Test Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

?This thing is like the love child of a tour bus and a Hummer!? declared my 17 year-old daughter. She considered the massive Sprinter in the driveway for a moment and then added, ?But it?s kinda nice.?

In 6 years of reviewing all kinds of new cars, I have to admit I?ve never brought home anything quite like the Sprinter. It?s a diesel-powered, 12-seat van, tall enough to stand up and walk around inside, powered by an economical and fun 6-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.

The best part of the Sprinter is that it drives much better than you would expect, given its size. The diesel provides plenty of pickup with its 188 horsepower, and the 5-speed automatic transmission is smooth and predictable.? The Sprinter gets about 20 MPG in real-world combination driving, which is nothing short of astonishing for a vehicle this size.

The interior is no-nonsense ? rubber mats on the floor, comfortable seats, rear-view backup camera, navigation, and a reasonable stereo. Not bad for $39,820.

By the end of my week with the van, I?d taken a big group from work out to lunch, taken the whole extended family to dinner, and I was thinking that with a little interior design, a Sprinter like this would make a great camper and mini-motorhome.? Of course, there are already aftermarket companies doing that, and Mercedes offers the Sprinter in a stripped-down panel van version, a half-and-half Crew configuration, as well as the passenger van I tested.

The bottom line on the Mercedes Sprinter is just this ? if you need the love child of a tour bus and a Hummer, really, what else is going to do the job?

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