Archive for the ‘ram promaster’ Tag

2019 Ram Promaster

Furnace inspection, extra insulation, lawn and garden cleanup – these are just some of the Fall winterizing tasks in full swing around the country. Busy contractors need tools they can count on to get the job done the first time, every time. And one tool they count on the most is their truck.

Ram Commercial vans and 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs are built to handle big payloads, tow heavy loads and efficiently adapt to each contractor’s specific needs with class-leading capability and a host of class-exclusive features. You’ve seen these hardworking trucks on the road all over town. Now, #TruckThursday kicks off a five-week video series focusing on the capability and features of this hardworking truck lineup, beginning with the 2019 Ram ProMaster.

 

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FCA’s Ram Commercial Operation Pulling Its Weight

OAKBROOK, IL – In only five years, Ram Commercial truck and van operations have grown from virtual obscurity to a 15% share of the commercial-vehicle market.

But hold the plaudits, insists Dave Sowers, head of Ram Commercial vehicles for FCA US.

“We aren’t satisfied with 15% and need to grow further,” Sowers says in an interview before updating the Midwest Automotive Media Assn. about how Ram Commercial has done in the past and what it expects to achieve in the future.

Ram Commercial sells fullsize cab chassis trucks derived from Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 pickups, along with fullsize Pro Master vans and a midsize Pro Master City commercial van derived from Fiat vehicles in Europe. The trucks and vans are customized or upfitted to buyer specs for holding tools and materials for tradesmen such as carpenters or plumbers, or serve as delivery vehicles by carrying items such as lumber or flowers.

Trucks offer gasoline or diesel engines; the big Pro Master van gas or diesel; the small Pro Master City, gas only. There’s a choice of rear- or all-wheel-drive for the trucks but front-wheel-drive only for the vans.

“There’s no plans to add all-wheel drive to either the Pro Master or Pro Master City, because with FWD the drivetrain doesn’t prevent us from offering a lower cargo floor for easier entry and exit for our customers,” Sowers says. “Besides, we don’t see the demand for AWD and the added cost.”

Sowers says about 70% of the cab-chassis trucks and about 15% of the big Pro Master vans are sold with diesel power.

“Diesels are popular in the bigger vehicles because they deliver long driving range as well as increased towing capacity – up to 31,000 lbs. (13,950 kg) – while the gas engine is popular in the small Pro Master City van because it delivers very good mileage, up to 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km) highway,” he says.

Tax Credits, Fuel Prices Drive Sales

Sowers says 250,000 Class 2 vans and 90,000 Class 1 vans were sold industry-wide last year. He won’t talk about Ram numbers for 2016 but says he expects sales to increase this year thanks to an anticipated strong second half, especially the fourth quarter.

“The government approved special tax credits for small businesses last year, but the approval didn’t take effect until December. This year, as the end of the year approaches, small businesses will have the time to realize if they are going to make a profit for the full year…they can start spending in October, November and December to take advantage of the tax breaks,” he says.”

“Also contributing to a strong sales outlook are lower gas prices, rising housing starts and businesses having no trouble getting credit – all factors that influence confidence and an increased willingness (by commercial customers) to spend money on new product.”

Sowers also notes a large number of CVs now in use are 11 years or older and soon will need replacement, which should spur pent-up demand.

It also helps that Ram Commercial now has 1,000 dealers, up from 900 a year ago and only 400 in 2012, the year Ram Commercial became a stand-alone brand from Ram truck.

Ram Commercial is offering incentives on many vehicles, Sowers admits. “But we aren’t buying the market. It’s mostly offering discounts when customers buy upfitting packages.”

The executive says he’s satisfied with Ram Commercial’s current range of vehicles and the sales they generate. “We cover the bulk of products customers want now, though maybe more is needed in big, over 10,000-lb. (4,540-kg) vehicles.”

It’s been extensively reported several automakers are going to offer new midsize trucks in the near future or are planning to add them, such as a return of the Ranger at Ford, a Santa Cruz from Hyundai and a small Mercedes pickup that would join the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon in the small-truck segment.

Asked about plans for retailing a smaller Ram pickup that could be joined by a small commercial-pickup companion and perhaps a commercial-van derivative, Sowers replies:

“We’ve looked at a small pickup for some time and are watching that market. But we have no firm plans to announce. If we did a small truck it would only be as a commercial truck, and we wouldn’t look at launching a new smaller van, since we already have the ProMaster City.”

