Introducing the Ram ProMaster City

Gary S. Vasilash

An urban tool for tradespeople and a capable wagon for people who want plenty of space.

There must be something about Turkey and Class 1 cargo vans. Consider the 2015 Ram ProMaster City. It is, says Mike Cairns, director, Ram Truck Engineering, produced in Bursa, Turkey, by TofaŞ. TofaŞ is a joint-venture company, one with equal ownership by FCA and Koç Holding, a Turkish company. Cairns points out that the TofaŞ Bursa plant, which has been building a number of Fiat vehicles for several years, is an FCA World Class Manufacturing-gold level manufacturing operation.

And you may recall the Ford Transit Connect, which was introduced in the U.S. in 2009 (although its pedigree went back to 2001 in European markets), another Class 1 van. It was produced in Kocaeli, Turkey, by Ford Otosan, a joint venture between Ford and . . . Koç Holding.

For the Ram ProMaster City, there was an investment at TofaŞ on the order of $360-million to prep the plant to make the van.

The Ram ProMaster City is a vehicle that is known as the Fiat Doblò in Europe. But this isn’t simply a case of Ram taking an existing product from the Fiat portfolio and slapping a badge on it. Rather, it is a vehicle that was developed with the knowledge that there would be a North American version. Designers from Auburn Hills, for example, worked with their counterparts in Centro Stile Fiat on developing the instrument panel design for the vehicle.

But there were other issues, Cairns notes, that needed to be addressed for the North American product. For example, they had to adjust the suspension of the vehicle, increase the ride high, to handle the vertical loads associated with roads in places like Michigan. “Vertical loads” is a nice way of describing the sort of jolts associated with road surfaces that are pocked like the Moon.

Chassis components and anchor points were upgraded. Homologation of the vehicle required strengthening the unibody structure in order to meet crash requirements in the U.S. (Cairns points out that no matter how close the U.S. and European Union regulations may seem, there are still differences that require changes to the way vehicles that are available in both markets are assembled.)

And speaking of the structure, the vehicle features an integrated steel ladder H-frame with single-piece longitudinal frame rails. 

The engine box and front track were widened to accommodate the 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine and the nine-speed automatic transmission that are standard in the ProMaster City. While the Doblò is available with several engine options (including a 2.0-liter diesel), there is no engine as large (or as powerful @ 178 hp) as the Trenton (Michigan) Engine Plant-produced Tigershark available in that van. (And while on the subject of the powertrain, it is worth noting that the nine-speed automatic is produced at the FCA US plant in Kokomo, Indiana (under license from ZF).

As mentioned, the ProMaster City has a steel, unibody design. It has a two-box configuration, which provides 131.7-ft3 of cargo volume. (It can handle a payload of 1,883 lb.) There are sliding doors on each side that provide a 26-in. opening. At the rear there are 60/40 split doors that initially open 90° each, but can open 180° by depressing a latch. The floor is 87.2 in. long and 60.4 in. wide, with a 48.4-in. span between the rear wheel wells. The interior roof height is 51.8 in.

It is about capacity and capability.

But this leads to a question about the overall design of the ProMaster City (as well as vehicles like the aforementioned Ford): What happened to the full-size, one-box cargo van? Chrysler had one from 1971 to 2003, the B-Series. Cairns points out that in the case of Chrysler, that B van gave way to the Mercedes Sprinter as the company became DaimlerChrysler (1998 to 2007). The idea was that as there was a Sprinter and as the B van was needing a significant improvement, using a vehicle that was already in the portfolio made more sense.

Still, Cairns says that the configuration of the front-drive ProMaster City is one that is more appropriate for the kind of use that tradesmen and delivery people need than the conventional one-box, body-on-frame, rear-drive van. In effect, those vans are overkill, and not nearly as efficient. The ProMaster City can get 29 mpg highway. It has a turning diameter (curb-to-curb) of 42 ft. Clearly, the word “City” in the name of the vehicle has meaning for the sort of urban environment that it is likely to be used in.

Yes, the vehicle is cargo-oriented. But there is also a passenger configuration available for the vehicle, the “Wagon.” This provides two rows of seating, two in the front and three in the rear. While the cargo versions have a maximum capacity of 131.7-ft3, the passenger-style vehicle provides 101.7-ft3.

Why just two rows when there is easily space for three (and the Doblò does offer that third row)? Simple: there are FCA US products named the “Town & Country” and the “Grand Caravan,” and they certainly don’t want to step on that now-legendary franchise.