The 2018 Ram ProMaster 2500 is the second model in the ProMaster family, which also includes the ProMaster 1500 and the ProMaster 3500, which we review separately. As the models progress, so does their payload capability in terms of space and weight. Although it provides a few creature comforts, such as air conditioning and power windows/door locks, the ProMaster is first and foremost a vehicle to haul stuff for short distances. It’s a tool of tradesmen and delivery companies.
Because it’s front-wheel-drive, the ProMaster is unique among large cargo vans with its low step-in and loading floor. Although Ram has Americanized it to some extent, the ProMaster’s DNA is European. FIAT builds and markets it as the Ducato in several countries around the world. But, that’s not all bad. The end result is a large car-based van that behaves as a smaller vehicle. It’s nimble with a relatively short turning radius.
The overall result is a user-friendly workhorse. In the world of cargo vans, it hauls like a heavy weight, but drives like a middle weight. Most of us wouldn’t make a ProMaster photo our screen saver, but looks aren’t really very important when there’s work to be done. Would we drive one across country for fun? Hardly, but as an everyday workhorse, it’s well-suited to the challenge.
What’s New for 2018?
Integrated Voice Command with Bluetooth, a backup camera and Uconnect with an 8.4-inch display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
What We Like
Huge space-efficient cargo area; high-roof body style; lots of available features; fuel-efficient diesel engine; excellent capabilities
What We Don’t
Odd driving position with no tilt steering wheel; unwieldy handling; diesel engine’s jerky automated manual transmission
Like the base-level 1500 model, the ProMaster 2500 offers two engines. Standard is Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which makes 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with a 6-speed automatic transmission and, uniquely for a commercial van, front-wheel drive. This should be appealing in poor-weather areas, where rear-wheel-drive vans can be a handful.
Optional is a fuel-saving 3.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder powerplant, which makes just 174 hp but has a muscular 295 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a 6-speed single-clutch automated manual, which you may find to produce jerky responses at low speeds. Though the ProMaster is exempt from Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings due to its size, we’d count on about 17 miles per gallon with the gas-powered V6 and 20 mpg with the diesel.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Ram ProMaster 2500 doesn’t offer trim levels, as most traditional models do. Instead, it comes in two available wheelbases — 136 inches and 159 inches — both of which feature a high-roof body style for extra storage.
Priced from $35,140, including factory delivery, each ProMaster 2500 starts off equipped about the same. Standard features include 16-in steel wheels, air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows and locks, a backup camera and Uconnect 3 with a 5-in display, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls .
The ProMaster is also offered with a wide range of options that include rear parking sensors, a navigation system with Uconnect 5.0, heated seats, side sliding doors, cruise control and alloy wheels.
Like most cargo vans, the ProMaster 2500 isn’t crash-tested by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s not rated by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, either.
It does offer a wide variety of safety features, from standard items such as front and side-curtain airbags, a backup camera, antilock brakes and traction control to options including rear parking sensors. With that said, we’d like to see a few more safety features available on the ProMaster, including a blind spot monitoring system, which can be a huge help on windowless cargo vans.
Behind the Wheel
The 2018 RAM ProMaster 2500 drives exactly how it looks — like a huge van. That means vague steering, lots of body roll and an overall size that sometimes makes you question whether you’re driving a bus. Don’t take these comments too harshly, though, they could be applied to almost every other commercial van. We say "almost every," because you’re likely to find the ProMaster far more maneuverable than the truck-based GM and Nissan vans.
The 2500 model’s high-roof design can make things even more challenging, since you have to keep in mind that you can’t enter every parking garage. On the other hand, it also allows for considerably more cargo space than those same truck-based vans provide, along with the ability to walk around upright inside. We also like the low, flat load floor, which is excellent for loading cargo.
For good and bad, the ProMaster’s driving position stands out. Thanks to a cab-forward design with the seat almost over the front axle, the ProMaster gives you a sweeping view of the road and the van’s corners. Unfortunately, the driving position itself is reminiscent of a bus, with you perched awkwardly above its immoveable steering wheel.
When it comes to engine performance, we suspect most shoppers will prefer the V6. It’s a more traditional engine with a more traditional transmission, and its capabilities are about the same as the diesel. With that being said, the diesel might offer enough of a fuel economy benefit to justify its additional cost and potential transmission-related annoyance.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Ford Transit — The Ford Transit is built in the United States and replaces the ancient Ford E-Series. It offers a very similar experience to the ProMaster — right down to the strong visibility and flat, low load floor.
2018 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter — Few vans offer the all-out capabilities of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but it’s an expensive van to buy. As such, you may want to consider a used model. And if the Mercedes-Benz name seems too ritzy for your business, remember that it’s also sold as a Freightliner.
2018 Nissan NV — Nissan’s full-size NV van offers high- and low-roof configurations and a capable, truck-based chassis. But it’s a lot less fuel-efficient than the ProMaster, and it is cumbersome to maneuver.
Even though diesel engines tend to return most, if not all, of their extra cost upon resale, we would still recommend the V6. We would go with the 2018 Ram ProMaster with the Pentastar V6 and an option or two like the sliding doors and cruise control. We’d opt for the high-roof configuration, but stick with the 136-in wheelbase unless we really needed the maximum cargo space.