Asked about the chances Ram Commercial will offer a battery-electric vehicle in addition to its diesel and gas-powered offerings, Sowers notes: “Fiat has one in Europe, an Iveco electric van that we looked at for (the U.S.), but interest in electrics rises when gas prices rise and with gas below $2.50 a gallon an electric van isn’t high on our (priority) list here.”

Read more at: http://wardsauto.com/industry/fca-s-ram-commercial-operation-pulling-its-weight

Driving the 2015 Ram Promaster, the city van with a plan

A new breed of vehicle is appearing on American roads, and, well, it’s surprisingly straightforward: it’s a minivan that’s an actual mini van. Not the Honda Odyssey or the Toyota Sienna or any of those other bloated family-haulers that may technically be “vans” but are hardly mini, but rather old-fashioned boxes on wheels—low on amenities, high on utility. And as we’ve come to find out, they’re not that bad to drive either.

That’s certainly the case with the 2015 Ram Promaster City, which joins the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200/Chevrolet City Express twins in the Tiny Van Tousle of 2015. Essentially a slightly warmed over Fiat Doblo utility van that’s sold overseas, the Promaster City arrives in Ram dealerships now, both in cargo and five-passenger form, and we recently got our first chance to drive it on a media program in Austin, Texas.

2015 Ram ProMaster City Wagon SLT

Texas is a curious place to launch a “city” van, since practically nowhere in this great Union of ours do trucks and vans have as much room to grow to full size, like goldfish in an Olympic-size carp pool. The congested avenues and narrow alleys of New York City might have been a more obvious place to launch the Promaster City, but the appeal of small utility vans is not just about being the right size for their environment; it’s about possessing the right qualities. And the Promaster City has a lot of right qualities.

It starts with being eminently easy to drive. From behind the wheel, the Promaster City’s car-like driving position and surprisingly stylish, ergonomically sound dashboard are more like those of a tall station wagon than a cargo van. Particular helpful if the van is to be piloted by many different drivers is its uncomplicated Uconnect infotainment system with available touchscreen and wifi, which requires little or no learning curve to master, unlike the fussy Sync system in the Transit Connect. Large glass back windows on models so equipped (including all five-passenger versions, which also come with windows in the sliding door) dwarf the tiny airplane-size back windows in the NV200/City Express, blessing the Promaster City with a great view out back when it’s not loaded with stuff. And highly recommended on models with paneled windows is are bumper-saving rear backup camera and parking sensors.

The Promaster City’s front seats seem comfortable enough for long-distance drives and are covered in fabric that could handle a plumber’s wrath after Taco Tuesday. The 60/40 split fold-and-tumble rear seats in passenger models, however, are about as cushy as a park bench and have no armrests to speak of (those are highly underappreciated, as it turns out) and hence should be used infrequently and for short trips only.

2015 Ram ProMaster City Tradesman SLT

As a compact van weighing about 3,600 lbs., the Promaster City is also is fully competent with just four cylinders underhood, even on Austin’s hilly roads. The 2.4-liter “Tigershark” inline-four’s 178 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque make it the most powerful mill in the segment, while a nine-speed automatic with manual shift control manages the shifting. Thus endowed, the Promaster City is no speed demon at full tilt, but nor should drivers be allowed to blame any late deliveries on their van being too slow. And just as important to the boss is the Promaster City’s impressive 21/29 mpg city/highway fuel economy, which exactly matches the long-wheelbase Transit Connect.

The Promaster City is also spectacularly maneuverable, boasting a turning circle that, at just 32 feet, is three feet tighter than a Mini Cooper’s. The steering wheel turns 2.9 times lock-to-lock, which may not seem too remarkable compared to regular cars, but if you’ve piloted a full-size van before, it’s a revelation. Even better, there’s no perceptible on-center dead spot at speed, just crisp, linear response. Ride quality, meanwhile, is downright heroic thanks to a fully independent rear suspension (the NV200/City Express have bumpy rear leaf springs and the Transit Connect has a twist beam rear axle), so if you’re in the business of transporting delicate items like wedding cakes or antiques, this should top your shopping list.

