by Morgan Carter
When you need to move large amounts of cargo with minimal fuss, it's hard to beat a traditional Cargo Van. The Ram ProMaster delivers enough cargo space to make it a contender against segment leaders like the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but it can't rival them in terms of towing capability. This is because the Ram opts for an unusual front-wheel-drive philosophy, which sets it apart from the standard rear-wheel-drive designs of rivals. Three base models are offered - 1500, 2500, 3500 - each with different payload capacities, complemented by a choice of short, standard, and extended bodies with standard or high roofs.
Not much changes for the Ram ProMaster in 2020, with the 136-inch wheelbase now being available on the 2500 Standard Roof, 3500 Standard Roof, and 3500 High Roof configurations. Every model also comes equipped with a trailer hitch straight out of the factory, allowing the van to tow up to 6,910 lbs.
Unchanged from its 2019 iteration, the ProMaster Cargo still sports the truck-like front grille with prominent RAM lettering in chrome. In most other regards, the van is simply a rectangular block on 16-inch steel wheels, with optional 16-inch alloys. The van gets three possible body lengths and two roof choices, each of which slightly affects its overall appearance. The rear doors open at 260-degree angles, while there is a sliding door on the right-hand side as standard. A left-hand sliding door can be optioned along with windowed sides instead of plain panels.
With multiple body configurations available, the dimensions of the van can vary drastically. Only the van's width remains the same across every model and configuration, at 80.3 inches with the mirrors folded in. Wheelbase options include the short 118-inch, the regular 136-inch, and the long 159-inch wheelbase. The smallest model is the 1500, measuring 195.8 inches long, while the 3500 can measure up to 250.6 inches when equipped with the extended body. The standard roof gives the van an overall height of 91.7 inches, with the high roof increasing this to 105.9 inches. With all these options, curb weight can be anything between 4,554 and 5,061 lbs.
The color palette for the ProMaster Cargo consists of ten options, with the most basic being Black, Bright White, Broom Yellow, and Flame Red. You can slap on a coat of Patriot Blue, Deep Cherry, or Sandstone Pearl for an additional $100, while Granite Crystal and Bright Silver each add $200 to the final bill. School Bus Yellow can be optioned at no additional charge, but it is a low-volume color choice only.
Regardless of the trim or body configuration you opt for, each ProMaster Cargo Van comes equipped with the same V6 engine that directs 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. This sets the Ram apart from the rear-wheel-driven competition. Workhorse vans are not designed to be athletic, by any stretch of the imagination, but the ProMaster is still pretty quick, with a 0-60 mph time of around eight seconds, at least when it isn't carrying any cargo. Naturally, each model will perform slightly differently, depending on their individual dimension and weights.
Sadly, the Ram's towing capacity remains unchanged from last year's, despite the addition of a factory-installed trailer hitch. When properly equipped, the van is able to pull up to 6,910 bs, which is a bit behind segment leaders like the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. This is where front-wheel-drive is a bane rather than a boon. Still, payload capacity is a bit more competitive at 4,680 lbs in the van's optimal guise.
The same 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine powers every model in the ProMaster range. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, this powertrain directs 280 hp and 260 lb-ft to the front wheels. The van has enough power to get around town with relative speed, if not true haste. A low first-gear shift gives the Cargo Van impressive initial pull-off speed. The transmission is pretty smooth, too, which helps when downshifting and upping the revs to pass on the highway. Power is given a little less eagerly when the van is laden with cargo, but the Ram never feels underpowered, making it a capable errand-runner around town.
The Ram Cargo Van is unusually snub-nosed for the segment, which makes the road seem a lot closer than it actually is. This makes it a little easier to maneuver the chunky van around town, an advantage few competitors can boast. It also supplies impressive visibility, which is often a failure of large vans.
Steering is light enough to reposition the van quickly in traffic and around parking lots or loading bays, but it doesn't gain much weight when the van picks up speed, which means that constant attention is required when driving on the highway. Similarly, the ProMaster doesn't deliver a particularly comfortable ride, so it's hard to ever feel relaxed. This improves slightly when loading up with cargo, which helps the van feel sturdier and soak up road imperfections more readily.
The unusual front-wheel-drive design gives the Ram better road grip and control when unladen, but it subtracts from it's towing capabilities and overall performance.
Large cargo haulers like the ProMaster are often not rated by the EPA for fuel economy; however, real-world reports suggest that the V6 engine should get an average combined mileage of 16.5 mpg. Filled to the brim with regular unleaded gasoline, the 24-gallon fuel tank can carry the Cargo Van across 396 miles before its needs refilling. These estimates are on par with segment rivals like the Ford Transit Cargo, which gets between 14 and 17 mpg.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a Cargo Van that is truly stylish and luxurious inside, with only pricier exceptions like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter coming close. However, the Promaster doesn't break from this trend. There are only two seats provided as standard, although a three-seater bench can be optioned. Features and creature comforts are minimal, too, with only basic air conditioning and power windows to keep you cool. The infotainment system is very basic, but this also makes it easy to operate. A choice of either cloth or vinyl upholstery is offered, but neither is overly comfortable and the color palette is extremely limited.
