The Truth About Cars » Hauling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:00:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Hauling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2015 RAM ProMaster City (with video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-ram-promaster-city-video/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=999922 Please welcome back Alex Dykes as our Road Test editor. Alex will be contributing reviews and video reviews at our re-launched YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe. Everyone has been talking about the Dodge Caravan being sent out to pasture soon, but there is a third badge-engineered Chrysler minivan heading into the sunset as well: […]

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2015 RAM ProMaster City Front-001

Please welcome back Alex Dykes as our Road Test editor. Alex will be contributing reviews and video reviews at our re-launched YouTube channel. Click here to subscribe.

Everyone has been talking about the Dodge Caravan being sent out to pasture soon, but there is a third badge-engineered Chrysler minivan heading into the sunset as well: the 2015 RAM C/V. Behold the replacement: the 2015 RAM ProMaster City. With industry boffins calculating that the class 1 cargo-hauler segment will explode by over 300% in the coming few years, Chrysler is getting in on the commercial action with another Euro model. While the larger ProMaster van is based on the Fiat Ducato, the smaller ProMaster City is an Americanization of the Fiat Doblo. Does the recently formed Fiat Chrysler conglomerate have with it takes to compete with the all-new and all-sexy Transit Connect?

Exterior

Outside it is hard to tell the Doblo and the ProMaster City apart. Both have dual sliding doors and rear 60/40 barn doors that open to near 180 degrees but most of the sheetmetal is shared. New DOT compliant tail lamps and headlights were fitted and the RAM logo and cross-hair grille were grafted to the long nose. Let’s be frank, the ProMaster City isn’t as attractive as the new Transit Connect which wears strong lines and Ford’s new corporate grille. The ProMaster on the other hand goes for rounded corners and a function-over-form front end. RAM boasts that the unpainted black bumpers can be easily replaced without a quote from the paint shop. Shoppers should note that top end models ditch this repair savings for body-colored parts. Style is usually a low priority for most commercial shoppers and the PMC’s funky looks are unlikely to be a turn off. The wagon version may be a different matter.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-005

Interior

Speaking of wagons, the ProMaster City Wagon exists mainly as a “why not?” statement. You see, every PMC starts life as a passenger wagon built by TOFAS (a sort-of contract manufacturer) in Turkey. The completed vans are then shipped to Maryland for “conversion” where the “cargo” vans lose their rear seats and gain a load floor. This is essentially the same process Ford uses to bring the Transit Connect to our shores and avoid paying the dreaded “Chicken Tax.” Because the vans are imported with 5-seats, why not sell a few on the side? That’s the version I had for a week.

It is best to think of the wagon as a utilitarian people and cargo hauler for the avid mountain biking family than a replacement for the American minivan. The difference between the PMC and the Sedona, Sienna, Caravan and Odyssey is stark. You won’t find a third row, fold-int0-the-floor seats, squishy plastics, rear entertainment systems, snazzy audio systems or leather rear captains chars with ottomans. Instead we have a commercial grade Euro-funky interior cast in shades of black and grey. The hard plastic dash and doors will withstand years of abuse and are easy to clean, but not as nice to touch as what you find in Ford’s redesigned Transit Connect.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2

Most of the PMC’s dashboard is lifted directly from the Doblo except for a new steering wheel with audio controls on the back, a new shifter and a touchscreen infotainment system. The gauge cluster is easy to read but the trip computer is unintuitive. Similarly the door release handles also function as the door locks and the electric door lock controls. That took some getting used to. Storage pockets abound but the cupholder count of two is decidedly European.

The Ford is more comfortable as a people hauler because it has a dual mission. You see, the PMC doesn’t need to compete with the Sedona or Sienna, because that’s what Chrysler has the Caravan and Town & Country for. Want a minivan? Go to the Chrysler dealer. Want to haul your portable poodle washing system? Visit the RAM dealer. Ford on the other hand is using the Transit Connect to compete in both worlds, for better or worse.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area.CR2

Cargo Hauling

For commercial haulers and the “active families” manufacturers are courting, cargo capacity is king. This is area where the baby RAM starts to shine. With 131.7 cubic feet of widget-moving space in the rear this easily beats the Nissan NV200 and Chevy City Express and barely eeks out a win over the long wheelbase Transit Connect. The RAM also manages to haul longer items thanks to a slightly longer box swallowing 11-foot items from the windshield to the rear doors, 9-foot items from the dash to the doors (after removing the front passenger seat) and 7-foot items from the front seat backs to the rear doors. You’ll notice something missing, there’s no 8-foot measure, and that is the area where every vehicle in this segment let me down, you can’t put a 4×8 sheet of anything in these vans. If you want to haul plywood, you’ll need a Caravan for that once the RAM C/V dies next year.