2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT interior

However small it drives, the Promaster City can carry a lot. Size wise, it’s very close to the NV200/City Express and the long-wheelbase Transit Connect, yet it manages to squeak more cubic feet into the cargo area: 131.7 cubes on cargo models versus 128.6 for the Ford and 122.7 for the Nissan/Chevy twins. The roof height is a tall 51.8 inches, and as with its competitors, the Promaster City’s rear doors open on double hinges for nearly 180 degrees of total swing, which makes loading wide and bulky items a cinch.

The Promaster City cargo model comes with a fully lined floor that is flat and expansive, measuring 87.2 inches from the seatbacks to the rear doors, 60.4 inches between the walls and 48.4 inches between the wheelwells, allowing a forklift to drop in a conventional pallet full of cargo. Up to 1883 pounds of payload can be loaded inside, then secured with its six standard D-rings (four on passenger models). So you don’t have to look it up, that’s 173 pounds more than the Transit Connect and 383 pounds more than the NV200/City Express. Max towing is 2,000 pounds, exactly matching the Ford.

Of course, most Promaster City buyers won’t leave their vans just as they came, so Mopar and other upfitters are at the ready to supply partitions, shelving units, and roof racks. The Promaster City also has a huge shelf above the front seats as well as a large open shelf in the passenger-side dash.

Prices for the Promaster City cargo model start at $24,125 and $25,125 for the passenger version. The SLT trim adds power mirrors, body-color bumpers, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, touchscreen infotainment, and cruise control to both, for an additional $1,525.

For many van customers, having a reasonable amount of well-organized space is more appealing than sheer immensity, and the Promaster City will fit that bill, especially if they plan to put their van in a garage or have limited operating budgets. The fact that it drives so well is icing on the cake.

Read more at: https://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motoramic/driving-the-2015-ram-promaster–the-city-van-with-a-plan-171532833.html

Ram top growth brand in changing van market

The upheaval in the commercial van market continued in 2014 as the Ram ProMaster hit its stride, Ford introduced the Transit and GM added a small van, courtesy of Nissan.

In November, Eurovans (ProMaster, Transit, Sprinter) outsold traditional American vans from Ford, GM and Nissan by 187 units. The gap will only grow going forward as the ProMaster gains ground and the Ford E-Series van, long the major player in the full-size van market, is relegated to chassis-cabs and similar applications. This leaves GM as the only one still making a traditional van and the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna are nearly two decades old and don’t offer the space or fuel economy of the newer vans.

Thanks to an unusually strong month for the Ram Cargo Van, Ram brand beat Chevrolet brand van sales in November and was just 219 behind the combined total of Chevy and GMC.

Ram brand took a 19.1% share of the commercial van market in November, up 12 percentage points from its 7.1% share in November 2013. Year-to-date share for the Ram brand rose 4.5 percentage points, to 8.2% of the market.

Both Ford and Chevrolet have lost market share this year.

While they account for only about two percent of total U.S. light vehicle sales, growth in the segment has been strong this year. Sales of full-size vans are up 16.2% as of the end of November; sales of compact vans, including the Ram Cargo Van, have grown 25.3%. Both figures are well above the 5.5% year-to-date growth of the light vehicle market.

The growth in sales of compact vans bodes well for the rollout of the Ram ProMaster City that’s currently underway. While it’s more expensive than the Nissan NV, Chevy City Express and base Transit Connect, the ProMaster City beats all of them when it comes to capacity, power and configurations.

As Read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2014/12/ram-top-growth-brand-in-changing-van-market

Ram ProMaster City: First Drive of the Small Commercial Van

The ProMaster City is derived from the Fiat Doblò, but it isn’t just a clone of the Fiat. Different powertrains and suspension changes are among the modifications made to adapt the small van to the preferences and needs of North American buyers. At a recent event in Texas, Bob Hegbloom, Ram CEO, Joe Benson, head of Ram Commercial, and Mike Cairns, Ram Chief Engineer, presented some of the differences and were on hand to answer questions.

First, contrary to what we have seen, the ProMaster City will have the new styling recently unveiled for the Doblò. This improves the appearance, especially from the front.

As Allpar has reported previously, the ProMaster City is not a direct competitor to the Nissan NV200, base-model Ford Transit Connect, or the Chevrolet City Express (which is just an NV200 with a higher price tag). It also doesn’t compete with the base Ford Transit Connect. Based on size, capacity, and capability, the ProMaster’s direct competition is the long wheelbase version of the Transit Connect, which retails for almost the same amount as the ProMaster City.

