November 27, 2015

Ram ProMaster City Moves Like Elvis

Ram ProMaster City Moves Like Elvis

Driving a Ram ProMaster City makes you roll like Elvis.  Oh, you think I've lost it, do you?  You probably know Elvis owned some of his era's finest automobiles including lots full of Cadillacs, Mercedes 600s, Lincoln Continentals, Rolls-Royces, and his favorite Stutz Blackhawk.  He also owned a faded old 1948 Chevy Panel Van, still in storage at Graceland.  Why?  Well, when Elvis wanted to move about incognito, he donned a hat and drove the van.  I get it.

Italian Roots

After months of reviewing flashy sports cars, luxury sedans, and SUVs, I'm in the Ram ProMaster City -- rolling incognito in a gray one that blends into urban scenery.  Ram starts with the Fiat Doblo van that's built in Turkey and earned its worth in global markets with contractors and delivery services.  Its cute shape is somewhere between Kia Soul and Ford Econoline, but for Ram duty, designers grafted on a crosshair grille.  Steel wheels behind hubcaps fit the part.

You can buy a ProMaster City that's a pure panel van, but ours has rear seats with side and rear windows - perfect for picking up kids on the way home from delivering flowers.  Cloth seats are supportive, the thick stitched steering wheel would be perfect in a $30,000 sedan, and overhead storage adds utility.  Large mirrors and backup camera help drivers weave through traffic and parking lots.

The dashboard and doors are mostly hard plastic, but at least it is elegantly styled.  Large cupholders, USB input, and touchscreen add convenience while climate control couldn't be any simpler -- twist big knobs for your desired temperature.  Navigation plots courses to your appointed rounds.  I've driven the two seat version and was surprised at how much quieter our semi-civilian version is on the road.  It wouldn't make a bad family car.

Smooth Performance

The powertrain is the smoothest I've experienced in any Fiat-derived vehicle.  All models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 178 horsepower and 174 lb.-ft. of torque.  Commercial owners will appreciat the bottom line uptick from a frugal 21/29-MPG city/hwy.  The 9-speed automatic transmission keeps power in the right rev band for peppy steppin' off the line and whizzing through traffic.

Engineers went a step further with the chassis.  Unlike most commercial vehicles, Fiat specified an independent rear suspension to enhance handling and quell rear shake over rough roads.  Aim the Ram at any washboard pavement you find and the suspension just rumbles over it without drams.  I've been in Cadillacs and BMWs that could be improved with the Ram's ride; Elvis would have to shake his hips elsewhere.  Forget you're driving a motored storage container and it's kinda fun to drive.

Un-boring Box

If Elvis lived today, the Ram ProMaster City would be his ride for ghosting around Memphis at all hours of the day and night.  It's not especially luxurious, but is spacious, well-engineered, and actually enjoyable to drive.  If you need a city-sized van to move your stuff and peeps without fuss, and don't care to be recognized, check out this not-completely-boring box.

Prices start at $23,445, but our test vehicle came to $27,425.  Competitors include the Ford Transit Connect, Chevrolet City Express, and Nissan NV200.

Storm Forward!

Follow Casey on Youtube and Twitter:  @AutoCasey.

 

2015 Ram ProMaster City

  • Two-passenger, fwd van
  • Powertrain:  178hp 2.4-liter I4, 9-speed auto trans
  • Suspension f/r:  Ind/Ind
  • Wheels f/r:  steel 16-inch16-inch
  • Brakes f/r:  disc/drum
  • Must-have features:  Space, Handling
  • Payload:  1,883 lbs.
  • Fuel economy:  21/29 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly:  Bursa, Turkey
  • Base/as-tested price:  $23,445/27,425
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