Loading a widget that’s 4-feet by 4-feet by 5-feet long with a forklift is a cinch thanks to the bi-folding doors, something that the larger C/V has lacked for a while. Sadly you’ll find the payload, although class leading at 1,883 pounds, is not any higher in real terms than the Caravan. This leaves a huge payload gap between the ProMaster City and the 3,922 pound payload of the base model ProMaster. In an interesting twist, the PMC uses an independent rear suspension and coil springs while delivering a higher load capacity than the NV200’s more truck-like rear end.

2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2-001

Infotainment

Although uConnect 5.0 sounds like it would be a smaller version of uConnect 8.4 (the systems found in most Dodge and RAM models) it is actually an entirely different system. Based on a Microsoft O/S and not the UNIX-like QNX that runs the larger system, this software was almost entirely designed by Fiat. It started its life back in 2006 as Fiat’s Blue & Me system found in Europe but Fiat re-designed it to look like the larger uConnect system in 2013 and we’re starting to see it offered as Chrysler’s base infotainment unit. With available TomTom navigation, Bluetooth speaker phone integration and USB media / iDevice support, uConnect 5.0 is a perfectly serviceable head unit. It lacks the smartphone and voice command  functionality you find in the larger uConnect and upcoming revision of MyFord Touch, but it is snappy and easy to use.

Base PMC models skip the touchscreen infotainment system for a basic AM/FM unit with a USB port and four-speakers. Jumping up to the SLT trim adds the touchscreen as standard equipment and makes a 6-speaker package available. That limitation goes for the wagon model as well, in base form you get the speaker grilles but no speakers in the cargo area.

2015 Ram ProMaster City 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with 9-speed, Courtesy of Chrysler

Powertrain

Thankfully RAM chose not to raid Dodge’s compact sedan for the powertrain as Nissan did with the NV200, instead opting for the same 2.4L “Tigershark” engine found in the Chrysler 200. The four-cylinder mill produces 178 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of twist which easily outclasses the NV200 and compares well with the Ford 2.5L naturally aspirated and 1.6L turbo engines. Unfortunately this does not compare terribly well with the average American minivan like Chrysler’s own Town & Country at 283 horsepower. Admittedly the Town & Country is heavier, but the power to weight ratio is still better at the Chrysler dealer.

Helping make up for some of the power defect is a ZF-designed, Chrysler built, 9-speed automatic. (If you want to know more about the 9HP and why it behaves the way it does, check out ZF’s 9HP Transmission Puts Dog Clutches On the Leash.) The 9-speed auto gives the PMC the lowest starting ratio in the segment and the highest final drive making the bulbous RAM the fastest to 30 MPH and the most efficient at 75 MPH. The result is an EPA rating of 21/29/24 MPG (City / Highway / Combined). Should you live in state with higher speed limits the tall 9th gear is a serious advantage. I averaged an impressive 31 MPG on a 70-mile one-way trip with the A/C blowing, cruise control set to 76 MPH and 800 lbs of cement blocks in the rear. If however you commute is in the city, expect that number to drop to the teens.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel

Drive

When you compare the ProMaster City and the Grand Caravan, you’ll notice that the baby-RAM trades 850lbs of curb weight and 105 horsepower for 50% more gears in the transmission. The trade means higher fuel economy as I said, but notably slower acceleration with the RAM taking 9.55 seconds to buzz its way to 60 MPH. That’s Prius territory. Add a thousand pounds and any of these “class 1″ cargo vehicles will feel slow, but the turbocharger on Ford’s 1.6L engine helps it scoot to 60 nearly a second faster. The RAM still bests the 2.5L Ford engine and the Nissan and Chevy.

If you’re after exciting dynamics, you’re looking inside the wrong white box. The RAM has a better feel behind the wheel than the Ford, but raw grip is better over at the Blue Oval. The NV200’s leaf springs and wheezy 2.0L engine are the least exciting of the bunch, but the trade is truly the best city fuel economy. The better dynamics in the Transit Connect are not surprising since it is competing both in the cargo hauler and minivan segments. Is the RAM exciting? No. Is there steering feel? No. Can it out handle the Caravan in the left lane? No. But it can out handle a Prius on your mountain bagel delivery route.

