ProMaster test drives • ProMaster CityProMaster passenger vans
Starting in 2009, Ram engineers started worked on adapting Fiat vans to American needs. The 2014 Ram ProMaster, based on the front-wheel-drive Fiat Ducato, is the first jointly developed product of Ram Truck and Fiat Professional. Production is scheduled to start in Chrysler’s Satillo (Mexico) plant, in the third quarter of 2013; the plant was chosen because it is in two overlapping free trade zones.
What did Chrysler change? An engineer told us:
We have engineers that worked with Sprinter, so we took all our lessons learned and things we wanted to change or couldn’t change. We got unlimited “whatever you want” inside. That’s why you see a lot of those changes in there, like the big cup holders, the radio in different places [than the Fiat], the knobs, everything. There’s no “squiggly line button” and you’re saying, “What the heck does that button mean?” None of those. [We spent] three years working that tailbone off. You know, the whole group working on that trying to make it just the way we could.
Under the skin, ProMaster was retuned for rougher roads and higher payloads, with more corrosion protection. The Ram ProMaster has a maximum 5,145 pound payload capacity, with a 5,100 pound maximum towing capacity. The gross combined weight rating for the 3.6-liter V6 is 11,500 pounds and 12,500 pounds for the 3.0-liter diesel. These capacities are far higher than Fiat Ducato, whose maximum payload is roughly 3,472 pounds.
The headlights are so high so they won’t be damaged in a minor collision. Likewise, the front is in multiple, easily replaced sections. (See our earlier renderings.)
ProMaster has 13 different configurations, with three wheelbases, low and high roofs, and cargo van, cutaway, and chassis cab versions. It was designed to be superior to other American-market in both cargo capacity and fuel efficiency, with a low total cost of ownership (aided by good serviceability); it is already more flexible, in terms of body types, than any Dodge van in memory.
While some markets already had Ducatos with Fiat’s four-cylinder, 3-liter diesel engine (already used in the US, though not by Fiat), Ram is the first to have a V6 gasoline-engine version of the van — using the 3.6 liter Pentastar V6.
The 3-liter, four-cylinder Fiat diesel, a commercial engine that should provide better fuel economy than the gasoline V6 should produce fuel economy numbers in the “mid-to-high 20s.” The torque should be sufficient to give the ProMaster reasonable drivability, especially hooked up to the sole transmission choice, an automated manual. That engine is currently scheduled for May 2014 production, but might be bumped back.
As with the Ram series, ProMaster is available in three capacity ranges: 1500, 2500, and 3500.
The frame rails are fully boxed and welded to ensure stiffness, stability, and strength; the eight upper and lower cross members create a structural “ladder-frame” for integrity, torsional stiffness, and durability.
The floor panel is welded in place with the rails and cross members to reduce weight, and a reinforced plenum area raises lateral stiffness in the front.
The cargo van has a reinforced sub-frame extending the length of the van, while the chassis cab’s unibody structure stops at the back of the cab; the ladder-bar frame extends to the rear. The frames use high-strength steel.
Two roof heights are available (90 or 101 inches). The body is 82.7 inches wide in every configuration. Cargo volume is up to 463 cubic feet (Sprinter goes up to 530, Nissan NV to 323, and Transit to 487, according to Automotive News). Four cargo floors are available, with 105, 123, 146, and 160 inches.
Up to 17 tie-down rings with a 1,000-lb. rating fold away to maintain a flat floor; optional partitions protect against load shifts. Floor finishes include a resin-finished wooden load floor, painted steel, or rubber-coated steel. Side walls can be painted or composite finished (lower and/or upper parts); a cargo partition with window is available to separate the cab from the cargo.
The roof can carry 400 pounds, and has three roof-rail mounts on each side with tapping plates to assist mounting roof racks.
ProMaster has a step-in height of 21 inches and a non-slip rear access step. The large front doors are lightweight, and the 62”-wide rear clamshell doors open 180° or 260°. A sliding right-side door is standard, with an optional sliding left-side door; pallets can be loaded from the side or rear.
