by Gabe Beita Kiser
The Ram ProMaster Window Van is the people-carrying version of the ProMaster cargo van. This fuss-free van is less about the frills and more about providing dependable and cost-efficient transportation for large groups of people. Unusually for a van, power is sent to the front wheels, but this does result in a lower floor height, which boosts practicality. Interestingly, for a people-carrier, only front seats are fitted in the factory, with Ram allowing owners to customize the rest of the seats as they wish using a third-party supplier - this makes setting up the ProMaster more of a chore initially but does allow you to tailor seating just the way you want. You can choose between two body lengths, while power comes from a decent 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. While more expensive competitors like the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter do many things better than the Ram, the ProMaster provides a high-value, stripped-down package that will appeal to many, without really doing anything spectacularly well.
For 2019, Ram has updated the ProMaster's styling with a new grille to bring it in line with the manufacturer's other trucks and SUVs. There are also new black bumpers and side panels.
There's little difference between the Promaster Window Van and the cargo van variant, the former of course distinguished by windows on the sides. Standard features are halogen headlamps, manually-adjustable side mirrors, a silver R-A-M grille, 16-inch silver-painted steel wheels, and a fixed left-side second-row window. Power-adjustable side mirrors, alloy wheels, and daytime running lights are options.
There are two body lengths available: the 2500 is 236.2 inches long, with the 3500 measuring 250.6 inches. Both have a height of 105.9 inches, a width (including the side mirrors) of 112.2 inches, and a wheelbase of 159 inches. For tighter spots, the large side mirrors can be folded to decrease the overall width to 81.3 inches. Curb weight is 4,958 pounds for the 2500 and 5,061 lbs for the longer 3500.
Cargo width at the wheelhouse is 56 inches, broadening to 75.6 inches at the floor. The side door opens to a width of 49.2 inches and it has a height of 69.1 inches. The rear doors, meanwhile, have an opening width of 63.4 inches and an opening height of 70.5 inches. Cargo body length is 143.5 inches for the 2500 and 157.9 inches for the 3500.
The ProMaster Window Van's color palette extends to ten shades. Standard options are Black, Bright White, Flame Red and Broom Yellow. For $100, you can have either Patriot Blue or Sandstone Pearl. For $200, color options are Granite Crystal Metallic, Bright Silver Metallic, or Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl. The priciest color option is School Bus Yellow at $400. The wheels are silver in standard form, but black-painted steel wheels are a $100 option.
Both the 2500 and 3500 are powered by the same 3.6-liter V6 engine delivering 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels, setting the ProMaster apart from the competition, with rear-wheel-drive typically the default in this segment. While traffic light blasts are unlikely in a van, you still need enough power to haul around groups of people and their baggage, and the ProMaster's engine serves it well. When unladen, 0-60 mph comes up in around eight seconds, which is decent and comparable with the likes of the Ford Transit. A six-speed automatic transmission works through the gears in an unfussed manner.
Maximum towing capacity has been increased in other variants, but not in the Window Van, keeping it at 5,100 pounds, which lags a bit behind the competition and is a consequence of the ProMaster's front-wheel-drive setup. Payload capacity is 3,940 lbs for the 2500 model and 4,290 lbs for the 3500.
The Ram's engine ditches turbocharging complexity for a familiar, naturally-aspirated Pentastar V6. With a displacement of 3.6-liters, the engine produces 280 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It features variable valve timing and electronic throttle control. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission which has an especially low first gear with the aim of improving acceleration from a standstill. Once up to speed, the transmission remains effective - shifts aren't breathtakingly fast, but you also wouldn't expect that. What it does, however, is make the ProMaster easy to drive.
The refined engine pulls strongly in town and especially when the large van is unladen. Of course, the performance takes a dip with a full complement of passengers or cargo, but in general, few drivers would complain. Passing power is adequate, with a little bit of planning required when fully loaded. Ultimately, another engine option or two would give the Ram more of an edge over the competition, but the V6 is a good fit for most purposes.
The ProMaster's tidy powertrain performance isn't quite matched by its suspension. While one doesn't expect a van to provide luxury-car levels of comfort, the Ram's ride is still rather harsh. It's better than the ProMaster cargo van, however, as the window van has a touring suspension system fitted. When loaded up with passengers or cargo, it improves, but never really feels settled or comfortable.
The steering is set up for ease of use, with sufficient power assistance making it easy to drive the ProMaster around town. On longer, high-speed drives, the light steering becomes more of a chore, as regular corrections are needed to keep the Ram on course. Crosswinds also upset proceedings, with a lightly loaded ProMaster feeling especially sensitive to them. The one advantage of a front-wheel-drive system is that in slippery, icy conditions, the engine's weight over the front axle offers an extra layer of grip. Overall, however, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit provide a better balance of handling and ride comfort.