2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View-001

And now we must address the glaring problem that hit me when I looked at the price tag. At $23,130 the Tradesman trim of the City is $1,735 more than the 2015 Grand Caravan AVP, aka the cheapest minivan in America. The Caravan isn’t the freshest minivan on the market, but the interior is still several steps above the ProMaster City. Dodge gives you a 283 horse V6 standard, it can swallow a 4×8 sheet of plywood, the factory payload is just 154lbs lower and it will tow 1,600lbs more. FCA does plan on fixing this, but the fix is killing off the AVP instead of lowering the ProMaster City’s price. This value problem is not unique to the RAM however as the Transit is also more expensive than the AVP. Admittedly suggesting the passenger version of the Caravan over the ProMaster City is “missing the point” a little, but the wagon variant we tested widens the gap to nearly $3,000. If your cash is on the line, my best advice is to skip both the ProMaster City and the Transit Connect and get a Caravan AVP while you can. As long as you don’t need the barn doors in the back or don’t mind a DIY conversion, the discount Dodge is the most compelling option.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.8 Seconds

0-60: 9.55 Seconds

Average economy: 24.3 MPG over 486 miles

 

2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Cargo Area 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 3 4 view 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 3 4 view-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front 2015 RAM ProMaster City Front-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Gauges 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-003 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-004 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-005 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-006 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-007 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior.CR2-008 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Interior-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear Doors 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear.CR2-002 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear 2015 RAM ProMaster City Rear-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View 2015 RAM ProMaster City Side View-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0.CR2-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0 2015 RAM ProMaster City uConnect 5.0-001 2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel.CR2 2015 RAM ProMaster City Wheel

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Review: 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-ram-promaster-cargo-van-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-ram-promaster-cargo-van-with-video/#comments Tue, 01 Oct 2013 16:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=524961 I have driven more cars than I can count this year but strangely enough, none of them excited me as much as the Fiat Ducato we had in July. Why? Well, my snazzy new retaining wall that arrived pallet-by-pallet in the Ducato certainly helped, but the real reason is: the Ducato serves as the basis for […]

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2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I have driven more cars than I can count this year but strangely enough, none of them excited me as much as the Fiat Ducato we had in July. Why? Well, my snazzy new retaining wall that arrived pallet-by-pallet in the Ducato certainly helped, but the real reason is: the Ducato serves as the basis for the 2014 RAM ProMaster. Yes, I know I have an odd place in my heart for commercial cargo haulers, but hear me out. The ProMaster quite simply the biggest thing to happen in the commercial world in my lifetime. The only thing that could have surpassed the intrigue of a front-wheel-drive cargo hauler would be a front-wheel-drive BMW M5. I know Europeans have had these things for a while, but let’s revel in the American novelty as we click past the jump.

Click here to view the embedded video.

First things first. The ProMaster isn’t a Ducato with a RAM stuck on the front. Instead, Fiat and Chrysler decided to do their most interesting joint venture project thus far: refresh/re-design the Ducato with the North American market in mind. Why bother? Because major changes needed to be made to meet US legislation so the team took the opportunity to tweak just about everything. If you’re a Ducato fan, keep reading because I suspect that many of the American market changes will trickle back to the EU over time.

Exterior

With cargo haulers, it’s important that form follow function. The “box-on-wheels” is eminently practical. Because of this not much has changed externally from the Euro version and shoppers still have three body choices: a cargo van with or without windows, a chassis cab or a cutaway. Up front we still have the utilitarian dark grey bumper covers in a three-piece arrangement. The logic is that if you’re in a minor scuff-up, you can replace just the portion of the bumper you need to instead of the whole thing. Since they are all the same color regardless of the color of the van, parts costs are kept low and you can afford to have one or two in inventory.