An upfitter interface block has 15 outputs for 40 feature operations and gives a secure gateway to select vehicle electrical systems. The connection point is accessed through a removable hatch in the interior B-pillar area. A battery saver system provides automatic shutoff for all interior lights after 15 minutes. A passive speed limiter gives an audible reminder when a set speed is surpassed; it can be set to 55, 60, 65, or 70 mph.
One of five suspension levels is chosen based on model and gross vehicle weight. Ram ProMaster’s rear suspension has a tubular beam axle configuration with a Hotchkiss leaf-spring system. Position-dependent dampers work with weight distribution and help the van to keep its low 21-inch step-in height without loss of capacity. The front suspension uses double A-arms and McPherson struts; 62-mm twin-tube shocks are used at each of the four corners.
A hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system gives a 36-foot turning radius. It has variable assist capability to help with driver fatigue, and the steering gear enables packaging with low complexity for better quality and reliability.
Ram ProMaster has four-wheel disc brakes with 16-inch rotors and Brembo dual-piston calipers. Electronic lining wear sensors tell the driver when a pad replacement is needed via an icon on the dash. The brakes have a larger pad-to-disc swept area and thicker linings. Wheels are 16” x 6” with 225/75R16C all-season, low-rolling-resistance tires.
The electronic stability control includes ready alert braking (emergency stopping), brake assist, brake-lock differential system, hydraulic boost compensation, trailer-sway control, hill-start assist, drift compensation technology, rollover mitigation, and automatic brake lamp actuation.
The standard is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, generating 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
ProMaster uses Fiat’s 174-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline four-cylinder EcoDiesel engine that gives 295 lb.-ft. peak torque at 1,400 rpm. The 16-valve, dual-overhead cam engine has a 29,000-psi common-rail fuel-delivery system. New to Ram, the engine has been used in North America (by Mitsubishi Fuso trucks) for some time.
The commercial vans and chassis-cabs have an isolated oil pan, hydraulic tappets and roller-finger followers, cast-iron engine block with bed-plate construction, lightweight alloy pistons, double-mass flywheel, and high-efficiency exhaust-gas recirculation cooler.
A quick-response, variable-geometry turbocharger gives higher boost at low engine speeds; its air intake is mounted on the driver’s side of the grille cross member and has a 30,000-mile service interval. A front-end accessory drive accommodates an optional 220-amp alternator (180-amp is standard). The engine uses Fiat’s MultiJet direction injection system.
An engine block heater is standard in Canada and optional in the U.S.; designed for better cold starts at temperatures as low as -40°F, it can be automatic activated with a digital timer.
Urea diesel exhaust fluid is integrated with heated lines to protect the system from freezing, and the five-gallon tank gives nearly 4,000 miles of service. A camshaft chain drive and high-pressure fuel pump with automatic tensioner provide durability, along with wear-resistant cylinder liners and oil-cooled pistons.
An oil-level sensor helps operators to get up to 18,500 miles between oil changes, increasing on-the-road time.
ProMaster has a three-point mounting system (instead of a four-point system) that includes a deep-skirt, die-cast aluminum block with six-bolt main caps, inverted-tooth chain drive, select-fit main and crankshaft bearings and lightweight pistons, structural windage tray and aluminum oil pan, and glass-reinforced nylon-composite intake manifold.
Chrysler’s 62TE automatic transmission (a surprising component in this Fiat-based van) has a 3.86 final-drive ratio to accommodate gross vehicle weight and gross combination weight. A trailer-tow program with both transmissions.
The M40 automated manual gearbox, standard with the diesel, is a manual transmission with an electro-hydraulic automatic-shifting system that handles the clutch; it has a manual shift-lever override. Road-bend detection prevents gearshifts in winding curves, and the computer adjusts shifts according to grade steepness. This transmission provides not only more efficiency (due to the mechanical linkage, instead of a hydraulic linkage), but also a wider range, with a lower first gear and higher top gear, aiding both acceleration and cruising efficiency. It is a single-clutch unit with a hydraulic release.
