Us auto journalists harp on endlessly about our love for station wagons and, especially here in North America, our lack of sufficient wagon choices in the marketplace. Station wagon and wagon are still dirty words here. We’ll take SUVs/CUVs/crossovers and even vans before we take a station wagon. Bewildering really. But I digress.
So, what has RAM done? They’ve rammed (pun totally intended) the van and wagon together and created the RAM ProMaster City Wagon (that’s really a cargo van with seating for passengers), and the result will be sales because it’s smart marketing and great execution of the overall idea.
Who’s buying these?
Let’s address the baby elephant in the room, shall we? This is not your typical-looking van/wagon. The moment you lay eyes on the RAM ProMaster City you’re first thought is: delivery truck. I know it was for me. And you’d not be wrong. These are generally company fleet vehicles used for cargo delivery, but the option of the Wagon SLT means you can transport cargo (and a great deal of it) along with people, since there are seats back there, too.
The average North American family probably would not be purchasing such a vehicle, however, it’s nice to know the option is there. This is a rugged option to a typical minivan or wagon. With boatloads of cargo space -- 2,880 litres to be precise -- and room for five passengers, the possibilities seem endless with this particular super-van. And that’s what will make it attractive to buyers who not only need to carry more than just themselves and a passenger, but also a large amount of stuff.
The look of the RAM ProMaster City Wagon SLT isn’t for everyone. Personally, I don’t find it offensive, but I also don’t find it particularly attractive. The large body-paneled rear is ideal for company logos and designs, and if I were a shop owner in need of a delivery truck, I would jump at the chance to own and trick out one of these in my company’s design, etc.
However, as an everyday consumer, the design isn’t much to write home about, and neither are the bland red/white/blue/black/grey exterior colour choices. FIAT’s involvement in the exterior design is noticeable in the ProMaster’s front fascia where there is a definite personality and a bit of character flare. I mean, as much “flare” as a large, square cargo van can possess…
Where the RAM ProMaster’s design really shines is inside. Passenger and cargo space are immense, and the seats are actually comfortable, as well. The 5-passenger seating features 60/40 split-folding seats in the second row, and there are up to nine different ways to configure the seats, so you’ll definitely find something that suits your needs and wants.
In the rear you’ll find standard vinyl flooring to stop your stuff from sliding around, and the nearly completely upright walls in the rear cargo area mean a best-in-class width between the wheel wells (60.4”) thus there is a ton of useable space back there for any and all things.
Really, this is a van that’s made to do some serious work.
However, it’s not a bare-bones work truck up front. In the driver and front passenger seat you’ll be treated to a host of standard features such as A/C, a colour touchscreen for Radio 3.0 multimedia features, as well as aux power outlets, USB port, a locking glove box, and front overhead storage bins. And my God is it every roomy up there. The headroom alone is enough to make you feel like you’re in something much larger than you are.
Playing delivery driver for the week
Truthfully, I felt a bit like a deliver truck man for the week. Even my 4-year-old son questioned my choice of vehicle when I picked him up from day care, and asked if we had to carry lots of stuff and if we were moving again.
Personally, I have absolutely no need for a vehicle with its specific capacities however, I understand the allure and understand how useful such a vehicle could be. And the added ease with which this vehicle drives only adds to the attraction.
Despite it’s large paneled sides, there’s actually quite a bit of visibility in the RAM ProMaster City Wagon, and I never felt like I was “too large” to fit anywhere or on any streets. I comfortably parallel parked in a tight downtown space, and while the driver’s seating position is high, step-up to get in and out is at the ideal level and requires no effort at all. In fact, the seat was almost exactly hip-height for me.
The 2015 RAM ProMaster City Wagon is equipped with a 2.4L Tigershark MutliAir inline-4 engine that produces 178 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. Paired to that engine is a 9-speed automatic transmission. While the engine is good and feels plenty powerful for the size of the vehicle its powering, the 9-speed is the downfall here as it’s just not intelligent enough to handle the gears correctly and often felt confused and/or lost when searching for a correct gear when asked.
Despite the added height of the vehicle, it didn’t feel tip-y or top-heavy in cornering, and I was generally surprised at the overall ability to handle. Of course, I wasn’t pushing apexes, but I was driving it as I would a normal car, and it was responding in turn.
Niche market, niche buyer
The thing with vehicles like the RAM ProMaster, Ford Transit and Nissan NV is that they are made for very specific people with very specific needs. However, each of the aforementioned companies have done their research and each offer products that caters directly to those niche markets and buyers.
Is the RAM the best of the bunch? Perhaps it’s the most rugged, but if you’re in the market for a vehicle of this nature, make sure you check out the Nissan NV before you make your final decision.