Breaking from American tradition, the rear bumper is thin and shallow. While this makes me wonder what kind of body damage happens when the van gets hit in the rear, it makes forklift loading easier and keeps the van’s dimensions down. When it comes to dimensions, the ProMaster breaks from the mold. Rather than having an identical bodies in 1500, 2500 and 3500 versions, RAM’s “levels” dictate  which of the four bodies, three wheelbases and two roof heights you get. The 1500 is the only version available with a low roof in two different lengths. The 2500 and 3500 are high roof only and all that really changes is the wheelbase and body length. The shortest ProMaster is 29 inches shorter (body length) than a GM standard van while the longest is 26 inches longer than GM’s largest van. Regardless of body, you get 16-inch wheels wrapped in 225/75R16 rubber. The small tires and wheels are a result of the Euro roots and the contrast between the small wheels and enormous body make the ProMaster look a little like a pregnant roller skate.

2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Cargo Hauling

The slab sides mean we get a large square rear opening almost as large as the van’s cross-section. This is significant change from GM and Ford’s existing vans where the rear portal is notably smaller than the cargo area. At 62 inches wide and 60 inches tall, the rear opening in the low-roof ProMaster is 5-inches wider and 13-inches taller than a GM/Ford van. Similar to Mercedes’ Sprinter, the ProMaster’s side doors swing 260 degrees and latch nearly parallel to the side of the van. The ProMaster’s sliding door rolls on an external stainless track for easy maintenance and thanks to the 49-inch wide, 60-inch tall (low roof) opening it reveals, you can insert one pallet in the side and one in the rear, something you can’t do in an E-Series or Savana. You can add a driver’s side sliding door for a reasonable $575 or $650 with glass, but if you prefer the side “barn doors” in your cargo hauler, look elsewhere. The RAM is sliding only.

Once you get beyond the unorthodox looks, you begin to realize how enormous the ProMaster is. At 283 cubic feet, smallest ProMaster (1500 short wheelbase) swallows one cubic foot less than GM’s biggest factory van. Need more? RAM’s positively ginormous ProMaster 3500 will haul 530 cubes, nearly twice the capacity of GM and Ford’s largest factory option. In fact when you look at the numbers, the ProMaster 3500 extended body extended wheelbase will schlep more than the average 12-foot box truck and nearly as much as the elusive 14-foot box truck.

A unique offering (so far) in the ProMaster is the factory installation of a steel bulkhead between the cargo and passenger compartment. GM and Ford offer a few dealer installed options but the total cost is higher than the ProMaster’s reasonable $495 for the partition with a window (about a hundred bucks less if you don’t want to look behind you.) Adding the partition not only improves safety but because of the factory fit and seal, it reduces cabin noise and improves air-conditioning performance. (An important consideration when you operate a black fleet in Phoenix.) 2014 Ram ProMaster 3.6 liter chassis with Pentastar V-6

Construction & Payload

Cargo volume without payload capacity is useless, and this is where the ProMaster’s Euro roots become obvious. The RAM doesn’t follow the American convention when it comes to payload scales. Not only can the 1500 haul as many widgets as an extended Ford or GM van, the payload capacity is just 111 lower than GM’s sturdiest cargo hauler and a full ton more than a Ford or GM 1500 series van. Scaling up to the 3500, payload increases to 5,290lbs. That is nearly 900lbs more than the highest payload Ford or GM. As a result it is more realistic to compare the base ProMaster to the GM 2500 series extended vans in terms of capability. Logically the ProMaster is also priced in this fashion starting about the same as that 2500 extended van.

How can a front wheel drive unibody cargo van haul that much stuff? Easy. It’s not really a unibody. Unibody haters can put down their pitchforks, the ProMaster is a hybrid, which explains how they can slice those enormous doors into the side of the van without it collapsing like a house of cards. Essentially bonded to the vehicle’s floor, is a heavy-duty rail system that stretches from bumper to bumper. For the US market this frame has been beefed up for higher payloads and rougher roads. You can see the FWD benefit in the picture above: by using a FWD drivetrain, the load floor doesn’t have to sit on-top of the transmission, driveshaft or differential allowing it to hug the ground. At 21 inches the ProMaster’s load floor is 7-inches lower than the closest competitor and even the forthcoming Ford T-Series won’t improve on this much because of the RWD layout.