The ProMaster City has best-in-class cargo capability with a 1,883-pound maximum payload, a new 9-speed transmission, and best-in-class horsepower and torque. It can tow up to 2,000 pounds. It also has a bi-link coil rear suspension, giving the ProMaster City the only true independent rear in its class.

All of these add up to a pretty nice little van.

The ProMaster City is sold in both cargo and passenger (wagon) forms; Nissan and Chevy don’t have a passenger configuration, although Nissan does have a special taxi version. The Transit Connect is available in both van and wagon styles, but there’s a big difference: Ford is marketing the wagon as a family passenger vehicle, a mini-minivan that Ford calls a crossover to avoid the minivan stigma. The ProMaster City passenger van is not marketed to minivan customers, but is intended for commercial use as a shuttle or crew vehicle.

Early the following morning, it was time to take the ProMaster City out for a spin. Ram had provided both cargo and passenger versions and Allpar got a little red wagon to play with.
Starting at the W Hotel in downtown Austin, we went out into the morning commuter traffic and immediately got a lot more experience than we wanted in driving the ProMaster in stop-and-go traffic. The small size and nimble handling were a real benefit when it came to changing lanes and the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine and 9-speed transmission worked well together, providing ample power to adjust to traffic and take advantage of opportunities to get around bottlenecks, something that’s important to van drivers with schedules to keep and deliveries to make – and I speak from experience.

Our route took us over city streets, suburban boulevards, county roads and even highways. The ProMaster City was comfortable and easy to drive the entire way.

At one point on our route, I was stopped next to a couple of fellow auto writers in another ProMaster City, and the passenger rolled down his window and challenged me to beat them to the next traffic light. Putting the shifter into manual mode, I am happy to say I shut them down.

The ProMaster City doesn’t provide the press-your-back-into-the-seat acceleration of a Challenger, or even a properly equipped Dart, but it does get up and go. I can think of a couple of medical labs and at least one blood bank that would appreciate that.

The rear suspension is a treat. Unloaded vans have light rear ends and they do tend to hop on poor pavement, but the ProMaster City was surefooted, even on a gravel road.
A couple of the vans had 600-pound payloads on pallets in the back, and they were also well controlled and responsive. I took one of those through an obstacle course set up at our destination, the Troublemaker Studios in East Austin.

Cab comfort and convenience are important to a driver who might spend hours each day behind the wheel, and the ProMaster City doesn’t disappoint.

Entry and exit from the cabin is easy and effortless: no climbing involved. The seat is comfortable and the controls are intelligently laid out. There are also plenty of spaces for paperwork and small items that might be needed during the day.

As commercial vehicles, both the ProMaster City van and wagon aren’t long on frills; their target market doesn’t want them and isn’t going to pay for them. But the basics are covered: A/C is standard, the front seats have adjustable backs, the steering wheel is adjustable, and there’s an AM/FM radio. Uconnect (cellphone control) is an option, as is cruise control, though there’s really no reason for standard cruise control on this type of vehicle; the driver would almost never use it. One option that might get some traction is a rearview camera, but the mirrors on the ProMaster City do a pretty good job in aiding backing up the van.

The one area that may be an issue is the rear seating in the wagon: Unless the driver is fairly short, rear seat passengers are going to be a bit cramped and the seat back angle isn’t quite as comfortable as it should be. The seat really needs to be about three inches farther back if a driver wants his passengers to think kindly of him at the end of the trip.

According to Ram, the seat positioning enables the ProMaster City wagon to offer gobs of luggage, tool or cargo space, but the small amount of additional room a more comfortable rear seat would require wouldn’t have that much impact on the load space.

It’s my belief that no Chrysler (FCA US LLC) vehicle should ever be released unless Klaus Busse can sit comfortably in the back seat. At 6’7”, Busse is the ideal template for passenger space.

As mentioned earlier, Ram had set up an obstacle course at Troublemaker Studios. There were tight curves, a skid pad and other challenges. The ProMaster City had no trouble with any of these, including a panic stop on the skid pad.

Sales of small commercial vans are a niche. Through the end of November, total sales within the segment came to 50,071, with the well-established Ford Transit Connect taking the lion’s share of the action. It remains to be seen whether strong entries like the ProMaster City can grow the market by persuading van buyers to downsize, especially at today’s gas prices.

