What's New for 2008
An electric sliding-door option has also been added to the 2008 Dodge Sprinter Cargo, and the 3500 can now be had with the standard roof.
The union between Mercedes and Chrysler ended up being an unhappy marriage that recently ended in divorce, but Dodge at least got a decent chunk of alimony in the form of its 2008 Sprinter cargo van. Sure, a huge cargo-carrying van may not seem like a prize worth coveting, but the Sprinter represents the lone modern offering in a segment that ceased any engineering innovation during the Nixon administration. While the Ford and GM competition have made continual updates over the years, the Sprinter was completely redesigned last year and represents a significant evolutionary step thanks to its Mercedes engineering and unique body styles.
The 2008 Dodge Sprinter van's clear advantages are in the realms of cargo capacity, available body configurations, fuel economy and driving dynamics. It doesn't take long to realize how different the Sprinter is -- a mere glance will suffice. Its sloping front end, long wheelbases and two tall body styles give the impression that a strong breeze could make it tip over like a boozed-up co-ed. It's actually just as wide as the GM and Ford models, but handles more like a midsize SUV than a plumber's van. Also, Mercedes says it engineered the stability control system to compensate for the taller center of gravity and shifting cargo loads.
The Sprinter is the only full-size van to offer a choice of factory roof heights. Should Kareem Abdul-Jabbar require a full-size work van, the mega roof option provides an impressive 7 feet of interior height. For someone to walk upright in an Econoline and Express/Savanna, they can't be taller than 4-foot-4. This not only makes the Sprinter a superior cargo-hauling van, but also a viable and comfortable work space. When the mega roof and extended-length body are paired, there are a gargantuan 600 cubic feet of space inside -- zookeepers take note.
A choice of two engines are available. A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 is standard, and this torque-rich mill provides excellent fuel economy and ample torque for urban and suburban uses. An optional gasoline V6 (a $2,000 credit option for the 2500) is preferable for more highway-going drivers or those who would struggle to find a diesel pump. Neither engine provides the power of several GM and Ford power plants, so Sprinters are incapable of towing the same loads. The Sprinter tops out at 5,000 pounds, while its competitors can lug upwards of 10,000.
Overall, though, we think the 2008 Dodge Sprinter Cargo should be an appealing choice for many full-size van buyers. Despite being a little underpowered and pricey compared to V8-equipped GM and Ford vans, the Sprinter's multiple large body styles and quality construction make it an excellent choice in this segment. With Chrysler and Mercedes no longer together, there's no telling how much longer the Benz-sourced and German-built Sprinter will wear its Dodge badge. For the time being, however, commercial customers should give this automotive alimony a chance.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Dodge Sprinter Cargo is a full-size van. Body style choices are numerous, with 2500 and 3500 models available in two wheelbases (144 and 170 inches), three body lengths (233, 273 and 289 inches) and three roof heights (65, 76 and 84 inches). There are also several optional cargo bay partitions and driver seats, including a suspension seat.
Standard equipment includes 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, automatic climate control, a sliding passenger-side door, keyless entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cloth upholstery and a CD stereo.
Although there are numerous options packages available, everything is available a la carte as well. Optional items include alloy wheels, rear seating, rear compartment windows, a sliding driver-side cargo door, power mirrors, an auxiliary battery, cruise control, bi-xenon headlamps, foglamps, numerous cargo area partitions and upgraded front seats. Also available is a fixed cargo-area skylight or dual sunroofs, a front auxiliary heater, rear area heater ducts, heated driver and/or passenger seats, front and rear parking assist, a rearview camera, motion-sensor cargo compartment lighting, a six-CD changer and a 74-mph speed limiter.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Dodge Sprinter Cargo comes standard with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 making 154 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It gets fuel economy in the mid 20s, which is dramatically better than its competition. A 3.5-liter gasoline V6 is a cost-reducing option on the 2500 model, producing 254 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come standard with a five-speed automatic with an automanual mode. The 3500 model has dual rear wheels. Properly equipped, the Sprinter can tow 5,000 pounds.
All Dodge Sprinters come standard with stability control, traction control and antilock disc brakes. The Sprinter's stability control system is calibrated to compensate for shifting cargo loads and the vehicle's tall center of gravity. Optional safety equipment includes front-seat side airbags, front side head curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear parking camera.
Interior Design and Special Features
With the exception of the Dodge logo on its steering wheel, the Sprinter's interior is identical to the Mercedes-Benz version sold elsewhere in the world. Build quality is therefore far better than anything else in this class and actually superior to most other Dodge vehicles. Four front seat styles with multiple adjustments ensure decent comfort, and overall ergonomics give the impression of driving an SUV instead of a gigantic van. The old model's city bus steering column has been thankfully replaced with a new tilt/telescoping setup.
With so many body styles and a maximum 600 cubic feet of available cargo space, the Sprinter Cargo is the most versatile work van on the market (and larger than some New York City apartments). Its high and mega roof options -- 76 and 84 inches respectively -- make it possible for drivers to use the Sprinter as a work space while walking upright. Plus, its rear doors that open to 270 degrees, low step-in height and optional dual sliding doors assure unmatched accessibility. Maximum payload is a class-leading 5,770 pounds. Full-width partitions that separate the cabin from the cargo area include full metal, fixed and sliding windows, sliding doors and a C-pillar partition that allows for an extra row of seats.
With its huge windshield and truncated front end, piloting the 2008 Dodge Sprinter Cargo feels pretty similar to being behind the wheel of a tour bus. And at up to 24 feet long and up to 10 feet high, it could be one, too. Thankfully, that feeling is dispelled by a reasonably carlike driving position and handling. Quite simply, this is the easiest and least cumbersome full-size van to drive -- no surprise considering it was designed to navigate Europe's cramped streets. Around town, the turbodiesel engine offers more than enough power, and only when passing at highway speeds does it start to run out of steam. With its superior gas mileage and ample torque, we'd stick with the diesel engine over the optional gasoline-fueled power plant.