Quick Drive: 2012 Ram C/V at Maximum Payload

Ram C-V front II

A few months ago we got the chance to road-test the new Ram Cargo Van from Chrysler. Basically, it's a stripped and modified minivan platform with some clever changes to make it a good fit for fleet buyers or small businesses looking to downsize from a full-size van.

Overall we like the little van and think it has a strong value quotient, but it would be a better option for many if another engine choice were available, maybe with a longer wheelbase, and it seems that many businesses like having a taller roof option.

Still, at a base price around $22,000 (ours with all the options was over $26,000), this cargo van offers plenty of value. In fact, the six-speed automatic transmission makes the V-6 a solid fuel-sipper. During our test drive in Southern California, we averaged just over 21 mpg on our combined route, which included some good elevation changes into the mountains. On a recent trip to Detroit, we got about 24 mpg. It makes sense we'd get better overall gas mileage in the Detroit area, which is much less hilly. (The posted speed limits on freeway and city streets are more reasonable, too.)

On this most recent trip, we also wanted to see how well the Cargo Van performs when loaded. If Ram is going to dip into the work-truck segment with a converted minivan, we wanted to find out if it can hold up to more traditional trucklike duty cycles.

Our first stop was at Home Depot, where, after checking the doorjamb label, we calculated we could carry about 1,600 pounds of payload. Our test unit weighed 4,250 pounds, and the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating is 6,050 pounds, leaving us with about 1,800 pounds of payload. Subtract about 200 pounds out for the driver, and that leaves us with 40 bags of rock salt to haul.

Ram CV load II

We evenly distributed the load across the van's bed area, putting most of the weight over the rear axle, just like you would want to do with a pickup truck.

Our driving route offered a good mix of city and highway driving. In the end, we covered over 300 miles at maximum payload and discovered quite a few interesting details.

To begin, this is not a truck. It won't drive like a truck empty, so there is no reason to believe it should drive like a truck when loaded. In fact, just as you'd expect with any car, the more load you carry, the less comfortable the vehicle feels.

We had to be very careful — moving and shifting the bags several times — about where the load was being carried and how evenly it was distributed from left to right and front to back. You can expect the steering to feel light or heavy or to pull right or left simply by how much weight you have over the rear or driver's side of the vehicle. It took us several stops to get the balance right for a good, neutral steering feel under load, and that meant putting a few bags of rock salt in the passenger seats with us up front and a few on the floor. We also had to make sure that not too much weight was behind the rear axle, and more bags than we expected needed to sit in the exact center of the wheelbase. This was where the van felt best: loaded in the middle, distributing weight evenly across all four wheels.

The Cargo Van’s ride quality at maximum payload was impressive, even over bad roads. At no time, except through a few nasty pot holes, did we feel ourselves getting into the bump stops. And even when we did, it was not punishing or jolting -- but quite progressive.

On the nitpicky side, it would have been nice to have manual access to the backup camera, maybe a dedicated switch. That way, we could get more rear visibility whenever we need it instead of only when the transmission is in Reverse. Many RVs have the backup camera on all the time to give drivers better visibility in traffic, and with all the windows blacked out in our test unit, manual access to the backup camera would have helped us feel a tad more comfortable.

We also would have liked a switch to let us adjust the headlights down a bit when driving at night; our heavy load did tend to make oncoming traffic think our brights were on. Finally, the tap-left tap-right dash-mounted transmission shifter is nice, but it would have been nicer to have a tow/haul button — in addition to the Econ button — to allow the transmission to hold and grab a gear a little longer and a little sooner.

Our city fuel economy with 1,600 pounds of payload (and a well-fed driver) was an impressive 21 mpg, and it is worth noting we weren't hustling the van around town or trying any hyper-miling tricks; that's a real-world number. On the highway, cruising comfortably between 65 mph and 70 mph, we averaged 24.7 mpg. That gave us a combined gas mileage of 22.9 mpg and a range of 450 miles at maximum payload. Not bad.

Overall, we like the strategy Ram is using: taking a pretty good platform, making a few changes to the springs and shocks, and turning it into a light-duty cargo hauler. But make no mistake — this is still 90 percent minivan, and it may require you to shift your "work truck" mind-set.

Still, there is a plush interior, good performance and efficiency from the engine, and decent ride quality from the chassis.  All of that is impressive for $22,000, plus you get more payload capacity than 95-percent of midsize pickups and a good many fullsize half-tons.

Whether the Ram C/V will get more popular will likely depend on whether Chrysler decides to offer more variations of the little van to compete better with the Ford Transit Connect, which remains the leader in the growing segment.

