The 2017 Ram ProMaster is based on the European-market Fiat Ducato, a van with a reputation for being easy to drive, cheap to maintain and admirably durable. It is unique among the new generation of vans in that it employs front-wheel drive, unusual in a field of rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive vehicles. Front-wheel drive gives the ProMaster an edge in terms of maneuverability, cargo capacity and foul-weather drivability. The trade-off is lower towing capacity.
A clue to another characteristic that sets the ProMaster apart can be found in its name. Note that it's the Window Van and not the Passenger Van. That's because the passenger ProMaster comes with windows all around but no seats except those up front. Buyers must take the ProMaster to an upfitter to have passenger seats installed. This greatly increases the opportunities for customization, but some buyers may view it as an inconvenience. The Ram's rivals will sell you a van with seats already installed.
Choices are also limited compared to the competition: While other passenger vans offer a variety of roof heights, wheelbases and body lengths, the ProMaster Window Van offers just two choices: the 2500 and 3500 models. Both share a 159-inch wheelbase and a tall body that makes it possible for passengers to stand up inside. The 3500 models have a longer body (250 inches as opposed to 236 inches for the 2500) for more seating potential. Maximum payload is 3,930 pounds for the 2500 and 4,280 pounds for the 3500. Towing for both versions is limited to 5,100 pounds.
The ProMaster seats its driver up high and very close to the steering wheel, which telescopes but does not tilt. The driving position can take some getting used to. But once you're accustomed to it, you're bound to like it: Visibility is excellent and the ProMaster's short nose, light steering and small turning radius make it easy — and rather enjoyable — to squeeze through narrow parking lots.
Ram offers two engines for the ProMaster. The 3.6-liter gasoline-fueled V6 produces 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. It provides plenty of power to hustle the ProMaster along: Remember, this is a van originally designed for small four-cylinder engines, which are the norm in Europe.
Ram also offers a diesel option, a 3.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel that produces 174 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Theoretically, it should have better fuel economy, but because of the ProMaster's weight ratings, Ram isn't required to submit it for EPA fuel economy testing. Its unusual transmission may put some people off. The diesel is tied to a dual-clutch automatic transmission, essentially a manual that does all the clutching and shifting automatically. There's no clutch pedal, but there is an annoying reduction in power as the transmission changes gear.
The ProMaster 2500 and 3500 are each offered in a single trim level, with a long list of options that allow buyers to customize the vans to their liking. What configuration works best? Let Edmunds help find the perfect 2017 Ram ProMaster Window Van for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.