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RAM ProMaster

The RAM ProMaster is the newest, full-size van from FCA, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The RAM ProMaster is essentially a Fiat Ducato. That is actually good news. While the full-size ProMaster was introduced by Chrysler Group in 2013, it is definitely not a new vehicle. Caveat Emptor on the first year of any new vehicle.

Since 1981, more than 2.6 million Fiat Ducato variants have been made.

The ProMaster is offered in three different wheelbases (118-inch, 136-inch, 159-inch) and four different overall body lengths (195-inch, 213-inch, 236-inch, and 250-inch). The ProMaster comes in two overall heights (90-inch, 101-inch). It also comes in 1500, 2500 and 3500 GVWR capabilities. The ProMaster is available as a cargo van, window van, chassis cab, and cutaway.

 

3.6L Pentastar V6

The biggest difference between the North American RAM ProMaster and the European Fiat Ducato is the gasoline engine. The European versions all use some version of a turbo diesel. For the American launch, the 3.6L Pentastar V6 is standard. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 is also the base engine for the Dodge Charger Pursuit and Dodge Durango SSV. In the ProMaster, the engine is rated at 280 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque.

The Iveco 3.0L EcoDiesel I4 is an option. It is rated at 174 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The 3.0L EcoDiesel I4 (4-cylinder) in the RAM ProMaster is an entirely different engine than the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 (6-cylinder) in the RAM 1500 pickup.

 

Cargo Capable

The vertical interior height on the High Roof is 76 inches. That is enough for a 6-foot, 4-inch officer to stand upright. The ProMaster has

the widest width between the wheel wells of any Euro-van. The 49-inch side door accepts a standard 48-inch pallet. The ProMaster has up to 460 cu ft of cargo space.

The ProMaster sold in North America uses a Front Wheel Drive layout. The FWD layout allows a very low cargo floor to ground step-in height of 21 inches compared to 27.6 inches to 28.9 inches. This low cargo floor also allows a lower center of gravity for better stability while driving and cornering. The 60-inch rear doors have an opening of 260 degrees and almost fold flat with 90-degree and 180-degree detents.

The ProMaster has truly vertical interior walls. That makes for the most useful cargo area. It also makes for the easiest, most practical upfit for special use. Importantly, the ProMaster has an optional driver’s side sliding door. This door is available with or without a glass window.

The ProMaster can haul a payload up to 4430 pounds. Both 3.0L I4 and 3.6L V6 engines are rated to tow up to 5100 pounds. The ProMaster 1500, 2500 and 3500 is available with a Trailer Tow package. This includes a 7-pin and 4-pin wiring harness and a very serious Class V hitch. The 1500 Low Roof and High Roof have an 8500 pound GVWR. The 2500 High Roof is rated at 8900 pounds. The GVWR on the 3500 High Roof is 9350 pounds.

 

Driving Impression

Our test vehicle was a ProMaster 3500 High Roof with the 3.6L V6 and 159-inch wheelbase. We put 1,000 miles on the ProMaster during a period of two weeks. With the exception of a few three-hour trips, all the miles were put on in 10-mile and 60-mile roundtrips. The mostly empty ProMaster got around 13.4 mpg in urban driving and 16.7 mpg in rural driving. Overall, we averaged 14.9 mpg.

The ProMaster 3500 High Roof hit 60 mph in 9.5 seconds, but it felt more responsive than that, including initial wheelspin to say that it was really trying. It has a top speed of 98 mph (observed).

As for drivability, the ProMaster V6 has awesome 1

st

-2

nd

and 2

nd

-3

rd

shifts. It had an excellent launch from a full stop and every gear pulled hard. The 6-speed trans was perfectly matched to the 3.6L V6. The 3.6L V6 is mated to a Chrysler 62TE 6-speed while the 3.0L I4 is teamed with the M40 6-speed automated manual trans.

 

Serious Strengths

The ProMaster has a number of strengths that more than offset the funky Euro ergonomics. Fleet managers are strongly urged to look beyond the first impression. First, the ride and handling was just outstanding. No sensation of top heavy during driving whatsoever. In rural and interstate driving, the ProMaster was not buffeted by semi-trucks and did not feel wind-sensitive at all. The ProMaster has electronic stability control, of course. However, it also has electronic roll mitigation. This may be the most confidence-inspiring full-size van on the market.

The rack & pinion steering was both natural and neutral. The turns lock-to-lock and the rate of turning response both felt exactly right. The initial turn-in was excellent, and confident-inspiring. It tracks well going down the road. With comparable wheelbases, the RAM ProMaster 2500 has a turning circle much tighter than the Freightliner Sprinter and comparable to the Ford Transit 250.

Some full-size vans have a lot of up and down bobbing, body roll, and wheel jounce that goes on and on. The ProMaster had excellent handling, zero bobbing, and minimal body roll. The ride was very comfortable and quiet with zero wind and mirror noise.

The seats were very comfortable with excellent, supportive back and cushion bolsters. The ProMaster has a gray interior but is available in eight different exterior colors. It has a wide variety of cloth and vinyl seat options. The foot well was comfortable for any foot position and the dead pedal very helpful. The retractable mirrors have a wide and tall mirror mounted over a large parabolic mirror for excellent visibility.

 

All the Right Options

The RAM ProMaster is available with the kind of options you expect from a mature, 3rd Gen work van. One is the rear HVAC prep package. Another is the 220-amp alternator, which is an upgrade from the standard 180 amps. The ProMaster is also available with FCA’s Uconnect hot spot. This may be less important in a patrol vehicle, but almost a requirement in this kind of special service vehicle. The Park Sense ultrasonic rear sensors are a must-have option and so is the Park View rear backup camera.

We have driven them all. The ProMaster has the best handling, has the most traditional steering feel, and is the least wind-sensitive. It has best ride comfort of all the Euro-style vans and plenty of cargo flexibility. The ProMaster V6 has excellent powertrain response and competitive fuel economy. Perhaps most of all, with the Vincentric rating as the 2014 Best Fleet Value in America, the ProMaster is worth a serious look.

 

ProMaster SWAT

The La Crosse, Wisc. Police were one of the first departments to use the ProMaster van as a tactical vehicle.  Their 2015 RAM 3500 was upfitted with both grab bars and grab handles, rear HVAC, bench seats with lockable storage, red/white interior lights, and a sliding front partition with walk-thru door.

La Crosse PD used the ProMaster to replace its 1984 Emergency Response Team’s Tactical Response Vehicle. The passenger-side sliding door and two rear cargo doors of the ProMaster provide ample space to load the ERT team and equipment although Midway also advises end users to consider the option of a driver’s side sliding door for tactical-oriented vehicles.  Although giving up three seat positions against the wall, you gain the ability to exit either side of the vehicle.  Tactical units do not always have a choice in direction of approach for deployment.

Up to 14 tactical operators, as well as their equipment, will fit in the rear cargo area. To aid in transport of the tactical operators, there are two bench seats that run the entire length of the rear cargo area. With the seats flipped up, there is access to locking storage space. There is a full-length hand rail mounted to the ceiling to provide stability when standing during transports. 

During deployment, tactical operators are seated in order of the entry line stack. Upon arriving at the target location, the team simply exits through the passenger-side sliding door in order of the deployment stack. The step-out is short, and the full width and height of the door prevents injury.  Additional upfitted equipment, such as a computer, raised monitor, and white board, allow the department to use the ProMaster as an incident command post. 






Published in Law and Order, Jul 2016

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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