Ram has done its homework. The ProMaster City is a very good base and Ram has been working with aftermarket suppliers to develop commercial interiors with shelves, bins and other vocational necessities for a variety of applications.

After all was said and done, our day with the Ram ProMaster City was a day well spent with a dandy little van.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/reviews/15/pre-pmc.html

Ram Truck prices ProMaster City

Chrysler Group wants to benchmark its 2015 Ram ProMaster City against the popular Ford Transit Connect in every aspect, including price.

The Auburn Hills subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Wednesday announced pricing for the all-new cargo van and wagon that directly competes with Ford’s Transit Connect vehicles.

The starting prices of the Ram ProMaster City Cargo, primarily for commercial use, is $23,130, plus $995 destination. The 2015 Ram ProMaster City Wagon, for passenger use, starts at $24,130, plus $995 destination. Those compare to the Transit Connect Van and Wagon at $22,130 and $24,655, respectively.

Since the ProMaster City’s unveiling in June 2014, officials have touted the vehicle as a proven performer because it is based off of the Fiat Doblo — a two-time International Van of the Year winner with more than 1.3 million units sold.

“The new Ram ProMaster City enters the (small van) market with a long list of customer-focused, best-in-class features, including the highest available payload and cargo capacities,” said Bob Hegbloom, Ram Truck president and CEO in a statement.

With a 2.4-liter Tigershark and exclusive nine-speed automatic transmission, the ProMaster City delivers EPA fuel economy of up to 21 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. That compares to the Transit Connect that offers two engines, including an optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost with an EPA-estimated 30 mpg highway, 22 mpg city and 25 combined.

The ProMaster City is expected to arrive in U.S. dealerships around year’s end. It comes to market as redesigned and new products from General Motors Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. compete for sales in the growing segment.

Global commercial vehicle sales are expected to grow by 4.8 million during the next several years to 21 million units annually by 2017.

The 2015 Ram ProMaster City is the brand’s second shared collaboration with Fiat Professional. The 2014 Ram ProMaster full-size van was the first.

As read on: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/chrysler/2014/11/12/chrysler-prices-ram-promaster-city/18888105/

ProMaster City Comparison

During yesterday’s reveal of the new Ram ProMaster City, Ram CEO Reid Bigland frequently used the term “Best in Class.”

Always up for a challenge, Allpar obtained the specifications for the ProMaster City’s primary rivals, the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200. The Chevrolet City Express is a rebadged NV200 and shares its specifications except for price.

Because final ProMaster City specifications have not yet been finalized, Allpar used the figures presented during the reveal where possible and filled in the blanks with specifications for the Fiat Doblò Cargo long wheelbase (LWB).

The Ram ProMaster City is significantly larger than the base Ford Transit Connect so the LWB version of the Transit Connect was used for the comparison. In addition, the Transit Connect has an optional 1.6-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine that rivals the Tigershark in the ProMaster City. The optional engine adds $795 to the Transit Connect’s sticker.

As far as any commitment to pricing, Bigland would say only that the Ram ProMaster City will be competitive. Based on prices from Ford, Nissan and Chevrolet, that would indicate a base price, including destination charges, between $22,000 and $23,000.

In 2013, Chrysler, Ford and Nissan sold a total of 53,222 small vans in the U.S. Though May of this year, sales totaled 23,598, up 12.6% from May 2013.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2014/06/sizing-up-the-competition

Are ProMaster diesel’s coming soon?

Buyers who have been holding out for a diesel engine in the Ram ProMaster van may be satisfied soon, as the company has told dealers that the engine, boasting 295 lb-ft of torque, 174 horsepower, and “phenomenal fuel efficiency,” is on the way.

The van market has long been in the doldrums, with buyers having a choice between ancient, fuel-hungry Fords and expensive Mercedes, but is now becoming hotly contested with new entries from Nissan (including one badged as a Chevrolet), Ford, and Ram. The Ram ProMaster has two powertrains, one already on sale — the Pentastar V6 coupled to a six-speed Chrysler automatic — and the other, a Fiat design, reportedly available for ordering this month. The latter is a four-cylinder diesel, created by Fiat Powertrain (FPT), confusing displacing the same 3.0 liters as the VM diesel in the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Ram boasted that the Fiat engine has exceptional low-end torque and cold-start capability, with a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods; 5%-biodiesel compatibility; best-in-class 18,500 mile oil change intervals; an efficient M40 six-speed automated manual transmission (which can be treated as though it’s a full automatic); and a standard towing/hauling package.

