Designed to meet demand

From the June 2021 print edition

In the commercial van market, the ProMaster by Ram is unique with its front-wheel-drive (FWD) system. With its transversely mounted front engine it offers reduced overall weight and complexity by locating all components beneath the cab. This also means that the chassis cab model has a completely clean deck back of the cab. This benefits upfitters in countless ways – all of which improve aftermarket design and offer cost savings.

The FWD setup also keeps the cargo-load floor height and step-in height low. This trait alone is one that is much appreciated by an operator getting in and out of the van all day. Another advantage
to the FWD system is traction.

It’s always better to pull than push in slippery situations like snow. Improved traction comes from having the powertrain weight on top of the front wheels. The overall result of this design for ProMaster is a purpose-built, highly customizable van body that is unique among its competition. It’s designed to meet the demands of commercial customers and upfitters.

Euro roots
ProMaster has been selling in Canada for the past five years, however it’s worth noting that it’s a cousin of the Fiat Ducato van. The ProMaster we now have in Canada is descended from this van. Mind you, this is a common thread among the other van providers. Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter and Ford’s Transit both originated in Europe. The key difference is that most of the old-world vans are diesel powered while the Canadian version of the ProMaster uses the 3.6L Pentastar V6 gas engine as its standard powerplant (280hp and 260lbs-ft of torque). It is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Of note for 2021, the diesel option is no longer available. The Pentastar V6 is now the sole powertrain.

Competition in this livery segment is brisk; and while vans don’t change much year to year, each manufacturer keeps looking for customer advantages. Frankly, it makes sense. If you wonder about the value of this market to the manufacturers, consider that the commercial van market in North America can consume as many as 325,000 units a year.

The ProMaster is built on three different wheelbase lengths – 118, 136 and 159 inches. The cargo van body comes with either a low or high roof. As for the gross weight vehicle rating, it’s offered as 1500, 2500 and 3500 series vehicles.

In all, the ProMaster can be ordered in any one of 18 different configurations. This includes a Chassis Cab Cutaway on the 3500-series version. In addition to the cargo van models, ProMaster can also be ordered as a passenger window van.

ProMaster has certain best-in-class features, including standard V-6 horsepower; turning diameter; standard interior cargo height; load-floor height; cargo width between wheel wells; and maximum cargo width.

For 2021 there are also a few new standard features such as Crosswind Assist, which helps the driver stay on course in windy conditions. A range of new safety options are available this year, including blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, forward collision warning with emergency brake assist and ambient/courtesy lights.

Class-exclusive digital rear-view mirror is available to replace the traditional rear-view mirror with
a 9.2-inch-wide LCD monitor. A new factory-installed trailer hitch option was new in 2020 – but is worth mentioning. It increases the max tow rating to 6,800lbs.

Lastly, (late availability this year) is a monitoring system called Ram Telematics, which will interest fleet managers. Mopar offers an electronic vehicle tracking system as well. A new standard item on ProMaster now is a speed limiter. This is activated by the dealer and can be set at 100, 105, 110 or 120km/h.

The ProMaster is becoming popular with upfitters, either as a chassis cab with clean frame rails or as a van body suited to institutional purposes. To that end, Ram is offering prep packages targeted at specific vocations, for instance, ambulances. They also offer the same prep for recreational vehicle builders. Also available from the factory is an interior cargo shelf group. This option requires the cargo partition installed.