Vital Stats

Engine:
3.6L V6
Power:
280 HP / 258 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,600 LBS (est.)
Seating:
2
Base Price:
$32,875
As Tested Price:
$37,175
Front-wheel drive is what sets the all-new Ram ProMaster full-size commercial van apart from its competition. In a segment still choked with thirsty, rear-wheel-drive, ladder frame, pickup truck-based cargo vans, the American automaker is introducing something entirely new – well, new to our domestic market, as Europeans will recognize Ram's fresh entrant as a made-for-USA Fiat Ducato.

While the big ProMaster doesn't have a traditional body-on-frame chassis, it isn't a pure unibody either. Consider it a hybrid of both, with a unibody cab up front and a reinforced high-strength steel subframe in the rear. The platform employs double A-arms and MacPherson struts on the front axle, while the rear uses a simple tubular beam axle. Tires are 225/75R16 at all four corners. The steering is hydraulic rack-and-pinion (allowing an impressive 36-foot turning radius) and there are disc brakes with two-piston calipers all around. It is a solid, if unsophisticated, setup.

This game-changing van, which has already arrived in showrooms with a starting price of $28,630, is propelled by either a gasoline-powered 3.6-liter Pentastar six-cylinder (280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque) or a new turbocharged 3.0-liter four-cylinder diesel (174 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque). Ram will offer a traditional six-speed automatic or a new six-speed automated single-clutch manual transmission that drops the hydraulic linkage to improve fuel economy – details are still emerging on this unique gearbox.

Positioning the entire powertrain, including the fuel tank, in the nose of the truck means the cargo floor can be very low – Ram boasts it is just 21 inches off the pavement. Operators will be able to stuff 530 cubic feet of cargo into the cavernous ProMaster, with a maximum payload weight of 5,145 pounds (the gross combined weight rating is 11,500 pounds for 3.6-liter and 12,500 pounds for the 3.0-liter).

