February 5, 2008

Dad Van Or Rad Van? The Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter CDi


You know what's been lost in the whole minivan era? A suitable appreciation of the maxivan. Back in the day, when the customized Dodge van was a-rockin', you knew not to come knockin'. Ahh, good times.

Now it turns out that, for a brief moment, that maxivan magic was back at Dodge, in what may be the single, solitary bright spot of the Daimler-Chrysler merger fiasco. Of course, I'm talking about the Dodge Sprinter. It's an honest-to-goodness, straight-off-the-boat, rebadged-in-Dusseldorf Mercedes Sprinter van, complete with a 2.7L CDi. The consumer version even has side and rear windows!

The example above belongs to DT reader George, who's in the process of converting it in the spirit of the long-lost--and recently re-canceled--VW microbus. His description after the jump includes the following phrases: "28 MPG," "Galley with sink, fridge, microwave, the top doubles as a changing table" and "a hoot to drive." Also, there's a shot of the Maxi-Cosi car seat, installed:

[update: and from the comments, a picture of the blinged out Sprinter with the optional stripper pole. Seriously.]

Says George:

Ok, so the background story is I wanted the VW Microbus and was heartbroken when they canceled it.

I wouldn't want to be caught dead in a minivan. I find most SUVs horribly inefficient and frankly useless.

I wanted a European van.

Becker Auto Design in Oxnard, CA actually makes a sweet van they call the JetVan, but at $200,000+ that was out of my league.

Luckily there was a DIY solution:
When MB took over Chrysler they told Dodge to kill the RAM van and substitute it with the German made Sprinter. Honest to goodness, they make the Sprinter vans in Düsseldorf, then glue on a plastic Dodge grille and ship it to the states. The "Dodge" grille actually has a Mercedes part number on it...

[First thing, I sourced the original MB grill and converted the Sprinter back to its original form.]

The Sprinter is a pretty good ride as is:
- 2.7 Liter Turbodiesel Direct Injection
- 28 MPG @ 55Mph (better milage than my wife's Subaru)
- Industrial strength chassis can tow 10,000 lbs.
- It's like the big brother to the G-wagon
- why break down the stoller?
- let's bring the dog
- rubber floor

The bad:
- The seats are removable but not adjustable and at 250 lbs hardly easy to move around.
- The 2005 I have doesn't have LATCH (the new models do...)

Then I went to work converting my Sprinter into a family van loosely based on the Becker JetVan:


- Soundproofing and Insulation...this is a commercial vehicle
- Aluminum tracks and seats with LATCH from the VW t5 Multivan sourced on eBay Germany
- Galley with sink, fridge, microwave, the top doubles as a changing table
- Bench seat folds flat and make a great bed for tired parents
- ceiling vent and fan for fresh air
- passenger swivel seat for lounging
- extra battery and inverter to power the 110V outlets
- iPhone tied to the factory radio
- Polk Audio speakers for better sound
- wired the heater to run when the engine is off (the CDI engine is so efficient it doesn't make enough heat, there actually is a small heater installed to warm the van in the winter)

We take it to the beach all the time and it sure beats camping in a tent. When we moved it took a few trips, but everything fit in the Sprinter. Landscaping, drywall, plywood the Sprinter swallows it all. The best part is it's actually a hoot to drive, turns on a dime and has really good pickup for city driving.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter [wikipedia]
Becker Auto Design - JetVan beckerautodesign.com]

Previously: Diplomat rubs Mercedes Vaneo in American families' faces

Oh right, the stripper pole:



Pics please!

[fixed, sorry. -ed.]

That is 1,000 times better than the new VW Routan, which is a shamelessly rebadged Chrysler minivan that the guys at VW didn't even have the decency to equip with a decent interior, let alone a TDI.


The Sprinter is very nice, but I'd like a stick (and I recognize that I am, perhaps, 50 or maybe 33 percent of the stick-shift-and-diesel-minivan market in the United States). Fortunately for Euro van buffs disappointed by the Routan, it sounds like Ford is planning to bring the Transit Connect over here.


We may see the US market version at the Chicago Auto Show.

Why not just get an Airstream Interstate? http://www.airstream.com/products/2008-fleet/touring-coaches/interstate/index.html I'm sure you could find one used for under $90,000.

I was actually looking at this last year, but couldn't find anyone around here who had a passenger version. Did you custom order this from a Dodge dealer? Are you willing to share what you spent?
With 5 kids we need all the room we can get. We are looking at the next Tahoe (hybrid), but this seems like a good possibility as well.

[2005 passenger versions seem to run $28-40k on ebay these days, but the layout and level of interior finish varies widely from church bus to, well, removable stripper pole, which is $119,000. -ed.]

While I'm all for the stripper pole, I'm guessing from the look of it that it is better in theory than practical application. How does a girl get up the momentum for a good leg swing and upside down slide in such a narrow space? She'd risk kicking one of her drunk fraternity boy customers in the face and certainly herself out of a tip.

[or her Russian mobster customers. the caption in the ebay listing's in Cyrillic. -ed.]

Now that Chrysler is no longer DaimlerChrysler, who knows what's going to happen with these. DC considered building a Sprinter plant in Savannah back in '02, but changed their minds. (after the state had knocked down 1500 acres of trees for the factory.)
When I was in a panic about having the twins and looking to upgrade the family truckster, I looked into Sprinters, but they are either in very short supply or Dodge is just not very serious about selling them. You can almost never find them on the lot to look at. I have a friend with the cargo version and he loves it. However, even the "passenger" models are pretty spartan, and compared to the Honda/Toyota/Chrysler competition, they are pricey, too. However, if I had TWO sets of twins, they would be near the top of my list, but for one thing: sliding door on one side only, that's a deal breaker. The are huge on the inside, though.
On the other hand, since they are from the Fatherland, there are Nutty German Professors working overtime on tuner packages like this one from Brabus or this one from Hartmann.

Try getting the Sprinter as a Freightliner
Mercedes Benz ahem... DC ahem... well whatever they are called these days still owns Freightliner. (I looked it up and Freightliner is no more, they're called Daimler Trucks now) The dealers hate ordering vehicles so they'll try to dissuade you from doing that.

You can get the double slider on the cargo, but not on the passenger version.

I just recently saw the Mercedes van in Southern california, and followed it. Could not see any logo's other then the Mercedes emblem. I was in augh! We will be visiting both Dodge and Mercedes to compare and hopfully they will have them on the lot.

Oh hell yeah! This van rocks! Now this is what I call a van!

I really hate minivans. I say if you want to buy a van, buy a full size van - not a damn minivan. Things were a lot better before minivans. It would be nice if the full size van market picked up again and more people would buy and eventually cripple the minivan market!

have 2007 passenger high top. am trying to get more comfortable driver and passenger seats. also any other aftermarket accessories (mats, folding bench seat, etc.
only thing i have found is mostly how to make the dodge look like a mercedes.
any help anyone

send me some floor plans on any mercadies camper van ......thanks brad bloom

I vote RAD VAN!
I want a sprinter too..but the wife says NAY!!

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