The package may be attractive not only to normal fleet buyers, but to the upfitters who have started making ProMaster passenger vans and campers.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2014/02/promaster-diesel-this-month

Review: 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van

I have driven more cars than I can count this year but strangely enough, none of them excited me as much as the Fiat Ducato we had in July. Why? Well, my snazzy new retaining wall that arrived pallet-by-pallet in the Ducato certainly helped, but the real reason is: the Ducato serves as the basis for the 2014 RAM ProMaster. Yes, I know I have an odd place in my heart for commercial cargo haulers, but hear me out. The ProMaster quite simply the biggest thing to happen in the commercial world in my lifetime. The only thing that could have surpassed the intrigue of a front-wheel-drive cargo hauler would be a front-wheel-drive BMW M5. I know Europeans have had these things for a while, but let’s revel in the American novelty as we click past the jump.

promaster cargo copy

First things first. The ProMaster isn’t a Ducato with a RAM stuck on the front. Instead, Fiat and Chrysler decided to do their most interesting joint venture project thus far: refresh/re-design the Ducato with the North American market in mind. Why bother? Because major changes needed to be made to meet US legislation so the team took the opportunity to tweak just about everything. If you’re a Ducato fan, keep reading because I suspect that many of the American market changes will trickle back to the EU over time.

Exterior

With cargo haulers, it’s important that form follow function. The “box-on-wheels” is eminently practical. Because of this not much has changed externally from the Euro version and shoppers still have three body choices: a cargo van with or without windows, a chassis cab or a cutaway. Up front we still have the utilitarian dark grey bumper covers in a three-piece arrangement. The logic is that if you’re in a minor scuff-up, you can replace just the portion of the bumper you need to instead of the whole thing. Since they are all the same color regardless of the color of the van, parts costs are kept low and you can afford to have one or two in inventory.

Breaking from American tradition, the rear bumper is thin and shallow. While this makes me wonder what kind of body damage happens when the van gets hit in the rear, it makes forklift loading easier and keeps the van’s dimensions down. When it comes to dimensions, the ProMaster breaks from the mold. Rather than having an identical bodies in 1500, 2500 and 3500 versions, RAM’s ”levels” dictate  which of the four bodies, three wheelbases and two roof heights you get. The 1500 is the only version available with a low roof in two different lengths. The 2500 and 3500 are high roof only and all that really changes is the wheelbase and body length. The shortest ProMaster is 29 inches shorter (body length) than a GM standard van while the longest is 26 inches longer than GM’s largest van. Regardless of body, you get 16-inch wheels wrapped in 225/75R16 rubber. The small tires and wheels are a result of the Euro roots and the contrast between the small wheels and enormous body make the ProMaster look a little like a pregnant roller skate.

Cargo Hauling

The slab sides mean we get a large square rear opening almost as large as the van’s cross-section. This is significant change from GM and Ford’s existing vans where the rear portal is notably smaller than the cargo area. At 62 inches wide and 60 inches tall, the rear opening in the low-roof ProMaster is 5-inches wider and 13-inches taller than a GM/Ford van. Similar to Mercedes’ Sprinter, the ProMaster’s side doors swing 260 degrees and latch nearly parallel to the side of the van. The ProMaster’s sliding door rolls on an external stainless track for easy maintenance and thanks to the 49-inch wide, 60-inch tall (low roof) opening it reveals, you can insert one pallet in the side and one in the rear, something you can’t do in an E-Series or Savana. You can add a driver’s side sliding door for a reasonable $575 or $650 with glass, but if you prefer the side “barn doors” in your cargo hauler, look elsewhere. The RAM is sliding only.

Once you get beyond the unorthodox looks, you begin to realize how enormous the ProMaster is. At 283 cubic feet, smallest ProMaster (1500 short wheelbase) swallows one cubic foot less than GM’s biggest factory van. Need more? RAM’s positively ginormous ProMaster 3500 will haul 530 cubes, nearly twice the capacity of GM and Ford’s largest factory option. In fact when you look at the numbers, the ProMaster 3500 extended body extended wheelbase will schlep more than the average 12-foot box truck and nearly as much as the elusive 14-foot box truck.

