2017 Ram Promaster Cargo Van Review
Edmunds expert review
In the last several years, few vehicles have changed as dramatically as the big American van. Traditional models based on heavy-duty pickup frames and components have largely given way to lighter, narrower and taller vans that are more efficient, easier to drive and safer.
One of the most unusual of these new big vans is the 2017 Ram ProMaster, a space-efficient, front-wheel-drive van that competes in a class dominated by rear-wheel-drive competitors. There are 1500, 2500 and 3500 versions offering varying levels of capability. There are also two wheelbase choices for the 1500 and 2500, low- and high-roof options for the 1500 and an extended-body option for the 3500 series. Most ProMaster cargo vans will have the higher roof, which gives the van a tall but tidy profile that maximizes cargo volume and permits users to stand upright inside the van.
One of the most distinctive things about the ProMaster cargo van is its very short hood, made possible by its front-wheel-drive layout. Forward visibility is excellent, and executing tight turns is less stressful than in other vans. A downside to the Ram's front-wheel-drive setup is a lower tow rating than its rivals, but payload capacity — arguably more important to most cargo van users — is just as stout as the competition. Depending on how it's equipped, the ProMaster can shoulder up to 5,160 pounds. Ram's capable 3.6-liter gasoline V6 engine delivers the highest load limits, while the available 3.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder returns better fuel economy.
Although the Ram ProMaster is a compelling pick for a cargo van, you'll want to investigate its competitors including the Ford Transit, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the Nissan NV. All of them offer a wide array of configurations, engines and features to suit various business needs.
Standard safety features for the 2017 Ram ProMaster include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock disc brakes, hill start assist, stability control (with trailer sway control) and traction control. Optional features include rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
What's new for 2017
Trim levels & features
The 2017 Ram ProMaster cargo van (the passenger version, the Window Van, is reviewed separately) comes in three main trim levels: 1500, 2500 and 3500. The 1500 offers two wheelbase lengths (118 or 136 inches) and a low- or high-roof option. The 2500 also offers two wheelbases (136 and 159 inches) but comes with the high roof only. The 3500 offers just one wheelbase — 159 inches — but can be ordered with an extra-long body configuration (250 inches versus the standard 236) for additional cargo space. The 3500 also comes with the high roof only.
Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, a passenger-side sliding door, air-conditioning, cloth bucket seats, power front windows, power locks, keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a four-speaker audio system with USB and auxiliary inputs.
Available options include alloy wheels, foglights, daytime running lights, a driver-side sliding door, windows for the side and rear doors, power-folding/heated sideview mirrors, an alarm system, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, cruise control, an electronic parking brake, a cargo partition (with or without a sliding window), heated seats, swivel seats, a suspension driver seat, adjustable lumbar support, a double-passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, interior wall paneling and various add-ons aimed at upfitters, including 20-amp auxiliary instrument panel switches and auxiliary battery preparation.
You can also get satellite radio and an upgraded audio system with a Uconnect 5-inch touchscreen interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice commands, steering-wheel-mounted controls and, for an additional cost, GPS navigation and internet connectivity.
There are several options packages, including the Premium Appearance package (chrome grille and foglights), the Interior Convenience package (overhead shelf, under-seat storage tray and locking glovebox), the Cargo Convenience group (cargo net and sidewall tie-down rings) and a towing package.
Standard on all 2017 Ram ProMasters is a 3.6-liter V6 engine that generates 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Optional is a 3.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel with 174 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It's also paired with a six-speed automatic (though technically this one is a single-clutch automatic transmission).
Properly equipped, the ProMaster can handle payloads of up to 5,160 pounds (payload capacity varies according to configuration) and tow up to 5,100 pounds. The Ram ProMaster's payload capacity is competitive for the class, but its tow rating is significantly lower than those of its rear-wheel-drive competitors.
Commercial vans like the 2017 Ram ProMaster cargo van are not subject to the conventional fuel economy testing by the Environmental Protection Agency and do not have published EPA mpg ratings.
It's remarkable how much more confidence you can have in piloting a large van when the hood is short and you sit high above it. That's the perspective from the 2017 Ram ProMaster cargo van's driver seat. Light steering and a relatively compact turning circle offer further encouragement, making the van feel exceptionally maneuverable, even in city traffic. Drivers still need to exercise caution when reversing, however, even with the optional rearview camera helping out.
We like both of the available engines. The standard 3.6-liter gasoline V6 comes straight from Chrysler's car lineup, so it's smooth, quiet and much more refined than you'd expect of a commercial van. The four-cylinder turbodiesel engine's forte is efficiency and low-speed pulling power. It's noisier than the gasoline engine, especially until it warms up, and the transmission it's paired with is unusually clunky through the gears.
The 2017 Ram ProMaster interior is all about function. The gauges are large and clear, with a multifunction display centered between the speedometer and tachometer. Climate control is a straightforward, three-knob layout for temperature, fan speed and directional control. Nothing fancy, all utility, and it works for the needs of its users.
Extended stints behind the wheel are eased by well-bolstered captain's chairs (you can order them with optional swivel mounts), but the lack of a tilting steering column might yield a less than optimal driving position for some drivers. Audio controls are mounted high on the dash, and the optional 5-inch Uconnect touchscreen audio system is a worthwhile upgrade for those who plan to make long trips in the van.
Cargo capacity ranges from 259 cubic feet of cargo on the 1500 low-roof model to 463 cubic feet on the extended-length 3500 van. Although that space doesn't match the Ford Transit's maximum of 487 cubic feet, the ProMaster vans still offer cavernous space to accommodate all manner of cargo or customized upfitter components. There are also plenty of well-placed cupholders, nooks, and storage areas.
As you might expect, the 2017 ProMaster can be ordered with solid walls and rear doors or with a choice of windows. Some buyers will find the optional sliding rear door on the driver side a boon for easy entry to the cargo area.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.