By on February 7, 2013

 

Car guys with a commercial leaning seem to usually wax poetic about the old Dodge Ram vans. Chrysler’s four speed automatic transmission may not have been the most reliable cog-swapper ever built, but the 318 engine will run forever. Chrysler gave up on the van market in the middle of the last decade to focus on getting raped by Mercedes other projects. Enter the 2014 ProMaster.

Dodge’s, er, I mean RAM’s new full-sized cargo van is a thinly disguised Fiat Ducato from Europe. Rather than a complete redesign on the same theme for the American market like Ford did with the Transit van, Fiat and Chrysler have decided to keep the changes to a minimum. This of course means the ProMaster is a front wheel drive van. Yes, you heard that right, front wheel drive. This means you won’t find a V8 under the RAM’s tiny hood, instead you’ll find Chrysler’s latest 280HP 3.6L V6 engine or a Fiat 3.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel. The diesel is rated for 174H and 295lb-ft of torque. Sending power to the ground is a heavy-duty version of the 6-seed transaxle from Chrysler’s minivans with the V6, or a 6-speed Fiat “automated manual” transmission if you decide to burn oil.

RAM is claiming that the ProMaster is capable of an impressive 5,145lb cargo capacity and a towing rating of 5,100lbs when properly equipped. While some may scoff at the FWD design (and I wonder what a fully loaded van on a steep hill will be like), the benefits may outweigh the concerns. RAM is claiming best-in-class fuel economy, smallest turning circle (36 feet), largest cargo hold, lowest step-in height, lowest load floor and tallest ceiling height. Trying to allay some fears RAM is tossing in a 5 year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 10,000 mile or 18,000 mile oil change intervals depending on your engine choice. There is of course some uConnect love, plenty of European Fiat parts going on inside, Brembo brakes (I took a double-take as well) and the uncertainty of reliability and pricing. Commercial shoppers look like they are in for some tough decision-making in 2014.

All the other details: Pricing hasn’t been announced. It will be built in Saltillo Mexico. The diesel uses urea. Yes, t does look a little funky in person.

 

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74 Comments on “Chicago Auto Show: 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van...”


  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    The cabin actually looks really nice. I like the bench seat. FWD will be good for those who need Econoline capabilities in cold climates, without getting an AWD GM van.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Until you actually use it as intended and put a ton of tools and supplies in the back of it and then try to go up a hill.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      If this has 60/40 weight distribution and the cargo weight distribution is 40/60, you would have to get very close to the full rated load capacity before overall weight distribution reaches 50/50. I strongly suspect that most people spend most of the time well below maximum load ratings, in which case, most of the time, they’ll be better off with the front drive. Note that the rear axle is pretty far back, to encourage forward weight bias. I strongly suspect that Fiat has done their homework, as these vans have been around in Europe for years, and they do have winter there, too.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    This thing is the ‘Dustbuster’ of the new millenium!

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      Agreed. I think the Pontiac Aztec has been dethroned as the “ugliest vehicle on the road” and also takes the title of “most egregious use of plastic ever”.

  • avatar
    brettc

    It sure is weird looking…I like it! I’ll never have a need for one, but it’s great that Fiatsler is going to sell something like this. Between this thing, the Transit and the Nissan NV, there will be a lot of weird looking vans on the roads.

    Also, what’s up with the red wire looped around the brake fluid reservoir? Did they forget to connect something when they built it?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      It’s the power supply so that things can still be functional w/o running the battery down over the time it is on display. Standard procedure for cars on display at auto shows where they do want you to be able to use some of the electronics like power seats.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    Does Mexico have a free trade agreement with Brazil? If so then this is a pretty good strategy for Fiat. Even if only a few of these go North as Rams, a ton can go south as Fiats.

    If I bought one of these my biggest question would be whether to IDM it as a Fiat or FDM it as a Citroen. Probably Citroen. If you squint it almost looks like an H van, and it has the correct wheel drive to match.

