See our test drive
With the 2015 ProMaster City, Ram finally has a small cargo van designed for commercial use — something that’s been missing since the A-vans were dropped. Dodge and Ram have been selling a “cargo-ized” version of the minivans, but it was designed primarily for passengers and never took off among commercial buyers. The ProMaster City sells against (but is slightly larger inside than) Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200, and Chevrolet City Express.
With power coming from a four-cylinder Chrysler engine, hooked up to a Chrysler-made, ZF nine-speed transmission, Ram claims best-in-class combined gas mileage, a 1,883 pound payload, and 132 cubic feet of cargo volume. The van is based on the Fiat Doblò Maxi, an expanded version of the popular-in-Europe Doblò van. Chrysler materials show 0-60 coming in 9.8 seconds with the 2.4 liter engine.
To avoid the “chicken tax,” all the U.S. vans are made as passenger vans; cargo versions are then “converted” in Baltimore, Maryland.
Made in a two-seat cargo van or a five-passenger wagon (like the original Caravan), the ProMaster City has 48.4 inches of space between its wheel-wells, which, with an 87-inch cargo length, lets buyers easily load in pallets and such; the class-exclusive extra 0.4 inches help with loading and unloading.
Above the wheel wells, the ProMaster City has a best-in-class width of 60.4 inches and an interior roof height of 51.8 inches, for best-in-class volume of 131.7 cubic feet (cargo van). The sides are upfitter-friendly, to help buyers add shelves or storage racks. The roof is prepped for load rails or roof racks, with a weight capacity of 154 pounds. See chart with comparison to Ford Transit Connect and Ram ProMaster, below.
The cargo van’s 87.2 inch long floor has six standard D-ring tie downs (the wagon has four) and an optional flush-fit, non-slip vinyl mat. The sliding doors latch in the open position, and have a 26-inch opening.
With the seats in place, the five-passenger ProMaster City Wagon has close to four feet of cargo length to the rear doors; with seats folded and tumbled, the wagon has nearly six feet of cargo length.
The rear has 60/40 split swing doors; the larger door swings open toward the traffic (driver) side of the van, making it easy to quickly access larger cargo items without blocking the path to the curb. Both rear doors swing open 90 degrees; with the press of a button, they can open to 180 degrees.
Ram claims that the 2015 Ram ProMaster City’s power, torque, fuel economy, and performance will “trump any competitor’s standard-equipment package.”
The ProMaster City is the first commercial van with a nine-speed automatic; the standard “948TE” has a wide gear ratio spread and 3.73:1 final-drive ratio. Its 4.70 first-gear ratio delivers 0-to-30 mph acceleration in 3.7 seconds and 0-to-60 mph in 9.8 seconds (estimated). Even without the wide range and nine gears, the fast-shifting nine-speed’s efficient design would make it a worthy choice.
The 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine generates best-in-class 178 horsepower at 6,250 rpm, with peak torque (174 lb.-ft. at 3,900 rpm) greater than any standard engine in the segment and close to Ford’s optional turbocharged engine.
For durability, the engine has a forged steel crankshaft with 53 mm pin diameters, two-bolt main bearing caps, a cast-iron bearing beam to reduce flexing, piston oil squirters to prevent hot spots, powder-forged steel rods, and the ability to cross 12 inches of standing water (slowly) to prevent damage during sudden downpours. To increase efficiency, the engine has MultiAir 2, an electro-hydraulic valve lift and timing system that adjusts each cylinder individually.
Both the ProMaster City and Ram 1500 have variable a/c compressors, “smart alternators,” and pulse-width modulated (PWM) fuel pumps that operate on demand, cutting parasitic demand. The 160-amp “smart alternators” use moments of deceleration or braking to run the alternator at capacity, cutting the load during acceleration and improving fuel mileage.
Using front wheel drive cuts weight and the number of parts, provides more predictable emergency and low-traction handling, and eliminates the prop-shaft tunnel to allow a low, flat floor.
This chassis diagram incorrectly shows disc brakes in the rear; rear brakes are actually drums (thanks, Harry Andersen)
Ram tested the best-selling Doblò for severe-duty use, from the blazing desert heat of Las Vegas to frigid Northern Michigan, from traffic in Los Angeles to mountain roads in Colorado. Key Ram changes include:
The floor pan, cross members, side panels, and (fully boxed) frame rails are welded together for higher structural rigidity, cutting noise and vibration, and allowing better handling; unibody construction reduces weight.
The 12-inch front disc brakes include pad wear sensors; a larger pad-to-disc swept area, combined with thicker linings (compared with competitors) increase durability. The rear 10-inch drum brakes also have thicker long-wear linings.
The Ram ProMaster City’s MacPherson strut suspension was retuned for rougher North American roads, includes large-diameter shock absorbers, steel springs and a solid stabilizer bar. Stamped steel clamshell control arms are strong and weight efficient. The front suspension components are specifically tuned to handle the ProMaster City’s class-leading payload capacity. An optional package provides a 2,000 pound towing capacity.
While most Class 1 vans including the old Ram C/V use rear leaf springs, Ram ProMaster City has an independent, bi-link rear suspension to increase comfort, stability, and safety under all loads, while enabling the van’s low 21.5-inch step-in height; it is the only bi-link rear suspension in the class.
The hydraulic-assist rack-and-pinion steering system is connected to a standard tilt and telescoping steering column.
