2014 Ram ProMaster First Look
Italian Flavor for the Commercial Van Class
From the auto show floor: The 2014 Ram ProMaster isn't the best looking van available, but the van sure is promising. The vehicle's front-drive roots distinguish it from the rest of the market, and Ram spent a decent amount of time defending FWD, noting that drivetrain configuration allows for greater cargo capacity, better mileage, and a lower step-in height. We wonder how customers are going to feel about the automated manual with the diesel, but it's good that there's a diesel option.
High-floor vans built on heavy-duty pickup chassis are so last century. To make a splash in the commercial truck space -everyone presumes it's gathering steam as the housing and construction markets ramp back up -- you need a van built in the European style. The Dodge/Mercedes-Benz/Freightliner Sprinter blazed the trail, and now the Ford Transit and Fiat Ducato have arrived, the latter in the form of the 2014 Ram ProMaster, which debuts at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.
This third-generation Fiat van was introduced in Europe in 2006, and it has been thoroughly massaged for U.S. market duty. (The chassis is reinforced for our worse roads; the body is strengthened; and all systems are hardened for temperatures of -30 to 125 degrees F, etc.) One thing that doesn't change, and that distinguishes the 2014 Ram ProMaster, is that all versions are front-drive only. We are assured that at or near its GVWR loading, the weight distribution is near 50/50, and climbing hills with a load has not proven to be a problem for the 4.5 million Ducatos that have been built since 1981. This configuration reduces weight by a couple hundred pounds and enables a lowest-in-class load floor. Power will come from a Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 (280 hp/260 lb-ft) mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, or a 3.0-liter turbodiesel Fiat I-4 (174 hp/295 lb-ft) paired with an automated manual Fiat six-speed. That combo is said to deliver mid- to high-20s mpg. To help keep operating costs down, the ProMaster's recommended maintenance schedule allows the diesel-equipped van to travel up to 18,500 miles between oil changes, and the Pentastar model up to 10,000 miles.
A staggering array of body configurations will be offered on the 2014 ProMaster, with four overall lengths available on three wheelbases (measuring 118, 136, or 159 inches), with two roof heights (providing 60 or 76 inches of interior height), in full van or chassis-cab formats. A left-side sliding door is available. Seating will accommodate two or three in front (swivel buckets are available to ease access to the cargo area, when not opting for the rigid cab divider), and a crew-cab configuration adds a four-seat bench in back. No full passenger-van model will be available from the factory, which means upfitters will have to handle airport shuttle conversions. Flooring choices include painted metal, rubber mat, or wood, and the inside walls are nearly vertical to more easily accept racks and shelves. The rear cargo doors open 260 degrees and there's room between the wheel wells to accommodate a forklift pallet. Ten tie-down hooks can each restrain 1000 pounds' worth of whatever's on those pallets. Total payload capacity is rated at up to 5145 pounds, while towing capacity is up to 5100 pounds.
Design-wise, Fiat's aim was "visual durability," not beauty. Note that the 2014 ProMaster's front end design places the pricey and vital headlights up high above the impact zone; the giant molded-plastic front bumper is comprised of many separately replaceable pieces; and the entire body side is guarded by wide molded plastic rub strips. Function trumps form with handy features such as a step in the bumper that helps wash the huge windshield. Inside, the dash is black, and everything is strictly business with loads of storage, though a Uconnect radio with navigation and a 5-inch touch screen is available.
The ProMaster is expected to be popular with RV upfitters, especially the most maneuverable short-wheelbase version, which boasts a midsize-car-like 36-feet diameter turning circle. The Mopar aftermarket accessory team expects to support the ProMaster with interior gear tailored to many popular trades, and expects to locate an upfitting center near the assembly plant in Saltillo, Mexico.
|2014 Ram ProMaster|
|BASE PRICE||$28,000 (MT est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, FWD, 2-pass, 3/4-door van|
|ENGINE||3.6L/280-hp/258-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 3.0L/174-hp/295-lb-ft DOHC diesel I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed automatic; 6-speed automated manual|
|CURB WEIGHT||4161-5400 lbs|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||195-250 x 98-109 x 90-101 in|
|0-60 MPH||11.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||17/25 (MT est)|
|On Sale in U.S.||Winter 2013|