A unique offering (so far) in the ProMaster is the factory installation of a steel bulkhead between the cargo and passenger compartment. GM and Ford offer a few dealer installed options but the total cost is higher than the ProMaster’s reasonable $495 for the partition with a window (about a hundred bucks less if you don’t want to look behind you.) Adding the partition not only improves safety but because of the factory fit and seal, it reduces cabin noise and improves air-conditioning performance. (An important consideration when you operate a black fleet in Phoenix.)

Construction & Payload

Cargo volume without payload capacity is useless, and this is where the ProMaster’s Euro roots become obvious. The RAM doesn’t follow the American convention when it comes to payload scales. Not only can the 1500 haul as many widgets as an extended Ford or GM van, the payload capacity is just 111 lower than GM’s sturdiest cargo hauler and a full ton more than a Ford or GM 1500 series van. Scaling up to the 3500, payload increases to 5,290lbs. That is nearly 900lbs more than the highest payload Ford or GM. As a result it is more realistic to compare the base ProMaster to the GM 2500 series extended vans in terms of capability. Logically the ProMaster is also priced in this fashion starting about the same as that 2500 extended van.

How can a front wheel drive unibody cargo van haul that much stuff? Easy. It’s not really a unibody. Unibody haters can put down their pitchforks, the ProMaster is a hybrid, which explains how they can slice those enormous doors into the side of the van without it collapsing like a house of cards. Essentially bonded to the vehicle’s floor, is a heavy-duty rail system that stretches from bumper to bumper. For the US market this frame has been beefed up for higher payloads and rougher roads. You can see the FWD benefit in the picture above: by using a FWD drivetrain, the load floor doesn’t have to sit on-top of the transmission, driveshaft or differential allowing it to hug the ground. At 21 inches the ProMaster’s load floor is 7-inches lower than the closest competitor and even the forthcoming Ford T-Series won’t improve on this much because of the RWD layout.

Interior

American cargo vans have never been known for modernity, creature comforts or leg room. The ProMaster, like the Nissan NV breaks the mold but the two vans do it in different ways. The Nissan puts the engine under a long hood while the ProMaster’s mill is transverse mounted freeing up leg room. The difference is night and day and my right leg remained un-cooked even after a 2 hour drive.  The first thing you’ll notice about the interior is how utilitarian it is. Easy to clean plastics span the interior (read: hard plastic), there’s a clip board integrated into the dash and instead of carpet you get a hard plastic floor with some textured grips. The second thing you’ll notice is how high off the ground you are. The passenger floor is 6-7 inches higher than the cargo load floor because everything that the ProMaster needs to move is located in front of or beneath the passenger compartment. This has two benefits, it allows the load floor to be lower to the ground and it also makes chassis cab and cut-away up-fitting easier. There are two access panels in the floor, one allows access to the battery (it’s the large one you can see in the picture above) and the other allows access to the fuel sending unit. Anyone who has a fleet of GM vans will tell you that replacing a fuel pump is a royal pain because you have to drain and drop the tank to get to it. In the ProMaster you just pop the cover off and have at it.

Chrysler decided to upgrade the headrests to a car-like fabric design instead of the rubbery Euro versions but the rest of the seat design is the same. This means we have a spring-loaded driver’s seat that adjusts for height, tilt, recline and fore/aft. Sadly the steering wheel is not as adjustable as it telescopes but does not tilt. In an interesting twist, the three-across seating option has made it across the pond for a very reasonable $225. This isn’t a bench seat, it’s a two-person seat that replaces the single passenger seat so the driver retains the more comfortable throne. While I think the Nissan NV’s thickly padded seats are the most comfortable commercial seats ever designed, the ProMaster takes an easy second place. If you want a splash of luxury, you can heat the seats for $170 a pop, adjustable lumbar support for $50, and a leather wrapped tiller for $145. If you hate your employees, vinyl seats can be had for $100.

Drivetrain

The looks, front wheel drive layout and hybrid unibody aren’t the only things that set this van apart. The engines ans transmissions are unique to cargo vans as well. First off, there is no V8. Things start out with Chrysler’s 3.6L V6 engine in every body style. Yes, even that enormous 3500 with 5,291lb in the back and a 5,100lb trailer attached. Sending the 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque to the ground is a Chrysler 68TE six-speed automatic transaxle. This compact slushbox is the same transmission found in the Chrysler minivans except they swap in a much lower final gear ratio for ProMaster duty along with seriously upgraded cooling hardware.

