2014 Ram ProMaster (© Chrysler Group LLC)Click to enlarge picture

The Ram ProMaster commercial van is based on the Fiat Ducato.

Following in the footsteps of the Ford Transit and Nissan NV, Ram is expanding its lineup with the new ProMaster commercial van. Based on the Fiat Ducato, which has been selling in Europe for 30 years with 4.5 million sold, the ProMaster is promising dependable handling, durability, efficiency, comfort and convenience, and low cost of ownership.

The ProMaster is powered by either the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 (280 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque) or the new 3.0-liter four-cylinder EcoDiesel (174 hp, 295 lb-ft of torque). Ram claims the ProMaster will deliver best-in-class fuel economy, although the exact numbers have yet to be released.

Two transmission choices are available: a six-speed automatic or an automated six-speed manual that is exclusive to the diesel engine.

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ProMaster's flexibility extends beyond the powertrain and transmission options to include two roof heights (90 and 101 inches), three wheelbases and four body lengths to help business owners find the best fit for their needs. It is also available as a chassis cab or a cutaway.

All of this variety is intended to give business owners the ability to design a commercial van that best meets their specific needs. But according to Ram, there's more to the business benefits of ProMaster than just variety in size and powertrain. ProMaster may also improve a business's bottom line by:

Lowering cost of ownership
ProMaster offers extensive range between oil changes. For the gas-powered version, 10,000 miles between oil changes is the norm. The diesel boasts 18,500 miles between oil changes and smart technology in either version will alert the driver if service is needed prior to meeting these mileage parameters.

With unibody construction that adds strength while also reducing weight, six-speed automatic transmissions and that EcoDiesel engine option, ProMaster also promises best-in-class fuel economy, reducing trips to the gas station and the dollars spent on fuel.

Lastly, the body of the ProMaster is meant to withstand abuse. For example, the ProMaster's front bumper employs a three-piece modular design so that when dents and dings occur, only the specific portion of the bumper that is damaged needs to be replaced.

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Comfort and utility
Knowing drivers of commercial vehicles spend long hours behind the wheel, the ProMaster is designed for comfort and utility. Such features as low step-in height and easy-to-use technology that allows hands-free calling and the ability to reply to text messages hands-free as well make it easy to stay connected while being safe on the road. A GPS navigation system is also available, as is Uconnect Web which turns your truck into a mobile hotspot.

In the cargo area, a sliding door is standard on the passenger's side and another is available for the driver's side. Optional clam-shell doors that open up to 260 degrees are nearly able to fold all the way to the sides of the van. Any of these door arrangements accommodates the use of a forklift for the loading and unloading pallets.

Depending on which configuration you choose, up to 17 tie-downs with 1,000-pound capacity are arranged in the cargo area to make sure packages don't shift in delivery. Each tie-down folds flat into the floor to ease loading and unloading. For passenger safety, partitions are available to keep cargo from sliding into the passenger area.

Safety
ProMaster also includes some serious safety equipment with six airbags (driver and front-passenger, side-curtain and seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax) and electronic-stability-control standard. Electronic-stability control also hosts all-speed traction control, trailer-sway control, Hill-start Assist and antilock brake system (ABS), panic brake assist, brake-lock differential, roll mitigation, autonomous brake lamp activation and drift compensation. ParkSense rear-park assist and the ParkView rear backup camera are also available and help with backing these large trucks up safely.

Production for the 2014 Ram ProMaster is scheduled for third quarter of 2013. Ram says all configurations will be produced at the Saltillo Van Assembly Plant in Saltillo, Mexico. Pricing for the ProMaster has not been announced.