  • avatar
    Loser

    Ugly as hell but as long as it “delivers” the intended buyers won’t care.

  • avatar
    Toad

    We will find out if there is a market for a super-sized version of the Ford Transit Connect.

    That front bumper guarantees that this is for fleet buyers only; yikes!

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    I am a statistical anomoly. I want a van. I tow a lot (weight and frequency).

    The moves by Ford and Fiasler leave me only one choice. Essentially I’m left with only the Express 3500 as able to replace my G30 which is full of stuff or people and tows my 8000# trailer.

    (However this is all academic since I only buy used so there will be Express 3500s and E-350s out there for years to come.)

    • 0 avatar
      mcarr

      I am also part of that anomaly. I currently have a Express 3500 that can tow 9800 lbs and get’s 18-19 mpg on the highway. These new designs are geared towards fuel efficiency and interior volume. I haven’t seen any tow ratings on the Ford with the Eco-boost, so maybe there’s hope there. I’m also wondering what platform RV manufacturers are going to latch on to now that the E-series is gone. These new ones don’t seen well suited for that.

      • 0 avatar
        Perc

        About 8 out of 10 European RV’s are SEVEL based and 99% of them are wearing a Fiat badge. This has been the case for decades, and for good reasons.

        Current generation: http://www.campervan-photos.com/picture/number413.asp
        Previous generation: http://showroom.southdownsmotorcaravans.co.uk/used-dethleffs-globetrotter-advantage-a6731-motorhome-u1729-2181-0.html
        … and the first generation. http://eng.auto24.ee/used/837444

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      The Nissan full sized van might be another alternative in the secondary used market as the V-8 models can tow up to 9000 (per their website) and, while these seem pricey for first purchase, if the vans are as reliable as other Nissan products, the used ones should be a great long term value.

      I only wish that that there was a cab only configuration of the Nissan van and I might be sold on it for a flatbed application. While it looks like Fiasler has done their research to have that version of the Fiat van available as a Ram Van, I can’t but wonder why they didn’t lower the rear frame somewhat given that the vehicle is FWD. I guess that it because it looks to be standard bed height for the enclosed van is why the cab only frame is at that height.

  • avatar
    Magnusmaster

    The Fiat Ducato must be one of the most badge-engineered vans ever. It’s marketed as a Fiat, Peugeot, Citroen, Toyota and now a Ram. Wow!

    • 0 avatar
      wagonsonly

      I believe that honor goes to the Geo Metro (Chevy Metro, Chevy Sprint, Pontiac Firefly, Suzuki Cultus, Suzuki Swift, Chevy SprintMetro, Holden Barina, Subaru Justy, etc…)

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      When was this badged as a Toyota?

      • 0 avatar
        Diewaldo

        Since this year the car is available as the Toyota ProAce in Europe:

        http://www.motorward.com/wp-content/images/2012/10/2013-Toyota-ProAce-1.jpg

        The vans are all built by a Joint Venture between PSA and Fiat, called Sevel. I wonder if it also might come as a GM product to the US … due to the new PSA-Opel ties.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sevel

        I guess this is due to the good connections between Toyota and PSA (they both already share a vehicle, the Toyota Aygo aka Citroen C1 aka Peugeot 107).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peugeot_107

      • 0 avatar
        cafe

        That Toyota ProAce isn’t a rebadged Fiat Ducato/Citroën Jumper (or Relay)/Peugeot Boxer.

        You have to go one size down in the range of PSA/Fiat panel vans to find the origin of the ProAce. It’s a rebadge of the 2nd gen Peugeot Expert/Citroën Jumpy (or Dispatch)/Fiat Scudo.

        Sevel Nord builds the medium sized minivan (Expert and twins) in France. Sevel Sud builds the large van (Ducato and twins) in Italy and TOFAS builds the smallest member of the family in Turkey (Fiat Fiorino/Fiat Qubo/Citroen Nemo/Peugeot Bipper).