Ram CV empty II
The cargo area is huge, with more than 145 cubic feet of storage area. The floor is about 6.5 feet long and 4 feet wide. The floor width at the sliding doors is a full 5 feet. You won't be able to close the rear tailgate to carry 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood, but they will lay flat. The cage separator is a great idea, and we suggest opting for the three lockable floor storage doors if you have the choice. (They use the flip-and-fold and rear seat floor cutouts in the normal minivans). 

Ram C-V tire bulge II

We got some good squish out of our tires when fully loaded. These are at maximum load (36 pounds per square inch) and still have quite a bit of deflection left. When empty, the tires were quite good at gripping the road in the rain, but you should expect to hear some resonant "booming" from inside the big, hollow cargo area as the tires run over rough roads. 

Ram CV bags II

It took us a while to find the right balance of laod distribution with our 40 bags of rock salt. We initially put most of the weight over the rear axle, but that made the steering quite loose and floaty, so we loaded the front passenger seat with bags and brought the majority of the load to the center of the vehicle. Much better.

Ram CV rear springs II

The rear springs have been upgraded on the Ram Cargo Van. Even at full payload capacity (about 1,600 pounds), the rear springs are not on the bump stops. In fact, these bump stops are longer, stronger and more progressive than a normal minivan stop. We went over some pretty bad roads and never felt any jarring hits. 

Ram C-V rear II


Just my 2 cents, take it for what its worth....

The name of this website is "PICKUPTRUCKS.COM" and I think sticking to articles about pickup trucks would be a much better use of this website. This van, and the ford transit connect are NOT pickup trucks. Please keep this site true to its name. Classifiying a minivan as a type of pickup truck is a serious disgrace to all things truck guys stand for!

If you don't like it, you could always not read the article.

Personally, I like seeing Pickuptrucks.com cover other work trucks besides pickups. It's good to know what other options are out there and how they compare. Especially since their testing is usually very thorough and to the point.

There aren't too many other automotive journalists wiling to do well written reviews on work trucks. Most are more interested in reviewing the latest Supercar or Prius model.

My wife's 2009 Chrysler mini van came with Yokohamas and they're rated for 44 psi. I run them at 40-42 psi all the time because we haul a lot of people and gear on camping trips. I can't believe that van only has 36 psi tires. Sounds unsafe to me.

Yeah really. This could be the basis for a new smaller pickup truck in the future. If it can handle 1600 lbs and still perform decently well it outdoes every single mid sized pickup out there. At better mileage to boot! Chop off the back to give it an open bed and lift it up a bit and you have an inexpensive mid sized pickup useful for hauling. Probably not so good for off roading, but those looking for that already have good solutions in the frontier and tacoma.

I like the idea of testing vans as well,as vans are considered trucks (light trucks ect.)As alot of people who drive trucks own a small business or work needing a vehicle carrying cargo,yes I understand many just use them in lieu of a car !

I own a small business and have several trucks and vans.I was looking at these last week and bought 2 of them,the Ford is a no go I dont like the Euro style Turkish built Ford Transit.This Ram van is the perfect size ,great get up and go performance with the 3.6 V-6.I have 2- 2010 Econolines,3 2002-03 Dodge Ram full size 3500 vans.3 - Dodge Ram 2500's trucks 2006-09-11,1 GMC 3500 a 2005,2010 Ford F-150 (bought because was the cheapest half ton around)I am going to pick up 2 silver Ram C/V first thing in the morning,got a great price(shopped several dealers,mainly to get my silver color ended up getting the best pricing ect) had to wait a week to get them because they had no silver ones only white,all my trucks/vans are silver for my business.

Anywho,keep testing cargo vans equiptment that truckers use,Thank-You !

Was this van equipped with the load leveling suspension that's optional with the towing package in the pedestrian versions?

I remember seeing vans come into the dealership with some impressive loads and not sagging much, if at all....

Excellent, we need panel van in every model and these van's have lot more interior space than Pickups and they are more fuel efficient.

Even Chevy HHR had a panel version, unfortunately they closed HHR.

Great review. Very few other sites or mags care about getting a detailed review of a utility vehicle where they are not flown to the south of France or whereever. I'm glad to see coverage of the C/V and would be happy to see lots more like it.

"The test unit weighed 4250 pounds" Did you go to a scale? Just wondering whether that was curb weight with fuel, etc. That might have affected your calculations.

Glad to see a picture of the inside of the window fillers. Is the plastic similar to what you might find on a picnic cooler?

Ok, I am not understanding why they still have the cup holders in the back? Can someone explain this to me please?