At the time of writing, EPA-rated economy figures were unavailable for the ProMaster Window Van. However, real-world reports for owners of 2018 Ram ProMaster 2500 models returned an average of 14.3 mpg, which should carry over for the 2019 model. On a 24-gallon tank of regular unleaded, a combined cruising range of around 343 miles should be achievable.
There's nothing modern or luxurious about the ProMaster's interior. There are only seats for a driver and front-seat passenger, with rear seating available via third-party suppliers. The steering wheel is only telescoping, which does little to improve the bus-like driving position. The broad and shallow dashboard is a basic affair, with easy-to-fathom controls and instrumentation. A highlight is excellent forward visibility, and the short hood leaves the driver with little doubt as to where the front of the ProMaster ends. A broad space between the two front seats makes it easy to walk through to the back of the van.
The Ram ProMaster seats only two people out of the factory. After that, Ram leaves it up to you to install rear seating via a third-party supplier. This makes the ProMaster's vast rear space highly customizable for cargo or passengers, but also requires more effort initially. Both seats have basic four-way manual adjustment, with six-way settings (adding lumbar adjustment) being optional. Both seats can also be optioned to swivel to face the back of the van. The driving position itself isn't the most comfortable due to limited steering wheel adjustment. Unlike the ProMaster cargo van, the window van doesn't allow for three passengers to be seated abreast in front. Upfitting the ProMaster window van leaves you with many options; for instance, a wheelchair-conversion works well with the ProMaster's low step-in height, and it can even be converted into an ambulance. Of course, multiple seating rows are also possible, and the high roof enhances ingress and egress.
The utilitarian nature of the ProMaster continues with the very limited choice of standard and optional interior materials. Both front bucket seats are upholstered in cloth, with vinyl being a more versatile option at $100. Black is all you get in terms of color options and there are just a few subtle ways of upgrading the interior. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is optional, and a carpet floor mat for the front walk-through section can be specified. To break the sea of black plastic, bright bezels for the instrument panel are optional at $95.
With nothing behind the front seats out of the factory, it figures that there is a vast amount of space back there. Total cargo volume for the 2500 is 420.2 cubic feet behind the seats, and up to 462.9 cubes in the longer 3500. Access through the back is enhanced thanks to rear doors that open to 260 degrees, making for a large opening to load cargo or step into. Steps for the rear bumper extension and the sliding doors are optional. Depending on your needs, you can also option lower sidewall paneling or a spray-on floor liner for anti-skid protection.
To improve interior storage, an Interior Convenience Group is an option. It includes a locking glovebox, a shelf above the roof trim, and an under-seat storage tray. Three cup holders are conveniently situated in the center of the dashboard.
If you want a feature-packed van, it's best that you skip the ProMaster, as only the very basics are fitted. As standard, you get manual air-conditioning, cargo-area lighting, a 12-volt auxiliary power outlet, speed-sensitive power door locks, four-way manual adjustment for the front seats, power windows, remote keyless entry and a telescoping steering wheel. Driver aids are almost entirely absent, although there is a standard rear backup camera that assists with parking the big van. You won't find much happening on the options list, either, but if you want, you can pay extra for items like LED cargo area lighting and heated seats.
Ram's Uconnect 3 multimedia system comes as standard. It uses a five-inch central touchscreen display and also has USB and auxiliary connections, MP3 compatibility, AM/FM stereo, and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel. SiriusXM radio and navigation are options, but you can't have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. The sound system uses just four speakers, while rear-speaker wiring prep is included as well. Ram Telematics, also optional, is a useful addition for businesses wanting to keep track of drivers and their vans, with information like driver behavior and vehicle diagnostics being quickly available. You can access this service with one-, three-, or five-year plans.
2018 wasn't a great year for the ProMaster, with six recalls issued by the NHTSA. In one case, the backup camera image displayed as reversed, potentially causing the driver to turn in the wrong direction to avoid an object. Another case was for 2014-2019 models fitted with Freedman Go-ES Foldaway seats - a problem exists where, following seat adjustment, the seat cushion may not remain in a locked position under load, increasing the risk of an injury in the event of a crash. In fact, three separate recalls involved these seats, so shoppers should be wary. Further issues included a failing voltage regulator and an impact sensor housing which may fracture.
Should anything go wrong, Ram covers the ProMaster with a 36,000-mile/three-year basic warranty and a 60,000-mile/five-year powertrain warranty. Roadside assistance is provided for 100,000 miles or five years, whichever comes first, as is the coverage period for rust-through.
The Ram ProMaster Window Van has yet to be evaluated for crashworthiness by either the NHTSA or the IIHS. Other Rams like the new 1500 have achieved excellent safety scores, but the older 1500 Classic didn't do as well.
The ProMaster has advanced driver and front-passenger airbags, along with side-curtain front airbags and front-seat side airbags. Of course, should your ProMaster Window Van be fitted with seats at the back, these passengers wouldn't be quite as well protected. Cruise control is optional and electronic stability control is standard. While a rear backup camera is stock fitted and rear park assist is optional, you won't find advanced technologies like lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring on the ProMaster, and some competitors do offer these.