Driving Notes
  • An initial walkaround of this Flame Red test vehicle (a 159-inch wheelbase, high-roof model) reveals a slew of commercial-friendly touches that improve convenience and help lower ownership costs. Easy-to-open sliding doors, both wide enough for pallets, are offered on each side. The cargo floor is available in several finishes (resin-finished wood, painted steel or rubber-coated steel) and there are up to 17 fold-away tie-down rings and an available cargo partition to keep loads secure. At the front of the cargo hold, directly above the cab, is a 'Mom's Attic' for additional storage.
  • The headlights are mounted high on the nose to limit fended-bender damage, and the bumpers are multi-piece so repairing marred sections won't require a complete replacement. It's a thoughtful series of touches that makes for an awkward-looking front end.
  • The driving position is commanding and very truck-like, meaning you sit up straight and lean forward toward the steering wheel. All of the controls are logically located, self-explanatory (manual fan speed, temperature control and distribution) and convenient to reach without stretching. With the seat all the way rearward (I'm six-foot, two-inches tall), the high-mounted shoulder belts fit awkwardly due to the relationship of the B-pillar – not as snugly as I like. Nevertheless, the view outward is excellent, and the large side mirrors and backup camera simplify low-speed maneuvers in forward and reverse.
  • It's hard to fault the on-road driving dynamics, especially compared to the others in the segment. The ProMaster drives like a big minivan – not a truck – which is a nice compliment. The front wheels are doing all of the work, and they have plenty of weight over them (even when empty), meaning the Ram feels stable and in contact with the road at all times. The steering is a bit slow, as expected, but the van is surprisingly agile and it doesn't feel top-heavy even when rushed around a few canyons.
  • I am a huge fan of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the ProMaster's most obvious competitor. Comparing the two, the Sprinter is more truck-like, while the Ram drives like a car-based van. The Sprinter is also slightly narrower, improving agility through traffic, but the Ram's width means more overall stability, which I found reassuring. While it likely won't pull many Gs on a skidpad (not that it matters a lot in the cargo-lugging universe), I'm going out on a limb and say the ProMaster is actually fun to drive.
  • Ram will offer its Mexican-assembled ProMaster in 14 different configurations, mixing and matching chassis (1500, 2500 and 3500), wheelbase (118-inch, 136-inch and 159-inch), roof (low or high) and body (cargo van, chassis cab, cutaway and window van). Unsurprisingly, the automaker has identified six competitors it plans to take on – Chevrolet Express, Ford E-Series, Ford Transit, GMC Savanna, Nissan NV Cargo and aforementioned Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. It'll take some full-load testing and long-term durability reports to know more, but I'd say they all have some serious worrying to do.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 73 Comments
      ccweems
      • 1 Year Ago
      By and large in the rest of the world this truck is powered by 4 cylinder diesel with 6M transmissions. They do not offer 6cyl engines or automatic transmissions on any sort. Fiat has sold hundreds of thousands of these vans with the 4cyl / 6M configuration without incident. They are sold in countries with heat, cold, mountains, urban and country roads with little complaint. It's painfully obvious that this combination can handle the loads. What exceptional conditions make the 6cyl/6A powertrain a must for the US market? The Mexican plant where this is built has up until now built the van as a 4cyl/6M truck. It's not that they can't do it? What gives? I bet that there are plenty of business owners that would gladly buy the 4cyl/6M version. If anything I bet that there are many European companies in the US that use this configuration in their home countries and don't need to be convinced. They know it will work well.
        Piervittorio
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ccweems
        " Fiat has sold hundreds of thousands of these vans with the 4cyl / 6M configuration without incident". That is not exact. Fiat has sold 4.5 millions of these vans, in european market, in the last 30 years...
        Schobz
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ccweems
        I'd say it depends where you live. I live in NY Metro area and we have a plethora of state highways (55mph) that are dotted with everything from car dealerships to sprint stores. Waiting for a gap large enough for a loaded pro master with only a 4cylinder diesel to get it going could take all day. That why America nees this kind of power. I have a 2013 CX-5 AWD so I know a thing or two about wanting a little more power to merge onto a highway with no on-ramp. ;-)
      lawsma5
      • 1 Year Ago
      To Chrysler: PLEASE paint that ugly black/grey front plastic bumper cover the body color! It would look SO, SO much better & more pleasing to the US market! This is especially important to do before bringing out a passenger version with 8, 12 or 15 seats for family, school or conversion use! Mark Laws
      cpmanx
      • 1 Year Ago
      I love that new technology is finally coming to the full-size commercial van segment. Shame about the looks, but the functionality is pushing all the brands to up their game. Just wait until Ford's Transit/T-150 arrives. No word yet on what GM is doing, but it will have to respond.
      Michael
      • 1 Year Ago
      Does the front bumper easily/cleverly come off for service? That hood is smaller looking than my glove box. I do like the idea of a bumper that is intended for bumping purposes without being ruined, but it does look a tad bit like hannibal lecter.
      churchmotor
      • 1 Year Ago
      And FIAT isn't trying to skirt USA Chicken Tax laws. UNLIKE FORD.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @churchmotor
        [blocked]
      4gasem
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not that a cargo van NEEDS to be attractive, but MAN this one missed the mark by a long way...
      ebn.hahn
      • 1 Year Ago
      Mr Harley, What a bunch of Bull crapp out of you and Autoblog. Since when a front wheel drive is a "game changer"!!??? You always beatup on Lincoln for offering a Front wheel drive and how the German Rear wheel drive cars are superior!! and Now a piece of crapp FLIMZY cargo Van is More superior to Rear wheel drive Cargo Vans!!! Cut crapp and put a sock in it... OOh go flip hamurgers at burger King...
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ebn.hahn
        I Don't know why you Randomly decide to Capitalize certain Letters but you certainly don't Have any right to insult ANyone else, especially after what You Wrote there. Seriously, are you the one flipping burgers at Burger King? If you read the article, you'd understand why FWD has its advantages in this van.
      justin
      • 1 Year Ago
      jay leno wants his chin back
      John
      • 1 Year Ago
      My biggest concern about this reviewer is that he is a fan of the Sprinters. As a multiple Sprinter owner, he could only be a fan of he has never owned one long term (or short term) . The fuel mileage of the Sprinters is best in class, but that is negated by the high cost of everything else. Oil changes, brakes, tie-rods, transmissions you name it and it will cost more on the Sprinter. I know the perfect van doesn't exist but I'm still looking.
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @John
        John, we've got a fleet of 8 Sprinters at my company currently. Out of the 8, we have one of the very first Freightliner Sprinters ever offered in the US, and it has almost 1,000,000 miles without any failures other than requiring a new rear differential. That particular Sprinter almost always has a 20' enclosed trailer hooked up to the back of it and does cross country jaunts. We have no issue with the cost of maintenance, especially given the reliability and savings that we've seen compared to the old Econolines that were in service. We haven't replaced a single transmission in any of them, and we haven't encountered any of the rust issues that others have talked about. The Sprinter has been as close to as perfect as our logistics manager could have ever hoped.
          imoore
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          Your testimony is exactly spot-on to what I've been saying for years. Any vehicle is as good as the maintenance work performed on it. I mentioned a few years ago of an elderly neighbor who drove his 1986 Yugo until the day he went into a nursing home, and he drove that thing with only a few problems, because he always kept it serviced. He died nearly three years ago, and his son sold it last year. I wanted to buy it, but someone else beat me to it.
      Bill Burke
      • 1 Year Ago
      I believe that the Ram brand is a the "sleeper" in the Chrysler portfolio. This new and segment innovative offering has been well modified for the American market and brings a combination of proven European and American assets to a market from which Ram had been absent for awhile and in which it can make major inroads. There are a few more surprises in store for Ram and this somewhat ignored brand may have a strong impact on sales and profits for Chrysler that they have only begun to tap. If the new ProMaster is any indication, Ram won't be a sleeper for long.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Bill Burke
        [blocked]
          Bill Burke
          • 1 Year Ago
          Why they personal rancor? Every observation I made was reasonable and reflect the reviewed attributes of the vehicle and the lack of presences in a market that, if the ProMaster is reasonably competitive, will absolutely yield untapped profits. Try to be nice to a Chrysler fan who tries to present a positive insight on all things Chrysler. Should that raise such an irritable reaction that is personal, just because I may see things in a different light ?
      traction_control
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sure it’s a utility van, so one should not put much stock in its appearance (its more about capability than looks), but the designers could have made it look a little more pleasing to the eye. Its just plan ugly. The Sprinter, Transit, and NV all look much better.
        traction_control
        • 1 Year Ago
        @traction_control
        *plain
        Bill Burke
        • 1 Year Ago
        @traction_control
        I would agree that the front grill cross bars could use a little chrome accenting, but the interior is very functional and pleasing as well. as reviewed comfortable. The utility factor is class leading and these will sell the van. How about a little bling guys.
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      A good example of function over form.
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