No doubt this thing is cushy and has WAY more snap than the Transit Connect (that thing needs some major help in the powertrain dept). 1600lb isn't any/much more than what 6 passengers and their seats would weigh. The quick cargo conversion for RAM was a quick fix for an emerging market. You can get a base caravan for cheap, so naturally this is, too. Fiat has a proper midsize commercial van for the rest of the world, but AFAIK, it won't me coming here right away. The Larger and smaller Ducato and Doblo, are on their way. my biggest worry about the CV would be in longevity- things like door-slam cycles on a commecial truck are way different, and what good is a cushy front were just vehicles classified as "trucks". Keep your useless TirePressureMonitoring and back-up cameras. seat if the sliding doors quit working.
I'm not sure how you guys found the posted speed limits on our freeways to be "more reasonable". Its 70 almost everywhere, traffic rolls along at 70-80. You guys are definitely spot on about headlight leveling- that (or load-leveling) should be required for anything made to carry more than 2 people and a make-up case. Even if it ony applied to vehicles classifyed as "trucks". Or you could make it part of SAE towing and payload/GVW guidelines.
@Rugger- it would cost more to get rid of them. Besides- users might find them useful for small stuff.

I think stories on work vans has a place on this site. I use a truck, van, and sometimes a suv to do jobs.

If it is designed to work out of, I what to know more about it even if is a crappy chevy or turdyota.

I don't have a problem with van reviews. They fall under the broad definition of a truck. I'd draw the line at SUV's though.

I found the fact that they had to be meticulously careful with weight distribution a huge negative for this van. How many delivery drivers are going to be that careful? and how many are going to take the time to readjust the load between deliveries?

The MPG is decent and comparable to the MPG my wife and I got out of the Grand Caravan we used to own.

@Mr Knowitall: The tire pressure monitoring is useless? Think as you want. Same with the back up camara.

He did say "on the highway" Don't know where you live, but it's close to an INTERSTATE. I have to go over 75 miles to drive 70, well, legally. 65-70, that's HIGHWAY speed.

The passenger one weighs 4510 so it's 260 pounds more then this one. Even if you had over 100 pounds of luggage, that would AVERAGE over 200. Not the typical minivan load tho.

@Choo Choo: take the "the max amount of weight the payload and passengers" off the gross vehicle weight rating, as seen on the door jam, there's the vehicle weight

Only putting weight over the back axle didn't sound right because you need more traction therefore, downforce just to steer a heavy rearend that will try to keep going straight. FWD trucks give you strange dynamics even though they're common outside of the Americas.

@TRX4 Tom- I live in SE Michigan. The speed limits on freeways and Interstates here are 70mph almost everywhere. I was questioning how that makes it more reasonable, as part of better fuel economy. The CV and Grand Caravan have the same GVW, according to this site:
Tire pressure monitoring does nothing except to take away responsibility for maintaining one's vehicle. Most people have no clue what the symbol even means. It adds cost to the vehicle and to any wheel/tire sets the customer might want to use. Back-up camers will be required soon. They might be handy for hooking a trailer, but I just don't need it, nor do I want to pay for it.

This article further solidifies my belief that North American pickups are WAY under-rated.

This van--with its unibody, P tires, dinky suspension components, puny brakes, smaller axles, etc., has roughly 25% MORE payload capacity than most 1/2-ton Fiat pickups.

Mr Knowitall: Yeah, it's the same payload minus the 260 pounds of interior stuff.

You must've never gotten a flat while driving. I do realize some people get reliant on it, and never check the actual pressure. But then, My wifes Jeep which I checked pressures the week before, said low. Becuase it's not like my Ram and doesn't say exactly which one, I checked all. Sure enough, one down from 35 to 27. That was losing air fast, so picture yourself driving a few hours and think how much air you can lose in that time. sure, once it gets real low you will probably notice something feeling funny, but you might think, "is it the road?" Even if you just checked it, and drove just thirty minutes, if it lost air that fast, you would see it.

The spread between MPG in LA/SoCal and the Motor City is because the fuel in LA is a different blend. Its oxygenated, ethanoled to meet CARB requirements.

I was expecting some comments on the brakes once it was fully loaded. These vans (I've owned 2 of the 5th gen dodges) have notorious brake issues. They have everything from warping rotors, fully consumed pads by 20-30k miles, stuck calipers, and shot hub bearings.

All of this I feel is from inadequate braking for such a heavy vehicle. For the supposed "HD" CV version, I was hoping to see if this version received larger brakes or not.

In my opinion, the stock Chrysler rotors are junk, and the vans brake much better and the parts last much longer with a premium aftermarket rotor and a premium ceramic pad.

I'm guessing it didn't since the wheels seem to be similar to the SE trim vans.