        Fiat and PSA don’t share all of their panel van offerings though. If the XS, M and L sizes are shared, the S size isn’t. The Fiat Doblò/Opel Combo and the Peugeot Partner/Citroën Berlingo that fight against the Ford Transit Connect in Europe are based on different platforms.

  • avatar
    Oren Weizman

    Not an attractive vehicle …

  • avatar
    Easton

    It’s a stopgap measure until a more appropriate replacement can be developed.

  • avatar

    Q: “I wonder what a fully loaded van on a steep hill will be like?
    A: “You reverse and go uphill in reverse.
    Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.

  • avatar

    I personally know many fleet owners who have basically changed all their vans from Sprinter to Ducato (or ProMaster whatever, what a dumb name!). In Brazil, when Fiat came along, their Ducato simply took the market away from MErcedes. Why? Cheaper to buy, but the downtime is less frequent and usual maintenance and corrective maintenance is way cheaper. Nowaday, in Brazil, Fiat is the absolute leader, while the Ford van (like the one in Europe) is in second and seems to be gaining market from Fiat. The Renault van is a distant third and the Sprinter is not even seen anymore in the rearview mirror of the Fiat and Ford.

    So, different market and all but not an easy one for commercial vehicles due to bad roads, bad gas or diesel, weather. Fiat has won the market based on quality. Hope Ram can do the same in America.

    Any word on pricing and in comparison to Sprinter and other competitors?

    • 0 avatar

      In America Sprinter underwent significant revisions for tougness, whereas Ducato is coming in with questionable powertrain choices. So the downtime stats may yet be reversed, at least for a few years. The pricing will decide the take rate, however. It’s the accounting, and many businesses do not plan to keeping vans beyond the warranty expiration.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      I think this a Downgraded Ducato. I have serious doubts about the 5000lb towing with the 3.6 lite V6. Same engine as in the Wrangler.
      The “Promaster” appears to be in between the Transit Connect and Lowline Sprinter.

  • avatar
    nikita

    “Heavy Duty” version of the minivan transaxle and 5/100k warranty still aren’t enough for me to trust it to hold up carrying a 5000lb payload.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Then you buy the diesel engine, which uses a different transmission. (That’s what I’d do … not only to get the diesel engine, but also to NOT get the Chrysler minivan automatic transmission …)

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I’d also be willing to bet that the Chrysler trans has the biggest trans cooler that fit into that ugly snout. I’m curious how this thing will behave in the real world, but it’s to early to talk about it as weak. It’s an interesting option for a work van.

  • avatar

    Well, it’s not going to win any prizes for looks, but hey…whatever works…

  • avatar
    th009

    The Ford Transit is a global van, not an American version. It’s simply making its global debut in Chicago.

    The Sprinter is really one class bigger (and thus substantially more expensive); I believe Fiat’s Sprinter competitor is the Iveco Daily, whereas Mercedes offers the Vito against the Ducato. (Admittedly the lines between the classes aren’t 100% clear though …)

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      “Fiat’s Sprinter competitor is the Iveco Daily, whereas Mercedes offers the Vito against the Ducato. (Admittedly the lines between the classes aren’t 100% clear though ”

      Correct.

  • avatar

    Not really th009. Well at least in Brazil there’s an Iveco van that’s about the size of a Ducato and Sprinter. The Ducato and Sprinter have many, many different wheelbases and sizes. They can carry from 8 passengers to 16 (and anything in between) I think. So the Sprinter competes directly with Fiat Ducato (and Citroen Jumper and the Peugeot I forget the name), the Ford and the Renault Master.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Yes, there are many sizes. But the Sprinter (and its cousin, VW Crafter) is really competing in a clas above the Vito and the VW Transporter.

      Looking at the German prices (sorry, I have difficult time reading Portuguese!) the Ducato starts at EUR 21K, the Sprinter at EUR 26K and the Vito is just a little bit cheaper at EUR 19K. VW Transporter and Crafter are actually a little bit more expensive than the Vito and Sprinter.

