seems optimistic.

Towing a 950-pound Formula Ford race car on a 500-pound flatbed trailer and carrying another couple hundred pounds of tools and spare parts inside the gigantic cargo area, we got 13 mpg, with the cruise control set on 70 mph much of the time. Four refills of the 26-gallon tank showed this was a consistent result, not the outcome of unusual circumstances. Around town, with less aerodynamic drag and with no trailer, the van ought to achieve economy in the 20s without difficulty.

The little motor pulled the light trailer smartly at highway speeds, but the Sprinter makes use of a few of the five gears in its automatic transmission when climbing even slight grades and loses speed on steeper hills. With a heavier trailer using more of the van's 5000-pound towing capacity, steep hills wouldn't be much fun.

The company brought the Sprinter into the U.S. nearly unmodified from its European-tuned specifications just to get a product on the market, and the vehicle is ideal for several applications here. But it would be even better with a bigger optional engine, such as the Cummins turbodiesel used in the Ram pickups. The van is built in 3/4- and one-ton versions, so there isn't much doubt that it's strong enough to accept that engine's output. An updated version of the Sprinter is scheduled for a few years from now, so if this lighter-duty hauler doesn't suit your purposes now, maybe a future model will.

The Sprinter's interior could be called cavernous, except that there are plenty of caverns that aren't as large. Motorcycles, ATVs, kayaks, and more will not only fit inside the Sprinter--you wouldn't need a trailer--they'll fit with space left for passengers and supplies.