@ DJD... thats a pretty ignorant opinion considering the financial times we are in. We are pretty far away from the times where it made financial sense to go out and by a fully loaded diesel HD to pull a couple jetskis or haul a couple bags of potting soil for gardening chores around the house. There is a huge market for small businesses concerned about margins and overhead liking these types of vehicles. It would be foolish of PUTC to alienate such a valuable readership, just because the redknecks cant come in a blow hot air about a 100lbs difference in payload even though all most "real" trucks do is carry around their driver and his ego.
I laugh when I drive through my parents neighborhood when joe bob the carpenter rolls up to build a pair of cabinets in his shiny King Ranch F350 with a liftkit and semi wheels and he can barely reach up in the bed to use his Ryobi miter saw. Its hard to take someone seriously after seeing that, because theres no way he keeps his balance sheets positve while carrying a 60k pickup truck and running a legitimate business.
People completely ignore overall cost of ownership and cite a 1-2mpg difference in justifying an $8000 premium for a diesel, and thats ignoring all the other elevated costs of ownership that run with an oil burner. Thats not saying if you can afford it that you shouldnt, but dont come and act like people are somehow incapable of doing real work without the biggest baddest most capable pickup truck on the road, thats would be like a brain surgeon using a jackhammer.
But I digress, this van is a sign of changing times, I only wish that Dodge would have made a better effort to tilt the capabilties to a more work friendly chassis like the transit or sprinter over in europe. A work vehicle should be less sensitive to the way it is loaded because as anyone who has managed fleets or workers knows, the guy you are paying to drive it wont be so careful and that could be dangerous.

@Mark Williams: Mileage numbers from the MPG display, or filled up, driven, and refilled?

Mike Levine put it up for vote and the response was ovewhelming in support of covering cargo vans. Pickuptrucks.com will cover cargo vans and I think this is a great idea.

Great review, having used a minivan as a work vehicle for 20 plus years you get used to loading them differently than one would for a pick up. However my 1986 vw van and 1996 toyota vans are laughing at the fact you can't get a standard 4x8 sheet of plywood in with the doors shut, this is a serious design flaw that most modern pick ups that can barely fit a wheel chair in the back have also prescribed to...

@Gary M. The tires are inflated to the car manufacturer's recommended PSI, not the tire manufacturer's. The manufacturer's select a proper PSI based on how the suspension is set up, because a tires PSI will affect how hard or soft a suspension has to react to bumps in the road as well as cornering and regular driving. Having a set PSI from Dodge gives them predictability as to how the suspension is going to react to any manufacturer's tires. Having your tires too over or underinflated means you'll probably wear out your suspension much faster than you would under normal conditions. It's kind of like changing your oil every 3000 miles on vehicles that clearly don't need it. But hey, if I was selling oil, I'd want you to do it every 3000 miles as well.

In short, follow the guidelines your car maker gives you, not your tire maker.

@Mr Knowitall They certainly would not be selling this converted people carrier here. Too much better competition around. In the US it would have a niche though.

wondering what a ladder rack would do to the fuel economy number because i bet alot of buyers will need for ladders, plumbing, and other longer items. I personally like the van reviews as the bonus to a truck is that it usually isn't limited to two person seating while still having a cargo area.

One day they will test US markit vehicles vs. some of the overrated overseas ones and see how they really stack up, lol!

I like the gas milage # but if you are hauling plywood with 1.5' hanging out, how do you secure a hatch door like that? The cargo floor looks good but I would prefer it to be flush with the door threshold.
Did they put the seatbelt on that bag in the passager seat or just listen to the NAG of the seatbelt alarm?

To those saying this doesn't make sense on this site: vans like this are excellent for carpenters. You can lock all your gear in the van at night in front of your house, with the truck I was always moving it in and out of the garage every morning. True I drive an E-series but the Ram CV and Transit Connect are probably a little better for my use. The E-series is used and was cheap.

I wonder if Ram will get back into full size vans. When the Transit gets here next year, it will be the most modern and most fuel efficient full size out there. Gas is an expense that I can live with cutting.

Have one of these vans. Tires are commercial 41 lbs rated. It is in the new "Ram" line. No more Dodge Ram but Just Ram Truck, or C/V hence review seems appropriate with trucks rather than vans??? Brakes, Tires, Tranny Config, Ride all upgraded for this C/V vs the caravan. Loves hills, great mileage, too much power and comfortable to drive. Everyone wants to drive it even loaded. I do disagree with one part of reveiw. It is stiff empty and prefers some payload to smooth out the ride. If you dont need a lot of overhead room this may be the perfect work vehicle for you in this class.

The comments to this entry are closed.