For $4,000 you can toss in an Iveco/Fiat 3.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel. Before you laugh, this is the same engine found in certain medium duty Mitsubishi Fuso trucks, so it’s a solid heavy-duty contender. The oil burner cranks out 180 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, about the same amount of torque you get from GM’s 4.8L V8. This engine is mated to Fiat’s M40 transmission which is a 6-speed robotized manual transmission. Chrysler tell us that they have heavily revised the shift logic and control systems for the American market and as a result this will be a late availability option hitting around January of 2014. If you recall my review of the Ducato, my biggest complaint about the diesel drivetrain was the time it took to complete a 1-2 shift. Chrysler promises this has been corrected and they have also altered the torque pattern for American tastes.

The diesel has a few advantages over the gasoline V6. Oil change intervals stretch out to 18,000 miles, low-end torque is improved, first gear is lower (19:1 including final drive) to help you get off the line with heavy loads and the fuel economy is excellent (based on our Ducato experiences). Oddly enough, that M40 transmission is also a selling point. Because it doesn’t have a torque converter the fluid change intervals are lengthy and the cooling demands are reduced. Fiat tells us the single plate clutch kit for the Ducato is about $150 in Europe and I expect the parts to be about the same price on our shores. How easy is it to replace? That’s the wild card as I haven’t seen a repair manual yet.

Drive

Thanks to the new low final drive, the RAM is surprisingly quick off the line. The V6 model we tested scooted to 6o in 9.05 seconds, notably faster than the diesel Ducato we tested before. We didn’t get the opportunity to load the ProMaster as fully as the Ducato, but I expect the diesel to be the better hauler when full thanks to the better torque numbers.

Although not normally a consideration with a cargo van, the ProMaster delivers the most civilized ride in this segment. It’s also the easiest to parallel park thanks to an incredibly small 36.3-foot turning diameter in the short wheelbase model, smaller than many mid-size sedans. Even the long wheelbase, long body ProMaster 3500 impresses at 46.8. I know that sounds enormous, but in perspective, a long wheelbase Express needs a whopping 54.6 feet to do the same while carrying 50% less stuff. That’s the difference between accomplishing a U-turn or being the dude blocking all lanes of traffic while sea-sawing a multi-point turn.

Chrysler spent a decent amount of time lauding the Brembo front brakes which they claim gives the ProMaster the best fade resistance in the segment. Admittedly that’s a low bar to jump, but our informal tests around Malibu seemed to bear the claim out. One thing to note however is that with only 225 width rubber making contact with the ground, stopping times are no better than the competition.

Will the ProMaster be a success? I think it’s too early to tell. Fleet buyers are notoriously loyal to specific models because they have so much invested in uniformity. This alone accounts for the Ford E-Series sales leadership, despite being the thirstiest, oldest, and least desirable cargo van going. The largest unknown in the mix is: how reliable will the ProMaster be? Durability and total cost of ownership are extremely important in this segment and that’s an open-ended question. How will the 62TE stand up to a GVWR of 10,000lbs? Will it be as good as GM’s new 6L80 transmission they are finally putting in their vans? Rebuilt units are comparable in pricing so it will all come down to longevity. Chrysler is putting their 5 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty on the ProMaster to help entice shoppers. The combination of that small diesel and a long powertrain warranty to calm customer nerves could make a difference. However, if you option the ProMaster up with the diesel and a few options and you’re in Mercedes Sprinter territory and that is a dangerous place to be with the new Sprinter’s 7-speed auto and smooth diesel engine. Chrysler fights back with lower cost of service and ownership claims and a longer warranty.

The ProMaster is a compelling alternative to the Ford and GM 3/4 ton and 1 ton vans. delivering higher payloads and greater cargo capacity with low load floors, a more maneuverable chassis, a small diesel and excellent fuel economy. However, GM’s aggressive pricing and insane fleet purchase rebate program mean the less capable Chevy Express 1500 will likely be $2,000 (or more) cheaper than the least expensive ProMaster. Will the ProMaster’s ergonomic selling points and Euro charm win over commercial America? Or will the forthcoming rear-wheel-drive Ford T-Series (American Transit) win America’s hearts with its 5-cylinder diesel and twin-turbo V6? Stay Tuned.

As read on: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-ram-promaster-cargo-van-with-video/