The 2014 Ram ProMaster is a front-wheel-drive (FWD) unibody based off the Fiat Ducato.
“We think that’s a huge advantage. A unibody is lighter weight [than a body-on-frame] and therefore at a certain GVW enables more payload. And a FWD is great because it eliminates all that driveline going rearward,” Mike Cairns, Vehicle Line Executive for Ram Trucks, said during an interview with SAE Magazines prior to the vehicle’s world debut at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. The van’s best-in-class features include a 21-in (533-mm) step-in height.
Engineering modifications give the ProMaster a unique ride from its Ducato counterpart.
“On U.S. roads there are more harsh vertical inputs in the chassis and body, so we made some upgrades to the jounce bumpers and the body structure to be able to manage those increased vertical loads,” explained Cairns, who functions as the head of engineering for Ram. The B-pillar and the rocker under the sliding door were among the chosen zones for modifications.
Suspension tweaks were made to accommodate North American tastes. “Europeans tune the suspension more for handling, even in a big van. And they accept a little more ride harshness. But U.S. consumers tend to like a bit smoother ride, so we’ve retuned the shocks and springs for a smoother ride. We’ve also upped the spring rates in the rear to be able to handle the GVWs,” said Cairns.
The gross combined weight rating (GCWR) for the 3.6-L V6 is 11,500 lb, and it's 12,500 lb for the 3.0-L I4 diesel. ProMaster will have best-in-class payload capacity up to 5145 lb (2334 kg) and a maximum towing capacity of up to 5100 lb (2313 kg).
Engineers upgraded the van’s underbody by employing different sealers and material coatings to deal with harsh environments, such as the road salt used on U.S. highways for icy conditions.
Interior revisions also address North America consumers’ expectations. “The Ducato in Europe has a cupholder big enough for an expresso cup, but that wouldn’t work here. So we redesigned the center stack of the instrument panel to incorporate three big cupholders as well as storage bins,” said Cairns.
The van has a standard passenger-side sliding door and an optional sliding driver’s side door. An optional two-position clamshell door in the rear swings open 180 or 260°. All three door openings can accommodate fork lift pallet loading and unloading. And depending on the model, up to 17 cargo tie-down rings and side wall tracks are available.
When the 2014 ProMaster production launches, the vehicle will be powered by a 3.6-L Pentastar V6 that produces 280 hp (209 kW) at 6400 rpm and 258 lb·ft (350 N·m) of torque at 4175 rpm. The engine is paired with the 62TE six-speed automatic transmission with a 3.86 final drive ratio. It is essentially the same powertrain configuration used in today’s Dodge Grand Caravan minivan.
The powertrain calculations “looked good. But we were a little bit doubtful because this is a big van—a Class 2 van going up to 9350 lb GVW, which is way beyond a minivan’s GVW. We were concerned whether this [powertrain combination] would work. But we’ve been blown away. We tested the FWD commercial van up all our [proving ground] grades. And the van gets traction and gets up the hills just fine,” Cairns said.
A diesel engine option will be added at a later point. The 3.0-L inline four-cylinder Fiat diesel engine will mark its North American debut in the ProMaster. This engine also powers the Ducato. In its ProMaster application, the turbocharged diesel will produce 174 hp (130 kW) at 3600 rpm and 295 lb·ft (400 N·m) of torque at 1400 rpm.
One of the technology changes for the ProMaster application is a new 29,000-psi (2000-bar) common-rail fuel delivery system. The diesel engine also will be fitted with an electronic EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) with cooler, three-way catalytic converters, heated oxygen sensors, and a 5-gal (19-L) urea diesel exhaust fluid tank to meet U.S. and Canada emissions standards.
A Fiat-developed MT40 manual transmission with an automatic mode will be the diesel engine’s partner. Said Cairns, “It is a manual transmission gearset, but it has an automatic clutch and automatic shifting. You can override that and choose the shifts manually, but there is never a clutch” to engage.
ProMaster will offer 118-in (2997-mm), 136-in (3454-mm), and 159-in (4039-mm) wheelbases; four body lengths; and a 90-in (2286-mm) or 101-in (2565-mm) roof height. Regardless of the configuration, the cargo area has an overall body width of 82.7 in (2101 mm). The cargo floor is 105 in (2667 mm), 123 in (3124 mm), 146 in (3708 mm), or 160 in (4064 mm) depending on the configuration.
Other choices from the factory are a ProMaster chassis cab with two different wheelbases as well as a cutaway.
“We’ll offer quite a bit of variety in this model,” said Cairns.
The vehicle’s technology offerings include standard electronic stability control; UConnect in-vehicle Bluetooth connectivity; full-color, 5-in touch screen with global positioning satellite navigation; shock-dampened driver’s seat; rear vision camera; wood load floor; and Brembo performance brakes.
Start of production for the 2014 ProMaster is slated to begin in the third quarter of 2013. All configurations will be produced at the Saltillo Van Assembly Plant in Saltillo, Mexico.