In late 2009, Chrysler Group LLC spun off the truck line up as a stand-alone division separate from Dodge
division. While Dodge
can now zero in on sports and performance cars, the newly minted truck division can get down to business. Prior to the amiable separation, Ram was the moniker of Dodge
truck division's best-selling full-size pickup truck. This divide, not dissimilar to General Motors separate GMC truck division, allows Ram Trucks to maximize marketing muscle. All this action occurred not long after the well-documented, merger between Italian automaker Fiat and Auburn Hills Michigan-based Chrysler was complete.
A new twist comes in 2012 with the debut of the all-new Ram cargo van (a.k.a. Ram C/V), a small, commercial hauler targeted towards small, nimble businesses. Taking note that Chicagoland is a top commercial vehicle market; Ram aims to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit.
"With its class-leading capability and a lower total cost of ownership, the highly versatile Ram Cargo Van
is a great vehicle choice for small businesses and commercial fleets," according to Fred Diaz, newly promoted Ram President and CEO who visited Oakbrook Terrace last December to play show-and-tell with his new Ram Cargo Van
With little marketing effort, Ford Motor Co. sold truckloads of its work-related, economical four-cylinder Transit Connect mini hauler ($22,035 starting price) introduced in the states in the 2010 model year after a successful 2002 European launch. The larger, more potent, yet still garage-friendly Ram C/V targets a similar audience.
One basic front-wheel-drive trim is offered with minimal frills. Dual, manual-sliding solid-paneled rear doors offer no power slide option. Two captain's chairs up front represent the entire seating configuration with the area code-sized area behind left for hauling or transforming into mobile offices. The cavernous 144.4 cubic feet of interior space is enough room to lay flat 4-foot by 8-foot sheets of building materials. Chrysler's kid-friendly stow 'n go seating is relegated strictly to Dodge
and Chrysler lots. A payload capacity of 1,800 pounds is similar to what many smaller pickups offer.
Our tester's flat, spacious cargo floor surface with non-skid striping is one of two available choices. The second features floor tie downs and storage bin opportunities.
The sole powertrain is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine cranking out 282 horsepower mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, similar to what's found in people-hauling Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge
Grand Caravans. Mid-grade 89-ocatne fuel is recommended for optimal performance, although 87-octane is acceptable. Fuel estimates are a respectable 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The petro tank holds a very generous 20 gallons. No gas-electric hybrid or diesel powertrains are on tap for the immediate future.
While the silhouette may cast a shadow of a family-friendly soccer-mom minivan, that's where the similarity ends. Under the hood are a heavy-duty radiator and heavy-duty transmission oil cooler. All-season, extra-load bearing tires keep Ram C/V ready to roll.
Chrysler anticipates 95 percent of buyers will select white as the exterior color for a myriad of reasons, including the relative inexpensive ease of full-body graphic availability; creating a rolling billboard. Those daring to be different can choose between silver, blue and black hues. The vehicles back third (including lift gate) are adorned with solid panels for complete privacy while conventional see-through glass panels are available.
Black side-view heated mirror housing matches black strap-like door handles. Mirrors, however, need a larger girth and some tweaking. Many large SUVs now include an additional concaved mirror for drivers to better monitor blind spots. Also missing are secondary, built-in blinker bands alerting others on the road of future intentions. The quad, plastic, black honeycomb grille includes the Ram head logo front and center. One smooth-looking feature of all Chrysler-breed minivans is the sliding door's hidden mechanical track along the bottom frame of the rearward panel/ window. Some competitors, including Nissan's Quest, build framing tracks directly into back fenders. The rear cargo door, hinged at the top, opens up from the bottom as with conventional, family-friendly minivans, except Ram C/V skips the power option.
At $22,420, pricing for a six-cylinder Ram C/V starts in the same neighborhood as a four-cylinder Transit Connect. Our tester included most available options including an in-dash Media Center/Nav ($1,390), web connect ($650), eight-way power driver's seat/two-way passenger power seat ($200) and a Uconnect hands-free group with leather-wrapped steering wheel and Bluetooth streaming audio for a bottom line of $26,680 including $835 destination charge.
Standard equipment includes MP3 audio jacks for portable electronics along with cruise control, air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors and compact disc player with AM/FM stereo. Satellite radio remains optional.
Inside, a wide aisle between cloth captain's chairs creates a walkway to the back. Both seats have fold-up inside arm rests. Drivers have good visuals of the road ahead thanks to a commanding seating height. Passengers situate in front of dual, independent glove boxes. The ventilation system along the bottom of the center stack includes dual ventilation settings. Dials control fan speed and temperature while buttons along the side control fan direction and defrosting. Storage coves and pull-out cup holders reside below. Additional beverage storage homes are molded into doors. The dashboard-situated ignition cylinder is right of the manual tilt and telescoping steering column. Secondary audio controls are optional on the three-spoke wheel. While Ram Cargo Van
is all business, a soft-touch element to the duo-tone dash would be nice, especially since both front doors go the extra mile to include upgraded materials.
Two circular analog gauges make up the instrument panel with small inserts in each monitoring fuel usage and engine temperature. It's also home to the sole gear-shift indicator. The dashboard-mounted shifter high atop the dash immediately to the right could use reminder-like indicators. Adjacent to the rearview mirror is a drop-down concave mirror allowing driver's to spy upon cargo behind the chairs.
Our tester's paneled, no glass sides rendered the rear-view mirror superfluous. Ram would be wise to make optional cross-traffic alerts (currently available in Ford products) signaling passersby when backing out between two parked cars.
As with most Dodge
, Jeep, Chrysler and Ram products, secondary station presents and volume controls are conveniently located on the backside of the steering wheel where fingers have room to roam and play while eyes stay focused on the road. It's useful since the optional, built-in, Garmin navigation/touch audio screen was sans a dial to quickly change radio or optional satellite stations. Note to tech-savvy designers: dials are not evil. Happily, a single dial is available for volume control. Large type and color graphics within the three-dimensional, 6.5-inch screen were user friendly.
With a towing option, Ram C/V can haul up to 3,600 pounds, handy for plumbers and other contractors. The emergence of Ram C/V marks the end of the conceptually similar Dodge
Grand Caravan C/V in the Chrysler Group lineup.
Ram C/V is a nice, enclosed hauler fitting between the Transit Connect and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter which not long ago was also badged as a Dodge
variant when Daimler-Benz and Chrysler were partners (1998-2007). 2012 Ram Cargo VanPrice as tested: Length:
202.8 inches Width:
121.2 inches Engine:
3.6-liter Pentastar V-6Horsepower:
4,150 poundsPowertrain warranty:
Five years/100,000 milesCity/Highway economy:
Windsor Ontario, Canada