A four-channel electronic stability control (ESC) is standard and includes antilock brakes. The setup uses the steering wheel angle sensor to minimize yaw, and has a brake-lock differential for side to side pressure control and sway control; integrated traction control; rollover prevention; and trailer sway control.
On low traction surfaces, there can be a difference in wheel speeds when the driver lifts off the throttle. Engine drag control senses that difference and sends more torque to the driven wheels to keep them at the same relative speed as the rear wheels to boost vehicle stability.
Using brake pedal sensing and the steering angle sensor, the ProMaster City also senses emergency braking and automatically lights and flashes the tail lamps to alert other drivers.
The van also has brake assist (to engage full braking earlier); and hill-start assist, which holds the van in place for up to two seconds after the brake is released on a hill.
Finally, an optional rear camera and backup alarm can prevent drivers from hitting pedestrians or other vehicles.
Although the cargo area is carry-over from the Fiat Doblò, from the front door cut forward, the Ram ProMaster City is new. Badges are large, chrome-finished, and three-dimensional. The driver can easily see the front corners, while cladding on the side and rear protect the body from knee-level bumps. Doors are durable yet lightweight, with handles designed for easy gripping with gloves. Optional oversized power side mirrors have adjustable wide-angle sections; the standard, segment-exclusive marker lights light dark areas on the side of the van when working from either side.
Step-in heights at the side (18.8 inches) and rear of the vehicle are among the lowest in their class at 21.5 inches. Key fobs have three buttons, for locking all doors, unlocking all doors, or unlocking just the cargo doors.
On the Tradesman/ST [some releases claim Tradesman, other ST for the base model), the bumpers and grille are black, with molded-in color to look the same even after being scratched. The SLT has body-colored bumpers, fog lamps, lower black molded-in-color trim at potential contact locations, optional body-color exterior mirrors, and a silver grille.
To cover both commercial and personal transport, there are three different 16” wheels. Tradesman has “revolver-hole silver” or black with a silver full-face cover steel wheels; SLT has the latter, with an optional aluminum wheel.
Three different window options are available on both trim levels. One has sheet metal everywhere but the front doors and windshield; one adds glass to both rear doors; and the third adds two side windows for passengers.
Colors include white, bright red, black metallic, silver metallic, deep red metallic, “blue night” metallic, gray metallic, “broom yellow” (fleets only), and brown (fleets only).
The wind tunnel helped optimize the mirror design, underbody aero shields, and spoilers to cut wind resistance, reducing noise and raising efficiency. The tires have low rolling resistance; 215/55R16XL tires have higher inflation pressures to handle larger loads; wheels are steel, for impact resistance, on Tradesman and SLT, with optional aluminum wheels on SLT.
Two seating insert materials are used, with different patterns and feels. The seats have ergonomic padding and many adjustments, including heat; the durable fabric is trench -seamed and designed to be easy to clean and long lasting. One interior is black with gray accents; a carpeted floor is standard.
There are nine forward storage compartments, including overhead storage. Available in urethane or optional leather-wrap, the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel’s horizontal spokes can be fitted with optional controls for operating cruise and audio controls.
Ram claims to have made major gains in climate control and interior lighting; the elliptical main cluster, placed under an antiglare dome, is designed to reading under all lighting conditions. Amber backlighting prevents the loss of night vision. The gauge cluster includes temperature, speedometer, tachometer, and fuel gauges, with a trip computer including a clock, odometer, and trip odometer.
The shifter is in the center console; a secondary console contains two cupholders and two 12V power outlets.
The Ram ProMaster City HVAC system was retuned for the North Americans, with easily operated heat and air conditioning controls that were designed for use with gloves. The oversized handle on the driver-side door panel also enables easy opening with gloves; a large storage compartment at the forward base of the door.
The cargo compartment has acoustic-backed side wall and rear door moldings, and vertical mount locations for flexible up-fit capability. Optional partitions (with a window option) provide protection against load shifts. A high roof makes it easier to work in the cargo area. Wagons get four tie-down rings, a full length headliner and carpet, panel moldings over the rear of the cargo area, and more storage trays at seated shoulder level with retractable covers.
The base radio is a four-speaker AM/FM setup with a monochrome display; tweeters are in the pillars and mid-range speakers are in the front doors). The optional UConnect 5.0 system has a handsfree text-reply setup and hands-free calling, with a full-color five inch touch-screen aiding the navigation system and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. A USB port on the dash is for recharging, while a second port is used to play music from thumb drives. U.S. buyers can use the system as a mobile Internet hotspot.
Mopar claims to be selling towing accessories, roof racks and carriers, customizable graphics packages, theft tracking, a roadside safety kit, tool bags and totes, canvas seat-covers, cargo mats, standard floor mats, and slush mats.
The 2015 Ram ProMaster City will be built by TOFAS in Bursa, Turkey, at a 3.6-million squar foot (84 acre) WCM Gold plant, alongside the Fiat Doblò.
See our new test drive
Before the ProMaster City’s official launch, we said that it would be imported from Turkey, with an American powerplant — this was correct. We implied there was a chance it might be built elsewhere, because the Turkish joint venture company said they could not make it with modifications for the US — we were wrong. We predicted fold and flip seats, and thought that the British “XL” model would be sold here either as the standard model (it is) or as an option. Our rendering was pretty far from the mark, though some may find it more pleasing.
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