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2007 Dodge Sprinter.

ted laturnus The Globe and Mail

The Sprinter is a supremely practical box-on-wheels that has been a success story for Mercedes in North America.

When it comes to carrying capacity, sizes and model/drivetrain choices, its domestic rivals - the Ford Econoline (or as it's called now, the E-series) and GMC Savanna - don't even come close.

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Who buys it? As well as the usual number of large fleet operators, such as FedEx, UPS, DHL, Office Depot and Ryder, tradesmen - plumbers, carpenters and so on - have taken to the Sprinter with a vengeance.

If you've had a parcel or package delivered lately or had some work done on your house, chances are a Sprinter was involved. It has among the lowest operating costs in its class, which, for bottom-line-watching operations managers, makes all the difference in the world.

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Developed by Mercedes-Benz, the Sprinter was part of the Dodge lineup during the DaimlerChrysler years and is now a Mercedes model again.

In 2007, the Sprinter was still under the DaimlerChrysler umbrella, and got a complete overhaul, with a slight restyling job, new drivetrain, more model choices and upgraded engineering and standard equipment levels. Manufactured in South Carolina, it came in three different lengths, on two wheelbases, and was available in just about every configuration you could imagine, from a people-carrying mini-bus, to tool-toting chassis cab, to the "mega-roof" cargo cab, which had more than 17,000 litres of carrying capacity and 2,140 mm of total height from floor to ceiling.

At the heart of the Sprinter's low operating cost was Mercedes' CDI V-6 diesel engine, which was the only engine choice in Canada in 2007. American buyers were also offered a gas-engined model. Displacing 3.0 litres, the turbo-diesel powerplant developed 154 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque and was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission only. According to DaimlerChrysler, you could go 16,000 kilometres between oil changes, with 48,000-kilometre maintenance intervals. Although far from being a powerhouse, this engine was adequate and could handle just about anything you could load into the back of the vehicle - definitely built for work and not play.

One key to the Sprinter's success was that it was - and is - very driveable. You probably wouldn't want to use it as your daily commute (although some do), but for a commercial vehicle, it was remarkably easy to get along with, not to mention holding an amazing amount of cargo.

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One innovation for 2007 was a 1,295-mm wide side door, which made the Sprinter "pallet-friendly." In other words, you could load stuff into it with a fork lift, which, if you're on the job, was a big consideration and time-saver. It also made an excellent starting point for a weekend-getaway-style camper conversion.

Standard equipment included power windows and door locks, tilt steering, larger exterior mirrors, various types of air conditioning and, for the passenger van, redesigned quick-releasing seats.

DaimlerChrysler also included an adaptive electronic vehicle stability program as standard issue this year. Briefly put, it takes over if things get out of hand - wild lane changes or collision avoidance, for example - and works with the ABS, and skid control, brake assist, and "roll-over mitigation" systems.

Transport Canada has four safety recalls on file for this vintage of Sprinter. One concerns inadequate head protection for rear passengers, another for an incorrect brake reservoir installed on some 3500 models, a third has to do with engine stalling issues, while the final recall deals with side airbag irregularities. The U.S-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has an alert out for possibly faulty aftermarket wheelchair lifts manufactured by Sunset and Matthews.

Just three technical service bulletins to report for the '07 Sprinter. The EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve can malfunction, leading to excessive exhaust emissions; there may also be some irregularities with the automatic transmission control module and there is an alert regarding the use of bio-diesel.

Consumer Reports doesn't evaluate commercial vehicles, so not much info there. However, there are a couple of comments from owners: "Breaks down way too much - six times in two years," laments one. "Won't fit in garage," offers another.

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The 2007 Sprinter came in a wide variety of body sizes, but you can expect to pay anywhere from the high teens to the mid-$30,000 range, depending upon the series. The 3500 models, for example, are the largest, and can be had with a high roof - plan on paying top dollar for this model.

2007 Dodge Sprinter

Original Base Price: $41,515; Black Book Value: $30,575-$35,925; Red Book Value: $17,725-$20,900

Engine: 3.0-litre, turbo-diesel V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 154 hp/280 lb-ft

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): N/A

Alternatives: GMC Savanna, Ford E-Series

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