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2017 Ram ProMaster 3500: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2017

The 2017 Ram ProMaster 3500 is at the top of Rams range 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.

Of course, "Chrysler cargo van" is a relative term. You see, the ProMaster is actually a FIAT -- specifically a rebadged version of the FIAT Ducato that's available in many foreign markets. Sure, it has a Chrysler engine and is built in a Chrysler factory in Mexico, but it's hard to hide the van's foreign roots, from its car-based design (and resulting low-load floor) to the unique front-wheel-drive layout that gives it a leg up in wintry climates.

And how do we like it? Quite a bit, as cargo vans go. Sure, it's slow, it's not terribly attractive, and the driving position is reminiscent of a bus, but this van is all about transporting cargo, not turning heads or long-distance comfort. In that sense, the ProMaster 3500 delivers exactly as expected.

 What's New for 2017?

The ProMaster 3500 is largely unchanged for 2017.

 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

 How Much?

$35,500-$38-100

 Fuel Economy

Like the other ProMaster versions, the 3500 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, unique on 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 power plant, 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 speed. Although the ProMaster 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 2017 Ram 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, power windows and locks, a passenger-side sliding door, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack. Regardless of which ProMaster 3500 model you choose, you'll get a 159-in wheelbase, though extended models offer a longer body that includes a little extra cargo room behind the rear wheels.

The ProMaster is also offered with a wide range of options. They include 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 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 bus. Don't take these comments too harshly, though: They could be applied to almost every other commercial van. "Almost every," because you're likely to find the ProMaster to be far more maneuverable than the truck-based GM and Nissan vans.

The 3500 model's standard 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 immovable 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

2017 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.

2017 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.

2017 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's cumbersome to maneuver.

 Autotrader's Advice

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

Find a Ram ProMaster 3500 for sale

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Used 2017 RAM ProMaster 2500 136" High Roof
Used 2017 RAM ProMaster
$22,995
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Used 2017 RAM ProMaster 1500 136"
Used 2017 RAM ProMaster
$18,997
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2017 RAM ProMaster 1500 136"
Used 2017 RAM ProMaster
$19,872
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.
2017 Ram ProMaster 3500: New Car Review - Autotrader