by Roger Biermann
The Ram ProMaster may only have arrived in the USA in 2014, the front-wheel drive successor to the previously RWD Dodge Sprinter and Ram Van can actually trace its roots back to 2006, when Fiat developed the 3rd generation Ducato with Peugeot and Citroen. It's the former that landed here as the ProMaster, though for the US it receives a Chrysler V6 engine as standard. Available in 2 wheelbase lengths, 3 body lengths, 2 heights, and 4 body styles, there's enough variation to suit your line of work, whatever it may be.
While the cargo van offers two wheelbases, 136 and 159 inches, the window van (passenger van) comes in just the longer of the two. In panel van form, depending on wheelbase and body length – an extra length body is available on the long wheelbase – cargo volume ranges from 259 cubic feet in the low roof, short wheelbase to 487 cu ft in the high roof, long wheelbase extended 3500 model. Even that last figure can't match the Ford Transit, but being FWD the ProMaster boasts the lowest load floor in class making it easier to load large, heavier objects and load volume is still cavernous.
In window van form, the high roof is standard to accommodate standing passengers. Ram sells it as a van though, with only front seats – so if you intend to use it as a passenger van you'll need to get it upfitted to suit whatever seating configuration best suits your needs.
Sitting high above a very short hood makes the ProMaster somewhat easy to wield. Not only is forward visibility great, but a relatively compact turning circle of 36-feet in diameter means it's fairly well maneuverable too. In addition to the relatively small turning circle, the light steering makes easy work of traffic or parking lot situations though doesn't inspire all that much confidence on the open road. The steering rack is also slow, requiring far too many adjustments just to track straight.
Ride comfort is decent all round, but all models benefit from being at least partially loaded. When left empty, the suspension is firm and the rebound behavior is a bit too aggressive, especially over rough road surfaces. A generally soft-sprung front end yields plenty body roll during cornering and nose-dive under braking. Other rivals offer a more controlled, less vague ride.
The standard engine on all ProMaster models is a 3.6-liter Chrysler Pentastar gasoline V6, driving the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Outputs on the V6 are an impressive 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque – and maximum towing capacity is rated at 5100 lbs, with maximum payload capacity matching that figure in the correct configuration. An optional 3.0-liter inline 4 cylinder 'EcoDiesel' is available with outputs of 174hp and 295 lb-ft, with a large chunk of that torque available low down for strong pulling power. A 24 gallon fuel tank is standard on all models.
Standard equipment on all ProMasters includes 16-inch steel wheels, a sliding passenger side door, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, power front windows and a 4-speaker radio system. Optional extras include cruise control, a driver side sliding rear door, a leather steering wheel, 5-inch touch screen Uconnect media system, swivel seats, heated seats, rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera. Standard safety features include front, side, and curtain airbags, ABS brakes, hill start assist, stability control with trailer sway control, and traction control.
The Ram ProMaster's front-wheel drive layout is unique in this segment, but despite this it offers ample tow capacity and cavernous amounts of cargo volume. However it lacks the same spaciousness of the Ford Transit, and the driving dynamics are severely lacking compared to the Ford or the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.