2014 RAM ProMaster Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

American cargo vans have never been known for modernity, creature comforts or leg room. The ProMaster, like the Nissan NV breaks the mold but the two vans do it in different ways. The Nissan puts the engine under a long hood while the ProMaster’s mill is transverse mounted freeing up leg room. The difference is night and day and my right leg remained un-cooked even after a 2 hour drive.  The first thing you’ll notice about the interior is how utilitarian it is. Easy to clean plastics span the interior (read: hard plastic), there’s a clip board integrated into the dash and instead of carpet you get a hard plastic floor with some textured grips. The second thing you’ll notice is how high off the ground you are. The passenger floor is 6-7 inches higher than the cargo load floor because everything that the ProMaster needs to move is located in front of or beneath the passenger compartment. This has two benefits, it allows the load floor to be lower to the ground and it also makes chassis cab and cut-away up-fitting easier. There are two access panels in the floor, one allows access to the battery (it’s the large one you can see in the picture above) and the other allows access to the fuel sending unit. Anyone who has a fleet of GM vans will tell you that replacing a fuel pump is a royal pain because you have to drain and drop the tank to get to it. In the ProMaster you just pop the cover off and have at it.

Chrysler decided to upgrade the headrests to a car-like fabric design instead of the rubbery Euro versions but the rest of the seat design is the same. This means we have a spring-loaded driver’s seat that adjusts for height, tilt, recline and fore/aft. Sadly the steering wheel is not as adjustable as it telescopes but does not tilt. In an interesting twist, the three-across seating option has made it across the pond for a very reasonable $225. This isn’t a bench seat, it’s a two-person seat that replaces the single passenger seat so the driver retains the more comfortable throne. While I think the Nissan NV’s thickly padded seats are the most comfortable commercial seats ever designed, the ProMaster takes an easy second place. If you want a splash of luxury, you can heat the seats for $170 a pop, adjustable lumbar support for $50, and a leather wrapped tiller for $145. If you hate your employees, vinyl seats can be had for $100.

 

2014 RAM ProMaster Interior, uConnect 5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

In Europe the Ducato doesn’t get much techno-love, but we Americans are a different lot so we get Chrysler’s 5-inch uConnect system as an option. While not radical by itself, the fact that there is the option of a well-integrated touchscreen navigation and entertainment system available in a commercial cargo van is practically earth shattering. The closest this segment comes is the Nissan NV which can be had with the Nissan Versa’s “Low Cost Navigation System” for $795, but only on certain models. The ProMaster on the other hand is very “ala carte” allowing you to add just the $395 touchscreen system with a CD player, XM radio, iPod/USB integration and voice commands, or option all the way up to the navigation software for an additional $395.

The 5-inch uConnect system is the result of the Fiat/Chrysler/Microsoft relationship and while the software looks like the larger uConnect 8.4 system, it’s entirely different under the hood. Sadly the system isn’t as responsive ad uConnect 6.5 or 8.4 but it gets the job done better than most systems. Voice commands are logical and the system had no troubles with my music library commands. Sound quality was nothing to write home about, it is a commercial vehicle after all, but it won’t bring you to tears either. In preparation for any impending legislation, the ProMaster can be equipped with a backup cam for $230 and parking sensors for $250.

 

 

 

2014 Ram ProMaster 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6

Drivetrain

The looks, front wheel drive layout and hybrid unibody aren’t the only things that set this van apart. The engines ans transmissions are unique to cargo vans as well. First off, there is no V8. Things start out with Chrysler’s 3.6L V6 engine in every body style. Yes, even that enormous 3500 with 5,291lb in the back and a 5,100lb trailer attached. Sending the 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque to the ground is a Chrysler 68TE six-speed automatic transaxle. This compact slushbox is the same transmission found in the Chrysler minivans except they swap in a much lower final gear ratio for ProMaster duty along with seriously upgraded cooling hardware.

For $4,000 you can toss in an Iveco/Fiat 3.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel. Before you laugh, this is the same engine found in certain medium duty Mitsubishi Fuso trucks, so it’s a solid heavy-duty contender. The oil burner cranks out 180 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, about the same amount of torque you get from GM’s 4.8L V8. This engine is mated to Fiat’s M40 transmission which is a 6-speed robotized manual transmission. Chrysler tell us that they have heavily revised the shift logic and control systems for the American market and as a result this will be a late availability option hitting around January of 2014. If you recall my review of the Ducato, my biggest complaint about the diesel drivetrain was the time it took to complete a 1-2 shift. Chrysler promises this has been corrected and they have also altered the torque pattern for American tastes.

