What's New for 2006
Minor additions this year include a rear park-assist feature, headlamp washers, an interior partition with a sliding window, and wiring for hands-free cell-phone use.
On sale at Dodge dealerships since 2003, the Dodge Sprinter is actually a rebadged version of a Mercedes-Benz cargo van built in Germany. By tapping into the resources of parent DaimlerChrysler, Dodge has come up with a true alternative to the more traditional vans from Ford and General Motors. Compared to these vans, the Sprinter is much more focused on passenger comfort, ease of use and driving dynamics. It's available in a comprehensive selection of configurations that makes it easy to meet specific needs. Not much flash or prestige can be expected of such a boxy van, of course, but the upright styling endows the Sprinter with near flat interior sidewalls, huge cargo capacity and plenty of flexibility. In addition to a selection of wheelbase lengths, the Sprinter cargo van is available with a choice of two roof heights. High-roof models make it possible for contractors to stand up inside their vans when loading or unloading equipment.
The Sprinter's diesel engine is its weakest aspect. With just 154 horsepower available, the Sprinter's acceleration is rather meek at highway speeds, particularly if the van is heavily loaded. Additionally, towing and hauling abilities are not as robust as those from its competitors. Although the 3500 model has a 4,800-pound payload capacity, its maximum towing capacity tops out at just 5,000 pounds. In comparison, the V8-powered Chevrolet Express and Ford Econoline can tow anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds. The only bright spot here is fuel economy. Combined driving should result in about a 25-mpg average, which is significantly higher than that of the V8s. Overall, we think that individuals or businesses in need of a cargo van should certainly consider the 2006 Dodge Sprinter. Its strengths certainly outweigh its weaknesses, particularly for contractors who require maximum interior space.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Dodge Sprinter cargo van is available in two heavy-duty styles: 2500 or 3500. The 2500 has a wheelbase measuring either 118, 140 or 158 inches. The 118-inch wheelbase isn't available for the 3500. Additionally, both styles are available in a high-roof version. The extended roof height provides additional cargo capacity and allows an average-height person to stand up inside the cargo area, thus easing the process of loading and unloading heavy equipment. Standard features on the Sprinter are limited to the bare necessities. A comprehensive range of options is available that allows buyers to fully customize the van to their needs. Highlights include interior partitions, a driver-side sliding door, an auxiliary heater, a three-passenger rear bench, upgraded front seats, cruise control, an alarm system, a CD player, and power windows, mirrors and locks.
Powertrains and Performance
An inline five-cylinder, 2.7-liter turbodiesel engine powers all Sprinters. It's rated at 154 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard and sends power to the rear wheels. Extended maintenance intervals and an estimated average 25 mpg help reduce overall operating expenses. Properly equipped, the Sprinter can tow 5,000 pounds.
The Dodge Sprinter comes with standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control. Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash tested this vehicle.
Interior Design and Special Features
Though far from luxurious, interior accommodations are certainly adequate and businesslike. Fit and finish is up to typical Mercedes-Benz standards. Multiple seat adjustments ensure decent comfort, and overall ergonomics give the impression of driving a regular passenger car instead of a hulking van. Some will find the lack of tilt steering to be an annoyance. Storage cubbies abound, but don't expect to put a super-mega-size drink in any of the cupholders. Photos may make the Sprinter look diminutive, but do not be deceived -- it offers up to 473 cubic feet of interior capacity depending on wheelbase and roof height. The Ford E-350 Extended Van offers a comparatively paltry 308 cubic feet. The Sprinter's rear cargo doors open up to a helpful maximum of 270 degrees.
While far from nimble, the Sprinter handles more like a midsize SUV and is better than any other van in the full-size class. The ride is also surprisingly smooth, and the Sprinter's turning circle is smaller in diameter than those of other full-size vans. In spite of the engine's low horsepower rating, its generous torque and minimal turbo lag result in adequate acceleration at low speeds. Highway passing ability is not as impressive.