      In the end, though, it’s difficult to compare a “Ducato” or “Sprinter” or “Transporter” because of the vast number of variations on each, it’s only possible to look at one at a time.

      But for sure the Sprinter and Crafter are aimed at the higher class, whereas Ducato is overlapping with Vito and Transporter.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    As someone who logged many hours at a recent job driving cargo vans or box trucks with the cargo area stuffed full of stuff and often needing to haul more than one (usually illegal immigrant ) worker , one advantage of the box trucks ( mostly Isuzus ) was the extra ” bitch seat ” in front . Don’t know why no cargo vans do this, so good move , Chrysler (or Fiat) . The styling though- the side windows are odd , albeit typically Euro -is the ugliest current front end , even uglier than the latest overdone Econoline grill . Personally I’d prefer a stick for this kind of vehicle, undoubtedly available on this van in other markets.

    • 0 avatar

      The front windows are like that to aid in parallel parking. Not everywhere is the parking easy and the spots huge like America.

    • 0 avatar
      Rental Man

      The extra seat upfront. When the Nissan arrived with the NV2500/3500 based on the Titan that had the 3 across upfront I was surprised. Mercedes has it. Now Ram has it. Maybe Nissan will bring us the Renault van one day with the extra seat.

      Maybe one of the B&B can explain this. Too many “employees” sit on buckets in Fords and Chevys for the R&D people to miss.

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    The Ducato cab/chassis is used by a lot of RV manufacturers in Europe and has stood up well. Perhaps some of the RV producers in the US, who have really been hurting these past few years, will use it as the basis of more efficient motorhomes for the North American market.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I don’t understand. They gave it a bench seat so they must have intended 3-across seating, got the trans selector out of the way, and then ruined the legroom for the center passenger with that cupholder tray.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    There’s no access to the back from the cab. That eliminates the shagmobile market, the custom camper market, and maybe a couple small parcel delivery operations. Is “ProMaster” something from the “mind of Fiat”, or did somebody forget to protect the Tradesman trademark?

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Not 100% sure, but I suspect the divider between the cab and the cargo area is an option and possibly removable. Photos elsewhere show other versions of the van without a divider.

      • 0 avatar

        Brian P, of course you can. I think Lorenzo was trying to be funny. In Brazil Fiat can do whatever you want with the Ducato. From ambulance to prisoner van, to school bus, to refrigerated car (for slaughterhouses and such), to dentist office, hot dog stand, ice cream truck, roving library, and just about anything you can imagine.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    It looks a little odd from some angles, but so do UPS trucks and the newer mail jeeps I see running around. In a few years it will seem normal and I am guessing the lower nose helps with fuel mileage.

    The only practical advice I might give is that they should make the cup holders in the foot-well either fold up or be removable. This is the kind of rig I could see carpet companies or HVAC guys using and the middle seat should be practical for a full grown man.

  • avatar
    56BelAire

    It looks like a cab & chassis with a van/box body. I would imagine some prospective buyers would be turned off as there is no walk-thru from the cab to the back of the truck. I wonder if it is offered as an option. Many van buyers want and need this feature.

    When I was selling GM commercial trucks about 10 years ago we took many first generation Sprinters in trade because they were underpowered. Alot of plumbers and electricians love to load the piss out of their trucks and then expect them to go up hills and accelerate like an empty V-8. A good percentage of truck buyers tend to underbuy in terms of GVW and overload their vehicles instead of buying the right truck for the work it will be doing.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    Perhaps that awful front is an adaption to US crash standards. If so, it’s right up there with then Honda Fit for worst Federalization changes ever.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    This is a commericial vehicle, it’s not meant to be “sporty, pretty, or sexy”. Car makers can’t survive just making ‘sporty’ coupes, that car fan want [just to look at, not buy] but go out of style in a year.

