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2016 Ram ProMaster 3500: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2016

The 2016 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 will 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. When it comes to Chrysler's cargo vans, this is the king of the hill.

So what's the ProMaster all about? For starters, it's not really a Chrysler, but rather a FIAT -- a rebadged version of the popular FIAT Ducato, which is available in many foreign markets. It's brought to the States 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 its car-based design (and resulting low-load floor) to its fuel-efficient diesel engine option instead of a typical heavy-duty V8.

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

What's New for 2016?

The ProMaster is largely unchanged for 2016, save for a newly optional chrome grille.

What We Like

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

What We Don't

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

How Much?

$38,000-$38,800

Fuel Economy

Like the base-level 1500 model and the midlevel 2500, the ProMaster 3500 offers two engines. Standard is Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which makes 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 Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings 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 length and extended -- both of which feature a high-roof body style for extra storage.

Priced from $38,000 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, though extended models offer a slightly different body, 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, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a chrome grille 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, and it's not rated by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety either. But 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 2016 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; 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 helps to compensate 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 capabilities are about the same as the diesel. Speaking of capabilities, we like the ProMaster's flat low-load floor, which is excellent for loading cargo. But we think the van's maneuverability could be a little better, as it seems a little more unwieldy than some rivals.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 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.

2016 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.

2016 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, though we'd get the standard length unless we really needed the extra room.

Find a Ram ProMaster for sale

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Used 2016 RAM ProMaster 1500 136"
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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.
2016 Ram ProMaster 3500: New Car Review - Autotrader