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First Drive: 2015 Ram ProMaster City

Compact Size, Abundant Work Nature

G.R. Whale
Apr 3, 2015
Photographers: Courtesy of the Manufacturer, G.R. Whale
We had previously argued "Apprentice" was a more appropriate name, but as occasionally happens, Ram ignored our argument and went with ProMaster City (PMC). The only difference between this strategy and Chevrolet's City Express is Chevy putting City ahead of the fullsize progenitor and Ram after it—ProMaster City sounds like a nickname for the manufacturing plant.
Fortunately, this Class 1 van is better than the name. It boasts the usual selection of bragging rights like base engine power, gears, payload, and enough measurements to satisfy an airline bent on carry-on revenue, yet it drives quite well. The rear suspension pays dividends, and the level of refinement should be appreciated by hurried couriers and harried parents alike.
Photo 2/7   |   2015 Ram Promaster City Cargo Loading
Of course, we drove white ones—lots of white ones—and a red one to ensure its relative speediness was merely a law enforcement perception. There's also a very good chance yours will be black inside as well. The driving position is clearly more car-like (like the Transit Connect and less like the upright NV200), and the tilt/telescoping wheel wasn't overtly lacking adjustment range. Taller individuals may find rearward seat travel limited with the cargo partition, but your 6-foot-plus correspondent fit fine for 20- to 30-minute jaunts.
You don't see most of the City's hood from behind the wheel, only the curved inward pillar bases—like GM's old "Dustbuster" minivans—and huge expanse of open space above the windshield betray the commercial background. If you get rear windows, the larger one includes a wiper, and the remote-manual (power on SLT) mirrors have fixed wide-angle elements that show the rear tire-curb interface. With park sensors and a camera, you can easily park it millimeters from the loading dock.
Photo 3/7   |   2015 Ram Promaster City Driver Side View
The City runs a 2.4L SOHC MultiAir2 four-cylinder and nine-speed automatic like the Cherokee, with preliminary power ratings of 178 hp at 6,400 rpm and 174 lb-ft at 3,800 rpm. However, the PMC uses the shortest Cherokee axle ratio of 3.73:1 and smaller, lighter tires, so it sets off better. Ram says this market is all about 0-30 mph, and the PMC's throttle response is just shy of abrupt. Chirping the tires is easy and spinning them requires little effort, and with some cargo or a trailer attached, there is some torque steer to go with it.
That short gearing gives the PMC a much livelier feel than the NV200's CVT or the 2.5L Transit Connect. The former has gearing, the latter power, but neither have both (no 1.6L turbo Ford was handy). Mopar's been tinkering with a 210hp tuning pack for the 2.4L in cars, but there's no word if you'll be able to hot-rod your van.
Photo 4/7   |   2015 Ram Promaster City Cargo Area
We never drove one more than 50 percent loaded and, despite its ability to carry 50 percent of its own weight, we never found the empty ride punishing at all. In fact, it could be better than many 1/2-tons that can carry that much because it's a unibody design. Our expectation is that full-load mileage will decline notably (for reference, our towing rig was about 600 pounds shy of the 5,900-pound GCWR), and the ride may not match a fully loaded 1/2-ton.
What struck us the most was the relative refinement and isolation. Every empty box is a rattle can waiting to happen, and you can hear the rear brakes in any of them, but ProMaster City was solid and tight empty, loaded to 50 percent or towing 75 percent of rated. It also seemed quieter and didn't need as much phone volume, removing one fatigue factor for commercial operators and making the wagon version a more realistic alternative to a two-wheel-drive crossover.
Only fleet operators in gray polyester slacks get excited about work vans, but this one does work, and if you need a big dog or cargo space more than all-wheel drive, it's a very viable alternative to a cute-ute. I don't think Sergio Marchionne will be imitating The Donald and telling anyone, "You're fired," over this vehicle.
Spec Sheet
Vehicle: 2015 Ram ProMaster City
Vehicle Type: Class 1 commercial van (cargo/wagon)
Base Price As Tested: $24,125
Engine Type: Four-cylinder, SOHC
Displacement: 2.4L
Horsepower: 178 hp
Torque: 174 lb-ft
Transmission: Nine-speed (948TE) automatic
Overall Length: 187.5 inches
Curb Weight: 3,512 pounds (cargo) / 3,695 pounds (wagon)
Fuel Capacity: 16 gallons
EPA Fuel Economy: 21/29/24 (city/highway/combined)

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