  • avatar
    360joules

    With these kind of vehicles there are engineering specs and “real world specs.” If the Fiatsler van is a cheap fleet buy and passes the warranty period or is easy to fix in known defective areas, then it will become a fleet queen. A well-developed fleet vehicle (many years of production& well understood servicing) will outperform a highly engineered but uncommon unicorn. For all of the faults of certain early 1990′s minivans, if your Toyota Previa crapped out on the same day your Diamsler T&C started missing shifts, you would drive away in 2 days driving which van…? I think the new Fiatsler will do well if TTAC Murilee gets to write the service manuals…VW Combis were crap but $25.00 and some cursing and you could replace the clutch cable by any roadside. I know many high mileage commercial users of Sprinters whose love affair ended when straightforward servicing issues became “driveby service department muggings.” I haven’t heard much Left Coast love/hate for NV2000. Lots of Ford Transit Connects around here. I am still amazed that many local lube/oil places overfill the rear axles of GM vans- Duh.

  • avatar
    saywhat

    the accelerator and brake pedal size and placement don’t have that big american working boot feel to them. More of a euro-loafer appeal :-) This will be an uphill battle selling these in the US market. We typically don’t let facts get in the way of what we think is better here when in comes to vehicles. The rest of the world must have it wrong. lol

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    “That looks like somebody put a Hannibal Lecter mask on a Prius.” … Rod Panhard Jr., age 15.

  • avatar
    FordMan_48126

    Alex;

    In the van body styles, does the ProMaster has a walk through pass through from the cab to the body? Whilst true it is ugly, most fleet customers don’t care about that….but they will care about worker productivity, which is really hindered w/o a pass through from cab to van body.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      READ previous posts. Some photos of this van show a barrier between cab and cargo area, others show it as being open. That means it’s either an option, or it’s removable. That is as it should be, because there are some cargos that the driver is better off to be kept separate from.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      It may not be pretty … but it’s still less of an abomination than Nissan’s full-size van.

  • avatar
    Diewaldo

    I still wonder why they don’t bring the heavy duty IVECOs vans over to the US. I think they might perhaps be better suited for the market.

    http://web.iveco.com/Pages/welcome.html

  • avatar
    TheEdSantosShow

    Next lifestyle product. This is the new Escalade. Get Dre and Iovine on this.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I don’t understand the nearly horizontal cup holder near the power outlet on the dash.

  • avatar
    orobertscab

    Having owned a Chev Express for 10 years I believe there is a market for an alternative to the traditional US cargo van. I have seen many Ford Transit Connects in the last 2 years on the Minnesota roads to confirm this idea. Front wheel drive will work well for most applications. I tow a trailer less than 5% of the time with my van & most full size vans I see are not pulling trailers. For my use a lower cargo floor, better fuel economy, & less vehicle weight make sense. I will be comparing the Ford Transit & Promaster vans when they come out as a replacement for my Chev. It has been a good vehicle, but averaging 14 mpg is not good enough for how I use a van & I suspect many others are looking for alternative choices to traditional US vans.

  • avatar
    Van Man

    Being a Sprinter (cargo) owner (2003) lwb hc, I love the van for its fuel economy and practicality and use it for work and pleasure. When that came to our shores, people not familiar with the Sprinter thought it looked ugly and then only equipped with a 5 cyl Diesel – is that a European “toaster”. I cannot wait to see the new Fiat/Ram Van and hope it will come in a High Cube version with open access to the cargo area, so it can be a true competitor to the Sprinter. It would also be more practical to be able to load motorcycles without breaking your back or anything else that can fit below the seats / belly of commercial airlines. As for front wheel drive, it can only be an improvement over the Sprinter, because that gets stuck in its own tracks on muddy, snowy or icy roads, and if empty, forgetaboutit. The looks of the new Ram is strange in my eyes too, but so was the Sprinter when it first came ashore. I truly hope that Dodge/Fiat/Ram decide to stick it out together, and that it does not become another “step child” vehicle no Dodge/Ram dealer can work on down the road (a major blow for us older Sprinter owners).
    Good luck to Fiat/Dodge/Ram – I will visiting my local Dodge/Ram dealer soon.


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