The Ram ProMaster isn't going to surprise you with any of its abilities. This is a no-nonsense van that's ready to work hard for businesses carting around either lots of cargo, lots of people, or a combination of both. Of course, it ticks off the main box that any van needs to, by offering acres of space. With the added windows and the touring suspension, the Window Van is also suited to carrying passengers if fitted with rear seats. There are few complaints regarding the performance, with the 3.6-liter V6 and smooth six-speed automatic transmission enabling a relaxed, easy driving experience. If only there were more available driver aids, more creature comforts, and a better driving position, the ProMaster would really be able to take the fight to the Ford Transit. With these flaws, it's never going to conquer the segment. But with good payload ratings, fresher looks, a strong engine, and good space utilization, the ProMaster does just enough to remain part of the conversation.
The Ram ProMaster Window Van range kicks off with the 2500 at an MSRP of $36,895. The longer 3500, meanwhile, costs $40,745. These prices exclude tax, licensing, registration, and Ram's destination charge of $1,695.
Ram eschews traditional trims for the ProMaster Window Van and, instead, separates the 2500 and 3500 by their payload capacities and sizes. So, both are otherwise identically equipped. Standard is a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It sends power to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, 260-degree opening twin rear doors, halogen headlamps, a touring suspension, and the revised Ram silver grille. The large cabin is fitted with just two seats in front, with additional seating needing the services of a third party to fit. Manual air-conditioning, a four-speaker audio system, a rearview camera, a five-inch touchscreen display, power windows and power door locks are standard. The 2500 has a maximum payload of 3,940 pounds, with the 3500 maxing out at 4,290 lbs. The 3500 also has an extra 42.7 of total cargo capacity thanks to a longer body length.
There are a couple of packages to choose from when customizing your ProMaster, although none significantly adds to the basic feature-count. The $345 Interior Convenience Group includes a locking glovebox, an overhead storage shelf, and an under-seat storage tray for added convenience when stashing small items out of sight. A DOT-certified roadside safety kit is $195, and is a worthwhile extra for a van with the potential to transport many passengers. The $395 Premium Appearance Group adds a chrome grille and front fog lamps for a smarter look and added safety in low-visibility conditions. Finally, for $3,495, you can get the RV Ready Prep Package. Its contents encompass 16-inch alloy wheels, a 220-amp alternator, driver and front-passenger swivel seats, the Interior Convenience Group, the Trailer Tow Group, the Premium Appearance Group, and a rear heater and air-conditioning preparation.
Standalone options that are worth considering are the ParkSense rear park-assist system for $295, heated front seats for $340, and the upgraded infotainment system with navigation for $495. A driver suspension seat is $345 and improves comfort over rough terrain. Useful for fleet buyers not doing the driving themselves are three speed limiters (65, 70, or 77 mph) at $80 each, helpful for maintaining safe speeds and minimizing any potential speeding fines.
As this is a van that is all about maximum cargo and/or passenger space, the 3500's extra length is undoubtedly useful. We'd spec ours with the Roadside Safety Kit, heated front seats, driver's suspension seat, and navigation for a total of $42,120. Of course, if you don't require the extra body length, you can save $3,850 and get the 2500. You'll also need to set aside a budget for installing rear seats if you intend to use the ProMaster Window Van to carry passengers.
The Ford Transit, whether in cargo or passenger van configuration, generally offers more than the ProMaster. While the ProMaster Window Van has just one roof height, the Transit Passenger Van has three roof heights for far more buyer choice. There are also more engines on offer, with a powerful 3.5-liter Ecoboost engine outdoing the ProMaster with 310 horsepower. If you'll be using your van for transporting people, then the Transit can be had straight out of the factory with seating for 15, without the hassle of getting the Ram fitted with rear seats from a third-party supplier - not to mention, there have been safety recalls for the ProMaster when fitted with seats by other suppliers. The final nail in the ProMaster's coffin is the Ford's superior driving manners. It's simply the nicer van to drive and be driven in. For us, it wins this comparison comfortably
From Japan, there's the rather odd-looking Nissan NV Passenger. It costs even less than the ProMaster Window Van, and has two competent engines, with the bigger of the two being a beefy 5.6-liter V8 with 375 horsepower, which is plenty of power for a van. The NV seats 12 people, and there's a much higher level of available equipment than you'd get in the Ram - an eight-way power driver's seat, a six-speaker audio system, and leather seats are all on the list, making this the much more comfortable option. Of course, for businesses with very different and specific needs, the ProMaster's customizable cabin and high maximum payload capacity does hold plenty of appeal. The driving experience is better in the Nissan, with a more compliant ride quality. If you want to configure your van in any way that suits you, the ProMaster Window Van will be more suitable, but the Nissan feels like a better product straight out of the factory.