When Ram brought its collection of new vehicles to the auto press, we were hoping to get some seat time in the new 3.0-liter I-4 EcoDiesel ProMaster, equipped with the M40 six-speed automated manual transmission, a class first and exclusive in the U.S. commercial van segment. All of the specimens provided at the event were the gas model equipped with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 62TE six-speed torque-converter automatic. The target availability for the diesel is first quarter 2014. Like the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the ProMaster will be part of our Truck of the Year competition, but unfortunately, in gas-only guise for the time being.

The control positions and layout are pretty much standard-issue commercial-spec tall van. The steering wheel has a deliberate horizontal orientation. The seating position is also bolt-upright, looking over a wide dashboard, and broad front glass giving a commanding outlook over the road ahead. Our tester was equipped with an overhead storage shelf, made for clipboards and other lightweight accoutrements in the commercial segment. It will likely be an appreciated and handy feature by buyers.

Admittedly, the styling of the ProMaster is focused squarely (no pun intended) on functionality, and two of the subjectively homelier aspects of the ProMaster's styling have a functional component. The ProMaster's vertical profile has almost zero tumblehome, but that blocky profile yields a usefully square interior shape, allowing for maximum available space. The three-piece unpainted front bumper cover and high-mounted headlights are designed to weather the inevitable bumps and impacts without the need for expensive bodywork repair and replacement, with the ability to replace the corner portions of the bumper separately from the center piece.

As noted previously in our first look at the ProMaster, the van is unique in its class in the U.S. for being the only front-drive entry -- for now. Both the forthcoming full-size Ford Transit, as well as the freshened Mercedes-Benz Sprinter models, are rear-drive. But the front-drive design has not significantly impacted the ProMaster’s payload capacity, with only the 3500-series high-roof cargo models of the Sprinter offering a greater higher payload capacity.

Equipped with the Pentastar V-6, the ProMaster has a surprising level of quietness and refinement. The 280 hp and 260 lb-ft produced by the corporate V-6 have no trouble motivating the ProMaster's 4200-5000 lb weight (depending on configuration). Even when loaded with an approximately 1500-lb payload, the only tangible change to the driving experience was a slightly mellower ride, with no substantial changes in acceleration, braking or handling characteristics in normal driving. Ram is especially proud of the ProMaster's maneuverability, which it claims gives it a turning radius of just 36.3 ft for the short-wheelbase model, and 40.7 for the intermediate, 136-inch wheelbase model.

When asked about the difference in driving experience between the gas and diesel models, David Elshoff, head of Ram Brand Communications, said, "Obviously, it will be different. But the big focus and purchase factor with the diesel is economy. We've seen economy in the high 20s with the diesels in our fleet trials. The economy with the diesel and the M40 will be really eye-opening," Elshoff said.

Changes to the U.S.-spec ProMaster relative to the European Ducato, aside from the availability of a gas powertrain, are a reinforced chassis and suspension to deal with America's poorer-quality roads, and different brake pads and rotors for quieter braking. The ProMaster also gets Chrysler's corporate Uconnect headunit. Ram is projecting an approximately 15 percent take rate on the diesel, noting that most other competitive models (except for the Sprinter) are predominantly gas-powered.


2014 Ram ProMaster
BASE PRICE $29,630 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front -engine, FWD, 2-pass, 2-door van
ENGINES 3.0L/174-hp/295-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.6L/280-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed auto-clutch manual; 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4200-5400 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 118.0-159.0 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 195.0-250.0 x 82.7 x 90.0-101.0 in
0-60 MPH 7.0-8.5 sec MT est
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON N/A
ON SALE IN U.S. Currently