Cars by name
Trucks and Jeeps
Engines / Trans
Repairs / Fixes
Tests and Reviews
by Patrick Rall in November 2017 (5)
The Ram Promaster 2500 is the modern answer to the classic Dodge Ram Van, but can this adapted-from-Fiat front-wheel drive cargo van really do the work of a proper body-on-frame, full-sized vehicle? To find out, I spent a few days putting the ¾-ton Promaster to work around the horse stable.
Before getting into my review of the 2017 Ram Promaster 2500, here is a quick look at my test vehicle: it’s got the 159-inch wheelbase, a high roof, and the 3.6L Pentastar V6 under the short hood. In base form, this van had a list price of $34,295 plus a destination fee of $1,395, but the Promaster is intended to fit the needs of every business, so there is a long list of á la carte options.
My Promaster 2500 test vehicle was practically loaded with features like the Trailer Tow Group, Interior Convenience Group, Premium Appearance Group, power-adjusted/heated front seats and outside mirrors, power points through the cab and cargo area, navigation, UConnect 5.0 infotainment, cargo area LED lighting, alarm, cruise control, tinted rear windows, a cab/cargo partition, and rear parking assistance with a high-mounted backup camera. When you add in all of those features, the price-as-tested of my 2017 Promaster 2500 159WB comes to $42,545, but as large cargo vans go – the price includes pretty much everything that you could ask for in a work vehicle.
The 2017 Promaster 2500 is powered by a 3.6L Pentastar V6 which sends 280 horsepower and 260lb-ft of torque to the front wheels by means of a 6-speed automatic transmission (there is also a four-cylinder, 3-liter Fiat diesel option).
That’s right – this big van is front-wheel drive, and that leads to very different driving dynamics when compared to a large rear-drive Ram Van. Even so, the Promaster 2500 is capable of hauling 4,020 pounds, with plenty of cargo space for large items — and can tow 5,100 pounds.
When some folks with a “work van” read the specs above, some may try to dismiss the Promaster 2500, as in the modern era of big power, those numbers don’t sound like much. However, the Pentastar V6 makes this big van surprisingly quick, and it might be the best front-drive vehicle that I have ever tested with my standard 2-horse trailer.
Although the Promaster 2500 will carry some two tons in the interior, I don’t have any common two ton loads, but I did need to pick up a thousand pounds of bagged horse feed while driving Ram’s big cargo van. The cargo area is massive, so fitting 20 bags of grain in the back was no problem at all.
Once I hit the road, I found that the extra half-ton of weight didn’t make a whole lot of difference in on-road performance. In hauling around a quarter of the vehicle’s payload capacity, acceleration, braking, and cornering were unaffected around town and on the highway. Also, thanks to the large side door and the huge double-door rear opening, loading cargo in and out of this van is a breeze, even with the accessory racks added by the company.
In fact, whether it had the thousand pounds of grain in the back or not, the 3.6L V6 makes the Promaster 2500 surprisingly quick for a vehicle of this size. Considering that most of these vehicles will be driven with all sorts of cargo in the back, this engine provides as much acceleration as most buyers will ever need, whether leaving a stop light or speeding up to merge into highway traffic. Some prospective buyers will insist that a diesel engine (available) or a V8 is needed in a vehicle of this size, but based on my time with the 3.6L mill, I don’t feel that a bigger gas engine or a diesel engine is necessary for someone taking one of these big vans to work.
While not everyone will drive around with a thousand pounds of grain out back, if a contractor was to fill all of the shelves and drawers in the cargo area with tools and/or supplies, he or she will find that the Promaster 2500 is a comfortable vehicle to drive with plenty of power.
Next, I hooked the Promaster 2500 to my standard two-horse test trailer. I use this same trailer with all of the trucks, vans and SUVs that I test and when fully loaded, it weighs around 5,500 pounds. With that in mind, I only loaded one horse and some lighter cargo, bringing the weight to around 3,500 pounds. I was convinced that this V6-powered, front-wheel drive cargo van would struggle to haul the trailer, but it far exceeded my expectations.
From a stop, the Pentastar V6 allows the Promaster 2500 to accelerate smoothly with a reasonable amount of urgency (no hard launches, of course) and through the mid-range – like when speeding up to pass someone on the highway – the big Ram van did a nice job of keeping the load moving. The weight was obviously back there, but the Promaster didn’t feel like it was straining to pull the 3,500 lb trailer, nor did it struggle to get stopped, even without use of the trailer’s braking system.
The Promaster 2500 is not an ideal vehicle to pull a two-horse trailer due to the weight of the average two-horse setup, but for a contractor looking to pull a 3,500 pounds of trailer full of tools or supplies – the Ram cargo van is a great option.
When I wasn’t hauling grain or pulling the horse trailer with the Promaster 2500, I was using it as my daily driver around town. The seating position is fairly unique in the modern era of consumer vehicles, presenting a modern cab-over-engine layout that has the driver sitting high in the air, very close to the front of the van. This seating position takes some getting used to, even when getting out of my Ram 1500, as the proximity to the front of the vehicle is strange. You find yourself feeling like you are uncomfortably close to other vehicles in traffic, or you find yourself leaving big gaps, but over time, I grew accustomed to the driving position of the Promaster 2500.
The ride quality is what you would expect from a big, work-rated van. It is stiff and you feel a great deal of imperfections in the road, but this is true of all of these types of vehicles. They are more about function and less about comfort, but I don’t mean to say that it is uncomfortable – it is just a bit stiffer than your average large SUV. Anyone who has spent time driving an older cargo van will almost surely appreciate the ride quality, but the most surprising aspect is how easy it is to navigate tight spaces with the huge vehicle.
In most cases, a van or truck with a footprint as large as that of the Promaster will be hard to get through tight spaces, but with the short front end and the driver’s position so close to the front end, the Ram cargo van offers a surprisingly tight turning circle and an impressive amount of control in the tightest spaces. You can get very close to objects in front of the vehicle with a great line of sight (due to the lack of a long hood out front) and the high-mounted backup camera offers a perfect perspective out back for easier backing up in tight spots. Also, the side-view window design provides plenty of visibility in the side mirrors, so from the driver’s seat, you really have an excellent view of the world around you.
Driving dynamics aside, the Ram Promaster 2500 offers plenty of head and elbow room for the driver and passenger, but with the bulkhead wall installed, there is only so much front-rear seat movement and with the location of the steering column, leg room will be tight for drivers over 6’4” or so. The upside to the bulkhead wall is that it keeps the cool air or hot air in the cabin, making the area around the seats far more comfortable when the temps get very high or very low.
The 2017 Ram Promaster 2500 is nothing like the old Dodge Ram Vans — but it’s a better work vehicle. The V6 is surprisingly peppy, even with a thousand pounds of extra weight in the cargo area, and the front drive makes it very easy to navigate through congested driving situations. Add in the comfortable cabin with the ability to smoothly tow the test trailer, and you have a modern Ram van that is up to the task of most work sites, even without a V8 engine or a rear differential.
If you are looking at large work vehicles similar to the Promaster 2500, I would suggest that you drive one of these Ram vans and see if the FWD driving dynamics and the cab-over-style driving position appeals to you. If you like driving the Promaster 2500 and you need a vehicle that can haul large, heavy cargo, this might be the ideal work vehicle for your daily routine.
Home • 2019 Ram • Repairs • Vans • Campers • Forum
CURRENT: 1500 • HD • Power Wagon • Chassis CabsVintage and special Dodge and Ram trucks
All reviews at allpar (including competitors) • Past reviews
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
Spread the word via Tweet or Facebook!
More Mopar Car and Truck News