By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
Ram now has a full-size commercial van every bit the equal of the forthcoming Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Nissan NV, and a fair bit more sophisticated than GM's aging vans. Based on the Fiat Ducato, the 2014 Ram ProMaster 1500, 2500 and 3500 cargo vans build on this Italian workhorse by adding a Pentastar V6 engine option, modern 6-speed transmissions and a number of customization options. Unlike other commercial vans, the ProMaster is pulled by its front wheels, freeing up space to create a more versatile cargo floor. The unit-body construction and optional 3.0-liter diesel engine (available early 2014) allow the new ProMaster to lay claim to a number of best in class accolades, such as fuel economy, cargo capacity, turning radius, payload and ceiling height.
If you run a business and need a versatile, fuel-efficient cargo hauler offering lots of configuration possibilities, the 2014 Ram ProMaster is not to be overlooked.
The 2014 ProMaster is an unproven commodity in the U.S. market, so it's tough to say what long-term reliability and repair costs may be, despite its 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. To date, a passenger model is not available.
Based on the Fiat Ducato commercial van, Ram will offer the 2014 ProMaster in three wheelbases with two ceiling heights, a gasoline V6 or 3.0-liter EcoDiesel turbo-4 and more configuration and equipment possibilities than you can shake a stick at. It's an upfitter's dream come true.
Driving Impressions As full-size vans go, the 2014 Promaster is fairly pleasant to pilot, offering good outward visibility to the front and sides, a city-friendly 36-foot turning circle (tighter than a Toyota...Camry), and ride quality that's firm without being harsh, even when unloaded. Although we have yet to test the new Fiat-sourced EcoDiesel 4-cylinder engine, the Promaster V6 accelerates with more authority than both the GM twins and the M-B Sprinter. The driver's seat is plenty supportive and provides enough adjustability to suit the vast majority of body types. In the steering department, however, the Ram Promaster comes up a bit short. An overabundance of on-center slack demands constant supervision from the driver at highway speeds, and the steering wheel position is nearly horizontal – similar to that of a city bus. Nevertheless, Promaster high-roof models hold an edge over the current Sprinter van when it comes to crosswind mitigation.
The ProMaster's unit-body cab and front-drive layout give it a number of advantages, including a tighter turning radius, a flat cabin floor, lighter weight, better traction in snow, and the lowest load-in height of any Class 2 van.
3.0-LITER ECODIESEL TURBOCHARGED 4-CYLINDER
The ProMaster's available 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine produces 174-horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, earns best-in-class fuel economy and can go up to 18,500 miles between oil changes.
The 2014 Ram ProMaster offers a modern cabin with an emphasis on driver comfort and convenience. An optional suspension-enhanced driver seat makes long drives less painful, while available swiveling driver and passenger seats increase ease of access inside the cab. The ProMaster's cargo area includes 17 tie-downs and two ceiling-height options, as well as a number of accessories like rack-and-shelve systems for tool storage and more.Exterior
The ProMaster's Fiat-based roots are evident in its futuristic cab design, but its purpose is purely American. The ProMaster offers a choice of three wheelbases (118, 136 or 159 inches), open bed (chassis cab) or boxed cargo bay (cargo van) and single or dual sliding side doors. A low step-in height makes it easy to load cargo with a forklift, while the wide-opening rear doors swing a full 260 degrees for unfettered access. Placing all of the vehicle's primary systems forward of the cargo area makes upfitting the ProMaster less cumbersome, saving time and money for those doing the work.
Standard equipment on the ProMaster includes Brembo brakes, electronic traction and stability control, six airbags and Hill Start Assist that prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards on steep inclines. Other features of note include a 220-amp alternator, a telescoping steering wheel, auxiliary oil coolers for the engine and transmission, air conditioning (can be deleted), Trailer Sway Control, remote keyless entry, power windows, and a 4-speaker radio with USB and auxiliary inputs.
Optional add-ons include swiveling front seats, a pneumatic-suspension driver's seat, UConnect touch-screen navigation, Bluetooth, a rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, heated seats, 3-person seating, vinyl upholstery, cruise control, an overhead shelf, and a driver-side sliding door. In-vehicle Internet access via UConnect Web is available for every Promaster configuration.
The 2014 Ram ProMaster offers two very different engine choices. First up is an optional 3.0-liter EcoDiesel turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 174 horsepower and an impressive 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine offers power, reliability, longevity and, according to Ram, class-leading fuel economy. Those looking for a more traditional power source can stick with the standard 280-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Both engines can be teamed to a 6-speed automatic transmission designed to deal with the added weight and stress a fully loaded ProMaster will likely endure. Exclusive to the EcoDiesel is the M40 automated 6-speed manual transmission that allows the driver to choose to shift or let the system take the reins for optimal efficiency.
3.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4
174 horsepower @ 3,600 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 1,400 rpm
EPA estimated fuel economy: NA
280-horsepower @6,400 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,175 rpm
EPA estimated fuel economy: NA
The 2014 Ram ProMaster has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $29,600 for a short-wheelbase/low-roof 1500 cargo van and extends to just over $37,000 for a long-wheelbase/high-roof 3500 model. Opting for the EcoDiesel powertrain will set you back an additional $4,000. The open-bed Chassis Cab and Chassis Cab Cutaway 3500 models range from around $27,000 to $28,500. Additional accessories and options can push the ProMaster's price well into the upper $30K range. For comparison, the Nissan NV ranges from around $26,500 for the 1500 to roughly $37,000 for a nicely equipped 3500 HD. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter begins in the neighborhood of $37,000 and tops out well over $50,000 for a fully-loaded 3500 high-roof model. Ford's Transit van (arriving Summer of 2014) is expected to be competitively priced, as well. Work vans generally don't retain high residual values, and seeing as the ProMaster is all new for 2014, it will have to wait another year or two before we know how it will fare in the long run.