Expanding its commercial offerings, Ram truck introduced its 2014 ProMaster full-size commercial van at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show today. Based off Fiat's Ducato van that's been sold abroad for more than 30 years, the new-for-U.S. ProMaster will directly compete with the coming Ford Transit, the existing Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the new Nissan NV and the ubiquitous Ford Econoline van.
Both Ford and Ram are focusing on the full-size van segment, identifying a clear need for a more versatile commercial vehicle to serve the small- and midsize business community that hasn't had many choices in the past. With fuel prices climbing and cost of ownership becoming more critical for a company's economic survival, the timing could be perfect for the right-sized multidimensional solution.
This all-new ProMaster chassis is specifically designed to carry cargo as its first priority, so the heavily reinforced (in some cases with eight integrated cross-members) unibody chassis will have a low load floor to make loading easy. Additionally, the van will only be offered in front-wheel drive, so the absence of a rear differential and driveshaft allows for a flatter and more versatile (than a truck, anyway) platform.
Adding to its versatility, the ProMaster will have two different roof heights of 90 and 101 inches, a standard sliding door on the passenger side with an optional sliding side door on the driver's side. It will offer three wheelbase choices at 118, 136 and 159 inches, four different body lengths and three conventional gross vehicle weight name identifiers (1500, 2500 and 3500). To further allow the ProMaster to be customized, 3500 ProMaster vans can be ordered in Cargo Van, Chassis Cab and Chassis Cab Cutaway versions to service both the bus and recreational vehicle sectors.
The chassis construction of the ProMaster van is a type of mixed technology, offering a maximum payload and towing capacity calculated to be more than 5,000 pounds for both. ProMasters will offer five separate, unique suspension levels that will provide a wide range of capabilities, but all will use front double-A-arm coil springs while the rear suspension incorporates a conventional beam axle and leaf-spring setup. Additionally, the rear doors are designed to open almost to 260 degrees, the largest opening in the segment, Ram says. Even the roof is strengthened for carrying loads with a rating of up to 400 pounds.
For a more detailed list and explanation of capabilities, click here.
The new ProMaster will use two engines, one familiar and one new. The standard engine on most models will be the all-aluminum overhead cam gasoline 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, rated to make 280 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque. This engine will always get the 62TE six-speed automatic transmission with ring-and-pinion choices of to be 3.16:1 on half-tons, 3.43:1 on three-quarter-tons, and 3.86:1 on one-tons. The new engine for the Ram truck family will be the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel four-cylinder brought over from Europe and specifically tuned for the ProMaster work-duty cycles. Rated at 174 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque (at 1,400 rpm), the EcoDiesel will be mated to an all-new M40 manu-matic gearbox that can be operated as a manual or automatic transmission. No word as to whether this engine and/or transmission is in line for use in a Ram 1500, or for use in any future hybrid powertrains, but we wouldn't be surprised to see either happen.
For more details on the ProMaster powertrain, click here.
Regardless of whether you like the Euro styling of these types of vans, we appreciate the function-first feel of the look, clearly aimed at maximizing every inch of cargo area. Ram designers have built in some common cues in the grille and bumpers to bring the overall look into the Ram truck family, but we'll leave that final evaluation to others. Inside, many of the design choices are functional as well, making storage, entry and exit the highest priorities. Still, with a strong connection to Mopar, there are likely to be some customizing products offered to help interested businesses personalize their work vans.
For more information about the design details, click here.
Ram is promoting that there are more than 35 safety and security features on the new ProMaster, including everything from a new brake-throttle override system to height-adjustable seat belts to traction control systems and more. Additionally, the ProMaster comes with six standard airbags that include two seat-mounted side airbags to protect hip and rib damage. Other safety features include trailer-sway control, hill start assist and a new, relatively aggressive roll mitigation software program.
For more details about and a full list of safety features, click here.
To increase productivity, the ProMaster will offer the Bluetooth-enabled Uconnect system to make work life for commercial drivers safer and easier. Not only can the Uconnect system control 18 different voice-activated text-reply responses while driving, but the system can also include a 5-inch touch-screen that can be used for navigation or as a backup camera screen when so equipped.
For more details about the Uconnect system, click here.