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(Insert "Size Doesn't Matter Joke" Here)

2014 Ram ProMaster van

The new Ram ProMaster is large. No kidding. Approaching the 136-inch wheelbased, 213-inches long, high-roofed 2500 series test van was much like walking up to the one-car garage at our first home.

For reasons unknown, I chose a day of high-wind warnings to head over to West-Herr’s Ram dealership in Orchard Park. As I drove over the Skyway on my way there I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like driving this large, vertical, metal box out on the open road on one of the windiest mornings of the year. Turns out it was a piece of cake. I’m not saying wind gusts had no effect, but it wasn’t much different than the ride there in my small car.

Maybe even better. The ProMaster affords a great driving position. You may have deduced from the photo that this is a European design—no big surprise, seeing that Fiat now owns Chrysler, and yes, the ProMaster is in reality a Mexican-built version of the hugely successful Fiat Ducato. As West-Herr’s John Zaprowski pointed out, the powertrain is mounted high in the front of the truck, partially accessible through the hood, with the rest gotten to through a series of hatches in the passenger compartment floor. This makes for a very high seating position with a commanding view of the road, although not one that’s difficult to get yourself into. That powertrain is Chrysler’s very successful 3.6-liter, 280-horsepower V-6, hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission which surprisingly (at least in North America) drives the front wheels. A 3.0-liter diesel will be available soon.

The front-wheel-drive setup also allows for a lower load floor, as there’s no differential going from front-to-rear under the van. The side loading door—wide enough to load a standard-sized pallet into—is without the ubiquitous space-robbing step built into the floor of most other vans. The rear doors open wide against the side of the van, with stops at three different positions. The high-roofed test van is just that—high-roofed, indeed. Once inside I was able to walk around without slouching, ducking, or ever worrying about banging my head on anything.

Driving the van was a treat. Even in the wind. I occasionally find myself behind the wheel of an eight-year-old, American-made van with a design that dates back to the mid-1970s. Ugh! That thing’s cramped, inefficiently designed driver compartment is the pits. The engine’s in the way on the right, the front wheel well protrudes on the left, and everything’s a reach. The ProMaster’s controls are well thought out, there’s space for your feet, and, due to the engine placement, there’s actually a bench seat option to fit three in the front.

The ProMaster comes in several—no, many—configurations. The 1500 is the smallest, and comes in wheelbases of 118 and 136 inches. The shorter wheelbase model is available only with a standard-height roof. Other high-roofed models are the 2500 and 3500, with a mix of two different wheelbases (136 and 159 inches) and three different lengths (213, 236, and 250 inches) available. You can custom-build your load space with a multitude of options from the factory; even more choices are available from a bevy of aftermarket companies.

Pricing for the ProMaster starts at $28,630 for the 1500 regular roof, while the 3500 longest wheelbase extended body version begins at $36,150. And there’s anything and everything in between. Also, there’s a 2500 series, 159-inch wheelbase window van available starting at $33,350. It can be configured with or without rear seating.

I’m wishing I had a business and needed a van. I can see myself in a sinister-looking black shorty with a cool set of rims. Just like the old days!

More info at ramtrucks.com/commercial.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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