Wake up, ladies and gentlemen, and listen to the happy news: we are in an automotive renaissance. The kind of renaissance that comes around but once every decade or two; the kind that’s accompanied by new designs and new powertrains and new features and new competition.
I am referring, of course, to the cargo van renaissance.
I’m not sure if you’ve realized it, but that’s exactly what’s going on around us: a renaissance of cargo vans. An explosion of new models, and new segments, and new powertrains, and new features, and new designs. When we look back years from now, we will all agree that the cargo van segment was forever changed by the years 2014 and 2015.
There are few traditions at TTAC as hallowed as that of the “low-quality point-and-shoot photo used as centerpiece of article”. The undisputed master of this genre, the Mapplethorpe of the grainy tree-growing-mysteriously-out-of-a-car’s-trunk-just-above-the-glowing-date-stamped-on-the-shot, was TrueDelta’s Michael “TrueDelta” Karesh, of TrueDelta. Some of his work was so bad it approached the status of art. If I had space on my walls at home, I’d enlarge and frame some of the shots, and give them names, like Silver Hump On Equally Silver Car, In Shadow. Then I would sell them to wealthy Russian immigrants and become rich enough to fund my long-awaited Lifetime autobiographical movie in which Colin Farrell would get fat just so he could play me in my forties.
So as you look at the Zaxxon-esque pixelation of the above photo, try to think of it less as “Jack doesn’t own an actual camera” and more like “Jack is honoring the spirits of all who have gone before under the red-and-white masthead”. Or something like that. And before you waste too much time trying to figure out what the photo actually shows, I’ll tell you: it’s the door hinge on a nearly new RAM ProMaster cargo van, and it is rusting.
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?
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.
Before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight. This is not, I repeat NOT a review of the 2014 RAM ProMaster cargo van. Instead I managed to get my hands on a Euro spec Fiat Ducato van for a few days. The Ducato is the basis for the ProMaster, but the ProMaster is more than just a Fiat with a RAM on it. Fiat’s Americanized cargo van might just be the biggest shakeup to the domestic commercial vehicle segment in our lifetime. Why? Front wheel drive, that’s why. Intrigued?
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.