As standard, the ProMaster comes outfitted with two bucket seats up front. However, the passenger seat can be traded out for a double seat that accommodates up to two passengers. Regardless of the seats you choose, there is plenty of head- and legroom for everyone in the cabin. Shoulder and hip room are a little more limited when you have three people on the bench seat. The bucket seats offer only four directions of manual adjustment, while the steering wheel is only manually telescoping, so finding the ideal driving position can be a bit tricky. Opting for the six-way manual front seats can help with this, at least a little. This lack of control, coupled with the naturally raised nature of the driving position, can make it uncomfortable for taller drivers. Still, forward visibility is decent, but blind-spot and rear visibility, or lack thereof, will make you wish for more available driver assistance features.
Style is unlikely to be a primary concern for buyers of commercial haulers, and Ram doesn't offer much in the way of choice for those who might want it. Cloth upholstery is the standard on every model, while vinyl can be optioned for an additional $200. Regardless of the material you choose, black is the only hue on offer. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is available if you want the touch of luxury, but it doesn't do much to improve the quality of the interior.
Cargo capacity is the primary focus of any hauler van, and the Ram ProMaster doesn't disappoint here. In its most compact configuration, the 1500 with the short wheelbase and standard roof, the Cargo Van already supplies 259.2 cubic feet of space. Switching to the high roof, available with the regular wheelbase, increases this area to 352.9 cubic feet. If you plan on doing plenty of heavy-duty hauling, then you will most likely be looking at the 3500. The available extended body, long wheelbase, and high roof all combine to deliver an impressive 462.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Within these spaces and across these various configurations, payload capacity also varies from a minimum of 3,760 lb to a maximum of 4,680 lbs. The Ram certainly isn't lacking in cargo capacity, but it can't compete with the most capable variant of the Ford Transit, which stows an incredible 542.2 cubic feet of cargo in its most capacious configuration.
The cargo area is easily accessible thanks to the low step-in height, while the high roof makes it possible for even taller adults to move around the cargo area without too much fuss. The rear doors swing open at a 260-degree angle, while there is a standard sliding door on the right, with an option to add one on the left. The cargo area can also be customized in a variety of ways, such as adding under-seat storage, a rear-door storage net, or cargo shelves. Small-item storage certainly isn't a focus here, but there are three cupholders up front, along with a small glove compartment, a storage shelf within the dash, and small door pockets.
Ram keeps things simple when it comes to standard, and even available, features to keep costs down, since the primary focus of its cargo van is hauling loads, not keeping drivers or passengers comfortable. Nonetheless, it gets air conditioning and power windows to keep the cabin cool, while a telescoping steering column and four-way manual front seats are the main convenience features. A 12-volt power outlet is supplied in the front, with an optional extra outlet in the cargo area, which gets lighting as standard. Advanced driver-assistance features are limited to a rearview camera. The standard cloth upholstery can be upgraded to vinyl, and six-way manual front seats are offered. Many of the ProMaster's rivals offer better options when it comes to tech.
A Uconnect 3 infotainment suite comes standard on every ProMaster, centered around an easy-to-navigate five-inch touchscreen interface that plays audio back through the four-speaker sound system. Through this, users can access the Bluetooth features or connect their phones via the USB port or auxiliary input jack. SiriusXM is available as an optional feature, but no form of smartphone integration is supported. Other available features include rear speakers - for which the wiring is already put in place - navigation, and Ram Telematics, which allows fleet operators to keep track of driver behavior and vehicle tracking. Most of the available features require subscriptions, with multiple plans offered.
Commercial cargo haulers are seldom officially rated for dependability, but these kinds of vehicles are hard workers that need to be able to put in years of work before being traded in. Two recalls were issued in 2019 for faulty seat backs that may not stay upright, and for the possibility that the shifter cable may disconnect from the transmission. Six recalls were issued for 2018, as well.
Ram offers a 36,000-mile/36-month limited warranty, while the powertrain and roadside assistance are covered for 60,000 miles/60 months.
The NHTSA and IIHS don't often subject cargo vans to extensive crash-testing, and the Ram ProMaster Cargo is no exception. However, other Ram vehicles generally have pretty good safety ratings, so the ProMaster should benefit from the same expertise.
While not laden with a host of advanced safety features, the van does get all the basics, including ABS, stability and traction control, hill start assist, and six airbags: dual front, front side, and side curtain. As is required by law, it gets a rearview camera as standard, but if you want the available rear park assist and cruise control, you will need to option on a package or two. No other advanced features are offered.
What makes a good car is not what makes a good cargo van, so you need to look at the Ram ProMaster Cargo from that particular viewpoint. It may not be attractive, athletic, or flush with comfort and tech features, but it does offer a spacious cargo bay that is easily accessed thanks to the clever design of the van.
Several body options are offered to meet the needs of any buyer, and the standard V6 engine gives the van enough power to get around, even when the van is carrying its maximum payload of 4,680 lbs. However, as capable as the ProMaster is, it's still outclassed by segment rivals like the Ford Transit or Mercedes-Benz Cargo Van. They have stronger engines, larger maximum capacities, and impressive towing capabilities. They also get more standard and available tech and safety features.
