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2015 Ram ProMaster 3500: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2015

The 2015 Ram ProMaster 3500 is at the top of the range when it comes to Ram's all-new lineup of ProMaster cargo vans. While many drivers might choose the base-level ProMaster 1500 or the upgraded 2500, the heavy-duty 3500 offers improved payload capacity and more standard interior space than its lesser stablemates. In other words, the ProMaster 3500 is the king of the hill among Chrysler's cargo vans.

So what's the ProMaster all about? For starters, it's not really a Chrysler, but rather a FIAT, a re-badged version of the popular FIAT Ducato that's available in many foreign markets. It's brought to the U.S. by FIAT, Chrysler's parent company, and sold as a Ram to improve its name recognition with truck and cargo van shoppers. But it's hard to hide the van's foreign roots, from its unusual styling and car-based design (and resulting low load floor) to its fuel-efficient diesel engine option instead of a typical heavy-duty V8.

We like it quite a bit, as cargo vans go. Sure, it's slow, not terribly attractive and has mediocre handling, but this van is all about transporting cargo, not about turning heads or carving corners. In that sense, the ProMaster 3500 delivers exactly as expected.

What's New for 2015?

Following its 2014 debut, the ProMaster lineup is unchanged this year, with the exception of a smaller model called the ProMaster City. We're covering that one in a separate review.

What We Like

Huge interior; lots of available features; fuel-efficient diesel engine; excellent capabilities

What We Don't

No tilt steering wheel; blind spot monitor would help; hard to justify price increase for 3500

How Much?

$37,000-$38,500

Fuel Economy

Like the base-level 1500 model and the mid-level 2500, the ProMaster 3500 offers two engines. Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 comes standard, making 280 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Optional for an extra $4,000 is a fuel-saving 3.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder powerplant, which makes just 174 hp but a muscular 295 lb-ft of torque. Though the ProMaster 3500 is exempt from fuel economy ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to its size, we'd count on about 15 miles per gallon with the gas-powered V6 and 18 mpg with the diesel.

Standard Features & Options

The ProMaster 3500 doesn't offer trim levels like most traditional models. Instead, it comes in two available sizes, standard and extended, both of which feature a high-roof body style for extra storage.

Priced from $37,000 with shipping, each ProMaster 3500 starts off about the same. Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, keyless entry, a USB and auxiliary port for music, power windows, power locks and a sliding door on the passenger side. Regardless of which ProMaster 3500 model you choose, you'll get a 159-in wheelbase. Extended models offer a slightly different body, though, which includes a little extra cargo room behind the rear wheels.

The ProMaster is also offered with a wide range of options. They include rear parking sensors, a navigation system, a backup camera, heated seats, a sliding door on the driver's side, Bluetooth, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and alloy wheels.

Safety

Like most cargo vans, the ProMaster 3500 isn't crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nor is it rated by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Still, it offers a wide variety of safety features for a cargo van, from standard items such as front and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control to modern options including a backup camera and rear parking sensors.

Behind the Wheel

The 2015 Ram ProMaster 3500 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 full-size bus. The 3500 model's high-roof design makes things even more challenging, since you have to keep in mind that you can't enter most parking garages or low bridges. Don't take these comments too harshly, though, since they could be applied to just about any cargo van on the market.

Where the ProMaster stands out is its driving position. 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 an easy view of the van's corners, which comes in handy when you're parking it. This compensates slightly for the van's otherwise huge width and length.

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. Speaking of capabilities, we like the ProMaster's low, flat load floor, which is excellent for loading cargo. But we think the van's maneuverability could be a little better, as it seems more unwieldy than some rivals.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Ram ProMaster 1500 and 2500 -- The ProMaster 3500's main benefits over 1500 and 2500 models are a little extra payload capacity and a standard 159-in wheelbase. But the payload increase is slight, and the 159-in wheelbase is also available on the 2500 for far less money.

2015 Ford Transit -- The all-new Ford Transit is built in the U.S. and replaces the dated Ford E-Series. It offers a very similar experience to the ProMaster, right down to the strong visibility and flat, low load floor.

2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter -- Few vans offer the all-out capabilities of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but it's expensive to buy.

AutoTrader's Advice

Although we generally love diesel engines, we don't think the ProMaster's diesel powerplant is worth the money. We'd get a ProMaster 3500 with a few options and the Pentastar V6, and we'd opt for the standard length unless we really needed the extra room.

Find a Ram ProMaster for sale

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Used 2015 RAM ProMaster 2500 159" High Roof
Used 2015 RAM ProMaster
$17,495
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Ram ProMaster 3500: New Car Review - Autotrader