The diesel has a few advantages over the gasoline V6. Oil change intervals stretch out to 18,000 miles, low-end torque is improved, first gear is lower (19:1 including final drive) to help you get off the line with heavy loads and the fuel economy is excellent (based on our Ducato experiences). Oddly enough, that M40 transmission is also a selling point. Because it doesn’t have a torque converter the fluid change intervals are lengthy and the cooling demands are reduced. Fiat tells us the single plate clutch kit for the Ducato is about $150 in Europe and I expect the parts to be about the same price on our shores. How easy is it to replace? That’s the wild card as I haven’t seen a repair manual yet.

2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Thanks to the new low final drive, the RAM is surprisingly quick off the line. The V6 model we tested scooted to 6o in 9.05 seconds, notably faster than the diesel Ducato we tested before. We didn’t get the opportunity to load the ProMaster as fully as the Ducato, but I expect the diesel to be the better hauler when full thanks to the better torque numbers.

Although not normally a consideration with a cargo van, the ProMaster delivers the most civilized ride in this segment. It’s also the easiest to parallel park thanks to an incredibly small 36.3-foot turning diameter in the short wheelbase model, smaller than many mid-size sedans. Even the long wheelbase, long body ProMaster 3500 impresses at 46.8. I know that sounds enormous, but in perspective, a long wheelbase Express needs a whopping 54.6 feet to do the same while carrying 50% less stuff. That’s the difference between accomplishing a U-turn or being the dude blocking all lanes of traffic while sea-sawing a multi-point turn.

Chrysler spent a decent amount of time lauding the Brembo front brakes which they claim gives the ProMaster the best fade resistance in the segment. Admittedly that’s a low bar to jump, but our informal tests around Malibu seemed to bear the claim out. One thing to note however is that with only 225 width rubber making contact with the ground, stopping times are no better than the competition.

2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-008

Will the ProMaster be a success? I think it’s too early to tell. Fleet buyers are notoriously loyal to specific models because they have so much invested in uniformity. This alone accounts for the Ford E-Series sales leadership, despite being the thirstiest, oldest, and least desirable cargo van going. The largest unknown in the mix is: how reliable will the ProMaster be? Durability and total cost of ownership are extremely important in this segment and that’s an open-ended question. How will the 62TE stand up to a GVWR of 10,000lbs? Will it be as good as GM’s new 6L80 transmission they are finally putting in their vans? Rebuilt units are comparable in pricing so it will all come down to longevity. Chrysler is putting their 5 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty on the ProMaster to help entice shoppers. The combination of that small diesel and a long powertrain warranty to calm customer nerves could make a difference. However, if you option the ProMaster up with the diesel and a few options and you’re in Mercedes Sprinter territory and that is a dangerous place to be with the new Sprinter’s 7-speed auto and smooth diesel engine. Chrysler fights back with lower cost of service and ownership claims and a longer warranty.

The ProMaster is a compelling alternative to the Ford and GM 3/4 ton and 1 ton vans. delivering higher payloads and greater cargo capacity with low load floors, a more maneuverable chassis, a small diesel and excellent fuel economy. However, GM’s aggressive pricing and insane fleet purchase rebate program mean the less capable Chevy Express 1500 will likely be $2,000 (or more) cheaper than the least expensive ProMaster. Will the ProMaster’s ergonomic selling points and Euro charm win over commercial America? Or will the forthcoming rear-wheel-drive Ford T-Series (American Transit) win America’s hearts with its 5-cylinder diesel and twin-turbo V6? Stay Tuned.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle for our testing at a launch event in Southern California. The flight and meals were on Chrysler.

2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-002 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-003 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-004 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-005 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-008 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-009 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-012 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-013 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-014 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-015 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-016 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-017 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-018 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-020 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-021 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-032 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-033 2014 RAM ProMaster Exterior-041 2014 RAM ProMaster Gauges 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior-001 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior-002 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior-004 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior, uConnect 5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior-006 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior-007 2014 RAM ProMaster Interior-008

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Rent, Lease, Sell, Or Keep: 2000 Chevy Silverado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/rent-lease-sell-or-keep-2000-chevy-silverado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/rent-lease-sell-or-keep-2000-chevy-silverado/#comments Wed, 03 Oct 2012 17:21:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462608 I stole it. At least in the purely metaphorical sense. This 2000 model Silverado went through the last of a sparsely attended sale in Acworth, Georgia. For $1350 plus the $95 auction fee it was all mine. The body was banged up a bit on the left hand side as you can see, which helped […]

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I stole it.