Regardless of these shortcomings, Ram's Cargo Van is still capable of performing its duties. So you would be doing yourself a disservice by not at least giving it a chance to prove itself on the road.
Ram delivers a range of pretty affordable cargo vans to the market, matching the prices of similarly economical rivals like the Nissan NV, and beating out the pricier Ford Transit. The entry-level 1500 can be had for just $30,995 in its most basic guise, while the more capable 2500 starts at $33,895, Getting behind the wheel of the top-tier 3500 will cost you from $35,645 to $40,645. The medium wheelbase adds $1,800 over the short, while the long wheelbase can add between $1,500 to $1,800. The high roof can add between $500 and $900 to the bill. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and Ram's $1,695 destination charge.
Unlike traditional trim levels offered by most cars and vans, every Ram ProMaster model comes equipped with the exact same list of features. Instead, the three available models - 1500, 2500, and 3500 - denote capability and body options. Under the hood of every Cargo Van is a 3.6-liter V6 engine that develops 280 hp and 260 lb-ft. A six-speed automatic transmission rows the gears, directing power to the front wheels only.
Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, halogen headlights, basic air conditioning, cloth upholstery, four-way manual front seats, a telescoping steering wheel, a 12-volt power outlet, a rearview camera, and cargo tie-downs. The infotainment consists of a five-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, and a four-speaker sound system. A sliding door comes standard on the right side of the van, with rear doors that open at a 260-degree angle.
The most basic trim level is the 1500, which offers a choice of the 118-inch or 136-inch wheelbase. The shorter-wheelbase model gets a light-duty suspension, while the medium wheelbase gets a medium-duty variant. If you opt for the longer wheelbase, you can choose to equip the higher roof. This model has a maximum payload capacity of 4,000 lbs.
The 2500 offers a choice of the medium wheelbase or the longer 159-inch wheelbase, with both versions coming paired with a heavy-duty suspension. Once again, the standard or high roof can be selected, depending on wheelbase, with a maximum payload capacity of 4,260 lbs in the optimal guise.
At the top of the range is the 3500, which offers the same wheelbase and roof options as the 2500. However, it can be optioned with the extended length body, which increases overall cargo capacity to 462.2 cubic feet. With the extra space, up to 4,680 lbs of cargo can be hauled.
With almost no standard features, the Ram ProMaster relies on packages to help it look more presentable or offers additional customization options. The Interior Convenience Group ($345) improves cargo storage by adding a locking glovebox, an overhead storage shelf, and under-seat storage tray, and a cargo net. For slightly better looks, the Premium Appearance Group ($395) adds a chrome grille and fog lights. The Interior Cargo Rack Package offers varying levels of customization to the cargo bay, at varying costs, depending on the model. A Speed limiter, with different levels of limitation, can also be equipped for $80.
Notable standalone options include 16-inch alloy wheels ($445), a heated driver's seat ($195), a double seat for passengers ($295), passenger-seat delete (-$300), rear park assist ($295), and an upgraded infotainment interface with navigation ($495).
With every model of the ProMaster Cargo Van coming equipped with the exact same list of features, your choice will come down to your personal cargo hauling needs. Naturally, the most expensive 3500 will let you carry the biggest loads. But if your needs aren't quite so intensive, you can get away with a cheaper model with a lower payload capacity. Nonetheless, every model offers a few ways to make the van a little more comfortable over the long haul. The available six-way manual seats will be a godsend to drivers who struggle with the standard high seating position, while the Uconnect 3 with built-in navigation can help plan your routes for better time and fuel efficiency. The Interior Cargo Rack Package is particularly handy if you will be transporting lots of smaller items rather than a few particularly large ones.
The Ford Transit Cargo may cost a little more than the Ram ProMaster Cargo, but it boasts excellent versatility and performance. It offers even more body configuration options than the Ram and gets access to a powerful turbocharged V6 that develops 310 hp and 400 lb-ft. The Ford also wins when it comes to cargo capacity, with an impressive 487.2 cubic feet of space offered in its optimal guise, more than 20 cubes more than the most commodious ProMaster. Add to this the Transit's higher towing capacity, impressive handling dynamics, and better standard and optional features and safety tech, and it's not hard to see why the Ford Transit is the most popular large van on the market.
The Nissan NV Cargo can be outfitted with a potent, but gas-guzzling, V8 engine that develops 375 hp and 387 lb-ft, but its lack of body customization options limits its payload and cargo capacities more than those of the ProMaster. While the Nissan also gets two roofs and three payload options, only one wheelbase means that it can't match the Ram's versatility, so it's not surprising that the latter can haul more than 800 lbs more and accommodate 139.8 cubic feet of extra cargo. The NV Cargo is less agile than the ProMaster, but it looks and feels nicer. It also offers better available features, if only slightly. However, these are not things buyers really look for on a cargo van, so the Ram ProMaster is the better choice here.