Chicago Auto Show: 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes

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.

Alex L. Dykes
Alex L. Dykes

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  • Orobertscab Orobertscab on Feb 24, 2013

    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.

  • Van Man Van Man on Apr 05, 2013

    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.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.