At least in the purely metaphorical sense. This 2000 model Silverado went through the last of a sparsely attended sale in Acworth, Georgia. For $1350 plus the $95 auction fee it was all mine.

The body was banged up a bit on the left hand side as you can see, which helped in the acquisition price quite a bit. I called a few automotive recycling centers and the best bed and drivers side fender I could find with the same fender would cost $700. Since the truck had 187k and the regular cab, I thought to myself,

“Well, maybe I could just take it the way I got it?”

The question now became… “Which road would lead to that pot of gold?”

Rent: I see these UHaul and Home Depot trucks all over the place and on the surface, I found it a bit hard to figure it all out. Home Depot seems to primarily use their trucks so folks can pickup appliances and scoot them back in record time. That may work. Given that they use heavily modified F250 diesels for the job I could see their fleet working for a long time.

But the UHaul deals seemed to be one of those death by a thousand cuts arrangements. $19.95 for two hours… then $63.00 for each additional hour. Or you could have it for $84.95 a day and 29 cents for each additional mile beyond 100 miles.

There certainly seems to be a healthy profit in this type of arrangement. But here in North Georgia everybody has a father, cousin or former roommate who has a pickup truck. I definitely wouldn’t be renting it out every day, that’s for sure. Still, I could see renting out a truck that is already a bit beat up cosmetically for $50 a day flat for the metro-Atlanta area. Throw in a utility trailer for $50 a day and the profit would potentially spring eternal.

Lease: If you look real close around those rear wheels you will also find something else unique about this truck.

Just one look at the rear axle told me that this vehicle shares the same rear end as a Z71 that is equipped with the towing package. Throw in a solid towing package and dual exhausts, and I have a truck that can now haul around 8000 pounds. If I lease it, I will likely be looking at $500 down and $55 a week.

Chances are I will also have two types of customers for the Silverado.

The first is someone who needs it as an everyday work truck. Contractors. Owners of small construction and tree cutting businesses. These buyers will use the truck for the reasons God rightfully ordained the pickup as the all-American road machine. Utility.

The second type of customer will be someone who needs to haul a horse trailer during the weekend, or some other type of trailer that requires a bit more towing capability than the typical midsized SUV.  There are still plenty of farms in the county and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an older fellow on a fixed income picking it up for that intended purpose.

Either way, it’s not going to the poser crowd or the country Yuppie. It’s too damn ugly with all those dents.

Sell: The cornucopia of the quick buck. The Silverado would probably have a $2995 asking price and a final selling price between $2300 and $2500.

The funny thing is there are already a pretty big glut of old pickup trucks in my neck of the woods. Title pawns (they loan money in exchange for a lien on the vehicle) end up repossessing quite a few of them. City and county governments. Larger construction outfits. Heck, even the voluminous trade-in volume of every day retailing contributes heavily towards the supply.

One other thing that helps is that tastes are changing. Folks are forgoing the regular cabs for trucks that will seat a full family for extended cabs and crew cabs. $4 gas? Doesn’t matter. If the general public wants to have a truck that can be used for all practicalities and possibilities, you damn well bet that an automaker will make it. $20,000 small pickup ‘tools’ already have a smaller market than the $40,000 truck with a cab and a long bed. They also have far smaller profit. Guess what trend will continue to take hold?

Keep: I went to a tool rental auction this past Saturday and could have bought a nice utility trailer for about $550. So for about $2000 I could have hauled a massive amount of goods whenever the mood or need struck.

But I am not into having stuff, at all. As an avid auction traveler in my late 20’s, I got the sense that a lot of people out there buy simply for the sake of buying. They have a barn. They fill it. They have a shed. They fill that too.

I like not having stuff. Except cars… and maybe a truck.

So I guess the question now is, “Should I rent, lease, sell or keep?”

What says you?

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The Neighbour’s Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/the-neighbours-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/the-neighbours-truck/#comments Wed, 18 Jul 2012 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453150 Eric’s a pretty decent bloke. A retired teacher and UK import, he’s been living on our little block since 1968. Always quick with a wave or a clap on the back, he and his wife were first at our door to welcome us into the neighbourhood, gift-basket in hand. Since then, he’s been the consummate […]

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Eric’s a pretty decent bloke. A retired teacher and UK import, he’s been living on our little block since 1968. Always quick with a wave or a clap on the back, he and his wife were first at our door to welcome us into the neighbourhood, gift-basket in hand. Since then, he’s been the consummate gentleman, nodding attentively when I’m describing my plans for the place, never intrusive, respecting our privacy but always politely interested in how we’re doing. The perfect neighbour: Fred Rogers could take lessons.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t care if he was a semi-reformed axe-murderer with a peacock-sanctuary in the backyard and a penchant for three a.m. amateur bagpipe practice – he’s got a pickup truck.