Rather than keeping Fiat/Microsoft’s “blue” stereo controls, ProMaster uses the award-winning Chrysler UConnect system to integrate audio, navigation, and phones. To cut costs, the five-inch screen is used rather than the 8.4 inch; it has optional navigation, and a hands-free text-reply feature that can deliver 18 messages (such as “I can’t talk right now,” “I'm on my way,” and “I need directions.”) The display can double as a backup camera.
A four-speaker stereo is standard, with tweeters in the pillars and midrange speakers in the door panels. The standard radio is an AM/FM unit with a monochromatic display; but the steering wheel mounted audio controls appear to be standard. 2.5-amp USB ports can be used to recharge portable devices, and UConnect Web is a dealer-installed accessory.
The ProMaster front has a broad, wraparound bumper, twin-reflector headlamps (with amber accents separating it from the clear European version), and hexagon-shaped crosshair grille. The cab-forward, short dash-to-front-axle design gives higher passenger seating positions and better visibility. The front-wheel arches are styled with the three-piece modular front bumper, and a step is built into both front bumper corners for easy windshield cleaning.
Three 16-inch wheel options are available in steel and aluminum. Eight exterior colors are available: bright white, flame red, black, bright silver metallic, sand stone metallic, deep cherry red metallic, granite crystal metallic, and true blue metallic.
Power side-view mirrors are oversized with adjustable wide-angle sections. Large taillight clusters have vents to allow air to escape when closing the load compartment doors.
Inside, the predominant color is matte black with gloss-black portions, and chrome and silver details. The overhead system is light gray.
The seats have multiple adjustments including heat; the telescoping steering column offers further adjustability. An optional seat includes an adjustment system that modulates based on the driver’s weight. Swivel seats are optional for driver and passengers; they have a 180-degree inboard swing and 35-degree outboard swing.
Passenger seats are either single or two-seater benches in gray vinyl, gray cloth and vinyl with double-accent stitching, or gray cloth with double-accent stitching. The front seats can accommodate three people, or two people with a fold-down console with storage.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel has energy-absorbing foam with ergonomic grip. The central spokes can have optional controls for Uconnect, cruise control, radio, and hands-free phone. The door panels are silences with acoustic treatments, and the cab floor is rubberized composite with non-slip tread.
The main cluster is under an antiglare dome with orange backlighting. The interior has eight cup holders, a lockable bin, 12-volt power outlet, and USB charge port. A switch bank has functions for electronic stability control, door locks, and two auxiliary switches. Door panels have padded armrests and a large lower pouch with built-in bottle holder and an additional storage compartment. An optional 12-volt power outlet can be put in the side-opening rear door.
As for safety, ProMaster includes six standard airbags (driver and front passenger, side curtains, and seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax), along with (some may be options) knee bolsters, seat-belt pretensioners, BeltAlert, rear park assist with back-up camera and camera prep package (on chassis cab).
See: ProMaster passenger vans
Aiding upfitters, Ram added a window version of the 159-inch, high-roof van for the 2016 model year, along with a chrome grille option and provisions for a second battery (at the rear of the cab) with new 20-amp switches on the dashboard.
The standard-height rear doors are 62" x 60", and the high-roof doors are 62" x 70".
max cargo width
Chassis cabs and cutaways:
3500, 136" WB
Overall max allowable uplift length
As mentioned above, Allpar predicted cargo vans, chassis cab, and cutaway versions to be available, along wtih front wheel drive and a 3-liter four-cylinder engine, although it isn’t standard equipment as we predicted. Allpar was partly right about the automatic transmission, and was correct about the Pentastar V6, and not correct about the VM 3-liter V6 diesel, which is not included.
Allpar was also correct on the exterior being altered, meeting U.S. safety standards and more rugged use, but our optimistic imagery was completely off the mark; KGP’s spy shot turned out to be on the nose.
ProMaster test drive • ProMaster passenger vans
We wrote: “The engines most commonly found in Fiat branded Ducatos are a 2.3- or 3.0-liter diesel four cylinders; in the United States, the 3-liter four-cylinder is likely as the base engine, since it is already used in the Mitsubishi-Fuso forward control trucks in North America (which means it is emissions-ready).”
See: B-Vans • ProMaster City (Doblo) • Ram Cargo Van • Our speculative renderings
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