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2014 Ram ProMaster Overview
Designed for business and commercial use in North America, the rugged, highly customizable Ram ProMaster cargo van debuts for 2014 with a number of best-in-class features. Based on the European FIAT Ducato van, which has been around for decades, and the latest vehicle resulting from the mashup of the Italian automaker and Chrysler, the ProMaster arrives with 14 different body configurations, including 2 roof heights, 3 wheelbases and 4 body lengths, as well as 2 engine-and-transmission combinations. Ram also offers the ProMaster as a chassis cab and a chassis cab cutaway on 3 wheelbases, enabling businesses to customize the cargo section to fit specific commercial needs.
Available in late summer 2013 and built at Chrysler's Van Assembly Plant in Saltillo, Mexico, the 2014 Ram ProMaster holds the distinction as the only vehicle in its class with front-wheel drive. That provides a number of benefits, the automaker claims, including reduced overall weight, fewer mechanical parts, more efficient operation, a low step-in height and improved traction on snowy, icy and gravel roads. In addition, the front-wheel-drive configuration eliminates the transmission hump between the seats, resulting in a flat cargo floor and best-in-class ceiling height.
Buyers can order the ProMaster with a wheelbase of 118, 136 or 159 inches, and overall body lengths of 195, 213, 236 or 250 inches. Roof heights measure 90 inches in the van's standard configuration and 101 inches for the high-roof version. Unibody construction helps to reduce weight and improve overall efficiency and economy, while a rigid ladder-bar chassis with 8 cross-members and a welded floor panel ensures overall stiffness and durability. The ProMaster offers a payload capacity of up to 5,145 pounds and has a maximum towing capacity of 5,100 pounds. Standard 4-wheel Brembo disc brakes provide good stopping power, while a 36-foot turning radius, again a best-in-class feature, helps make the ProMaster maneuverable in urban environments and tight spaces.
Thanks to the most vertically oriented side panels in the industry, which help to maximize interior space, the ProMaster offers best-in-class cargo capacity, according to the automaker. In its standard configuration, the ProMaster comes with a sliding passenger-side door and 2 rear doors that open 260 degrees, swinging all the way back to the sides of the vehicle, making it easy to back up to loading docks. Buyers can add an optional driver's-side sliding door. All 3 openings are large enough for a forklift to load and unload pallets in the vehicle, and the ProMaster can carry full 4x8 sheets of plywood. A low 21-inch step-in height, resulting from the front-wheel-drive configuration and another best-in-class feature, makes it easy to load and unload cargo.
Power comes from a choice of 2 powertrains. A gas 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 puts out 280 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, and mates to a 62TE 6-speed automatic transmission tuned for heavy payloads. A 3.0-liter 4-cylinder EcoDiesel turbocharged powerplant, new to North America, links to an automated 6-speed manual transmission, also a first for North America. The turbodiesel develops 174 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, which ensures good acceleration even when fully loaded. The manual shifter includes special software that helps it respond to road conditions. Ram claims class-leading fuel economy from the diesel, although those numbers have not yet been released. However, the automaker does offer a best-in-class powertrain warranty of 5 years or 100,000 miles.
Outside, the ProMaster displays a functional design, with a modular front end designed for easy repairs and high-mounted headlights. The large flat side panels are ideal for signage and traveling billboards, Ram notes. The ProMaster borrows some of its front fascia components from the Ducato but also displays Ram's distinctive hexagon-shaped crosshair grille with the Ram logo planted front and center.
Inside, the driver sits high, resulting in good visibility out the front. In designing the cabin, Ram emphasized ergonomics, comfort and function. Buyers can add an optional driver's suspension seat, as well as swivel seats for the driver and passenger. Ram equips the ProMaster with Chrysler's Uconnect system, which enables hands-free calling and text replies via Bluetooth. The Uconnect system includes a 5-inch color touchscreen and GPS navigation, designed to help businesses operate more efficiently.
Standard safety features for the ProMaster include 6 airbags and electronic stability control with trailer-sway control, as well as traction control, antilock brakes and hill-start assist. A ParkView backup camera and ParkSense with an audible warning assist drivers in maneuvering the van. In all, the ProMaster comes with 35 safety and security features.
Ram offers the ProMaster cargo van in 1500 trim levels on 3 wheelbases, in 2500 trim levels on 2 wheelbases with an available high roof and in 3500 trim levels with a high roof and an available extended body. The automaker also recently added a 2500 trim level with rear windows. The chassis cab and chassis cab cutaway versions both come in 3 trims each on 2 wheelbases with an available extended frame.
Competitors to the ProMaster include the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the new Ford Transit and the Nissan NV Cargo, as well as the Ford Econoline and Chevrolet Express/GMC Savanna.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.