Greater love hath no man than this; that he lendeth his pickup truck unto me. Yea, may his days be filled with the light of grace, just as I have surely filled the bed with this old couch, and some lawn trimmings, and these two dead cedars, and assorted.

As many of you know all too well, home-ownership is a never-ending stream of minor improvement schemes, referred to as “projects”, or the “honey-do list”, or, in my case, “Oh What The Hell’s Broken Now?”

However, a fumble-fingered DIYist such as myself has little need for full-time pickup truck ownership. Much will fit in the capacious boosted-lego-wagon, and really, anything too big for a Subaru wagon shouldn’t really be attempted by Yours Clumsy. At least, not without help.

Once in a while though, I find myself faced with a heap of debris that can’t be simply flung over the back railing carefully placed into our well-managed compost heap. And, at the same time, there are those slightly more ambitious projects that require materiel too ungainly to strap to the roof of a compact car.

In such times as these, I have but to wander next door and find out when Eric doesn’t have a golf game to go to. He’s only to happy to hand over the keys and, for a few hours, suddenly I’m possessed of an honest-to-goodness truck.

When I’m driving my car, I’m usually race-prepped: seat bolt upright, elbows at my sides, looking through the corner, eyes always shifting, rev-matching on the downshift and generally pretending I look like a rally car driver and not an enormous toolbag. Climbing into Eric’s truck has an entirely opposite effect.

There’s no cool to be had here: the damn thing’s full of bears! The bench seats are spongy and redline’s at 4 grand. The interior is an unrelenting sea of greyish plastic with panel gaps you could lose a schnauzer in, and the air-conditioning ran away to join the circus about four years ago. Stick the column-shifter in D and off we toddle, windows down and crackly tunes coming through the feeble stereo.

Avian editorializing aside, this thing is great: such an honest, unpretentious machine. It’s Sheriff Andy Griffith in two-tone teal-on-grey. Just ease back in the seat, stick your arm out the window and try to stay out of the way. I wonder why all these folks are in such a hurry. Must be something real important.

Me? Well, I’ll get there when I get there. We’re moving fast enough to have a little breeze going on this hot July afternoon, and the dump’s just down the road a-ways. Just watch out for those who want to dive in front – these brakes aren’t exactly about to stand the Chev’ on her nose – and keep on truckin’.

Yard clippings get shovelled off into the green-waste pile and that old couch (a bit of a college relic) gets bunged into the general refuse pile. A few other folks are unloading trucks or utility trailers while big, steel-spiked front-end loaders wait impassively to crush and compact everything up for transport to some far-off land-fill. No time to muse on the unsightly byproducts of consumerism – off to the hardware store.

As you’d expect, the Silverado’s got the turning circle of a bulk cargo freighter, but leave it a little further out in the parking lot and you won’t have a problem. Home Depot’s the usual Sunday-afternoon zoo, but we’re in-and-out in about ten minutes (pretty well a record) with 8-foot sheets of corrugated roofing secured for the upper balcony.

Back in the saddle and homeward, with a brief stop to put a few bucks in the tank as is only common courtesy. My father and I have been at this project since early this morning, so we’re both comfortably dirty, and I can feel a bit of that coming tiredness that leads to a genuine, untroubled sleep.

I’m no working man, and this isn’t my truck, but as I grasp the wheel with callus-free hands, it’s like feeling the well-worn handle of a spade, or some other blunt-purposed tool. Somewhere, far off in my genes, stir the shades of men who once laboured in the Irish bog, slicing turf with quick, curt cuts.

Tonight, I’ll dine well, out in the backyard where I can see the fruits of the day’s labour. I’ll have hung my hammer back up in the shed, stacked the leftover lumber neatly against the wall, gathered up wayward nails into an old plastic peanut-butter container.

And, with a hand-shake and a murmured word of thanks, the keys to Eric’s pickup will be handed back and once more hang upon their peg. Until the next time.

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