Full 2009 Dodge Sprinter Cargo Review
What's New for 2009
The big news for the 2009 Dodge Sprinter Cargo van is that the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 is now the only available engine -- last year's optional 3.5-liter gasoline V6 is no longer offered. Otherwise, the Sprinter Cargo sees only minor changes for 2009.
When businesses need a commercial vehicle with lots of passenger and cargo capacity, a full-size van is the obvious choice. Within this segment, there are only three players: the Chevy Express/GMC Savana twins, the Dodge Sprinter and the Ford Econoline Cargo. Of these, the Sprinter represents the most distinctive and interesting choice for a cargo van.
Fully redesigned just two years ago, the 2009 Dodge Sprinter Cargo is actually a rebranded Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which is designed for European needs. Accordingly, the Sprinter is far more maneuverable and fuel-efficient than its American rivals -- but its turbodiesel V6 lacks the grunt of a good old-fashioned V8 or V10, and its narrow-looking body may seem odd to American drivers.
That narrow appearance is deceiving, however, as the Sprinter Cargo is actually just as wide as its Ford and GM competitors. It only looks narrow because it's longer and taller than other full-size vans. Indeed, the Sprinter's standard 144-inch wheelbase is even longer than the Econoline's optional extended wheelbase, while the available 170-inch wheelbase dwarfs what Ford and GM have to offer. In addition, the Sprinter Cargo can be ordered in any of three body lengths, ranging from more than 19 feet to a school-buslike 24 feet.
The Sprinter Cargo is also the only full-size cargo van to offer a choice of factory roof heights -- the high-roof option allows a 6-foot-3-inch person to stand upright, while the 7-foot Mega Roof option will allow LeBron James to join your work crew. The Econoline and Express/Savana roofs are fixed at less than 4.5 feet, so in order for those vans to match the Sprinter Cargo in this regard, you will need to make aftermarket changes.
The Sprinter Cargo's optional gasoline V6 has been dropped for 2009, leaving the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 as the only available engine. This power plant offers superior fuel economy along with adequate torque for most uses, though it's frankly dwarfed by the output of several Ford and GM engines. If you need to tow and/or haul heavy objects with your cargo van, the Sprinter's not the best choice -- its towing capacity tops out at 5,000 pounds, while its rivals can lug upwards of 10,000.
The 2009 Dodge Sprinter Cargo's vices are clear: It's pricey to start, and it doesn't offer class-leading power. But we think its many virtues are compelling for most shoppers in this segment. The Sprinter boasts class-leading handling/maneuverability and fuel economy in a modern design, and its body-style configurability straight from the factory is second to none. If you need a full-size cargo van and know you won't have to tow more than around 5,000 pounds -- and you don't mind the price -- then this is the way to go.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Dodge Sprinter Cargo is a full-size van available in either 2500 or 3500 trim. There are two wheelbase options (144 and 170 inches), three body lengths (233, 273 and 289 inches) and three roof heights (65, 76 and 84 inches).
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 with MP3 capability. Although there are numerous options packages available, just about everything is available à 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 (the latter on standard-height roofs only), a front auxiliary heater, rear area heater ducts, heated driver and/or passenger seats, front and rear park assist, a rearview camera, motion-sensing cargo compartment lighting, a six-CD changer and a 74-mph speed limiter.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Dodge Sprinter Cargo is powered by a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that generates 154 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This engine is capable of fuel economy in the mid-20s, which is dramatically better than that of its competition. The only available transmission is a five-speed automatic with an automanual mode. Properly equipped, the Sprinter Cargo can tow 5,000 pounds, and its maximum payload ratings range from 3,155 pounds (2500 extended length high roof) to 5,649 pounds (3500 regular length standard roof).
All 2009 Dodge Sprinter Cargo vans come standard with antilock disc brakes and stability control. Optional safety equipment includes front-seat side and head curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors and a rear parking camera.
Interior Design and Special Features
Other than the Dodge logo on the steering wheel, the Sprinter's interior is pretty much identical to that of the Mercedes-Benz version sold around the world. Build quality is notably better than in other full-size vans, not to mention most other Dodge products. A tilt/telescoping steering column and four different front-seat styles with multiple adjustments ensure ample comfort, while the Sprinter's modern control layout makes it feel more like a midsize SUV than a utilitarian van.
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. Its High Roof and Mega Roof options -- 76 and 84 inches, respectively -- enable the Sprinter Cargo to be used as a work space where passengers can walk upright. Moreover, the Sprinter Cargo boasts rear doors that open to 270 degrees for ease of access, and its low step-in height and optional dual sliding doors make your job even easier. There are numerous available full-width partitions that separate the cabin from the cargo area, including a full metal partition, fixed and sliding windows, sliding doors and a C-pillar partition that allows an extra row of seats.
With its huge windshield and truncated front end, the 2009 Dodge Sprinter Cargo does a pretty fair impression of a delivery truck from behind the wheel. And at up to 23 feet long and 10 feet high, it could be one, too. But a reasonably carlike driving position and respectable handling help make the Sprinter feel manageable around town. Quite simply, this is the easiest and least cumbersome full-size cargo van to drive. Around town, the turbodiesel engine offers satisfactory thrust -- it's only on the highway that its power deficit becomes glaringly apparent.