When DaimlerChrysler says its 2007 Dodge Sprinter is longer, wider and taller than previous models, it¹s not kidding around.

New Sprinter offers more cargo space.

Any husky electrician, plumber or other craft worker who needs ample room to work will find it in the 2007 Dodge Sprinter, with some models offering as much as 600 cu ft of storage space.

Earlier versions could accommodate a 6-ft-tall person standing up in the back cargo area, but the 2007 edition has been heightened in some cases to an impressive 7 ft. The increased headroom is one of many new features that Chrysler Group packs into a vehicle that is increasing in sales.

Aside from cargo space, the most striking change is a 3.5L V-6 gas engine available in some models. It comes at a time when rising fuel prices have equipment owners searching for alternatives to diesel, which lately has been ringing up higher than gasoline in some parts of the country.

"A certain subset of our customers would prefer gas engines," said Pamela Niekamp, senior manager with Dodge commercial-vehicle marketing and product planning. A 3.0L V-6 turbo diesel with 154 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque comes standard.

The company also says it is testing as many as 20 plug-in hybrids to offer motorists more fuel-conservation options in the future.

Chrysler has upgraded Sprinter to accommodate a wider range of businesses, from plumbers to pet-groomers. This year's model is 2-in. wider and comes in two wheelbases and three overall lengths, including a super-long, 185-in. version.

The tall van helps keep a lid on costs. List prices, including shipping charges, start at a reasonable $29,735 for "box off" cab-chassis models and $31,790 for cargo vans. A passenger van holding up to 10 people also is available, starting at $33,865. Dodge offers the van in 25 different configurations.

And although Sprinter's diesel version carries 2007 emission controls, including an all-new exhaust particulate filter, the engine is rated for a 10,000-mi oil change.

But how does it handle?

Though the vehicle is long, tall and unwieldy-looking, the ride is anything but. While test-driving the van through southern California streets, it handled much like a passenger car.

Chrysler Group accomplishes this with easy-to-use driver controls linked to all-new electronic-stability controls. The vehicle's computer mitigates rollover risk by automatically applying the brakes and reducing engine torque as it senses unbalanced loads and dangerous driving conditions.

Yet all the fancy computer chips in the world can't change the laws of physics. The vehicle still has a heavy ride because, after all, it's a heavy commercial van.

Sprinter's swift styling goes a long way to change the traditional image of clunky cargo vans. While parking the vehicle, one woman called it "sleek."

Chrysler feels so confident in this year's model that it isn't offering incentives. With 21,000 Sprinters sold last year, the manufacturer expects that number to keep going up.

"It's been a home run since we introduced it in 2003," says Niekamp.