The big, wide windshield of the 2014 Ram ProMaster 3500 looks sort of like a painting by Jackson Pollock, splattered with the bodies of many unfortunate bugs, but it still lets us enjoy a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains as we climb I-76 West in Colorado. The sights, lovely. The sounds and smells, dreadful. The V-6 strains at full throttle to keep the ProMaster going, and it’s howling like a hound in heat. Also, the cargo van’s overworked brakes stink. “You own too much stuff,” says my mom, pointing to my belongings tightly packed behind us into the 463 cu ft of cargo space.
Turn and face the strange
I recently moved to SoCal to be one of AUTOMOBILE’s senior editors. Four years after moving to Michigan to be AUTOMOBILE’s road test editor, I’m working out of our office in El Segundo, which now houses more than half of our editorial staff. When it came time to pack up and sell my place in Ann Arbor, I ignored the advice of my colleagues, who implored me to hire a moving company. Instead I borrowed a 2014 Ram ProMaster 3500 for the 2,300-mile move. I’m always game for a cross-country drive.
Playing a game of ProMaster Tetris
“You’ll never get all of that to fit in there,” my girlfriend said smugly. Nevertheless, after two sweaty nights of playing full-size Tetris in the back of the ProMaster, I managed to pack quite a lot, including: a king-sized bed and frame; a giant three-burner grill; a four-person table; a pinball machine; a ridiculously large full-length mirror; a few rolled-up rugs; four end tables; three bicycles; a 46-inch flat-screen television; two dozen framed paintings; about 200 pounds of clothes shoved into garbage bags; a small library’s worth of books and magazines; big boxes packed with pots, pans, and kitchen utensils; all of my tools, including garage lights, jack stands, and way too many wrenches; and many other small miscellaneous items. No doubt this packing efficiency can be attributed to the motivation that comes from trying to prove your girlfriend wrong.
The mind-numbing Midwest
I swung by Chicago to pick up my mom, who’d never driven across the country before, and we headed west on I-80 East. “Nebraska is almost as boring as Iowa was,” my mom said. With nothing to look at outside, we turned our focus inward.
You get a lot of sheet metal for $37,000 but few amenities. The ProMaster’s standard features include halogen headlights, 16-inch steel wheels, a four-speaker audio system, an auxiliary audio jack, fabric seats, and not much else. Fortunately, popular options don’t cost much. A rearview camera is $230, SiriusXM satellite radio costs $195, power-folding mirrors are $225, and a 5.0-inch touchscreen with navigation sets you back only $745.
"“You get a lot of sheet metal for $37,000 but few amenities.”"
The interior with its plastic trim and cloth upholstery seems unwelcoming at first, but Mom and I found the 2014 Ram ProMaster 3500 to be surprisingly hospitable. We liked its upright seating positions, as the adjustable armrests made getting comfortable easy, and its flat dashboard worked well as an ottoman. My mom had her feet up constantly, and I often rested my left foot in a space next to the steering wheel as I drove. (Yes, yes, this is not recommended in the event of an airbag deployment.)
Rolling along the mountains
Compared to the Ram ProMaster 3500, the pricier but more agile Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 would’ve likely been more enjoyable to drive on the winding freeway carving through the heart of the Rocky Mountains, but the Ram still fared much better than expected. The front-wheel-drive ProMaster never once felt uneasy or bouncy or heavy, and it proved relatively nimble for a great, honking cargo van. It felt like all the action took place in the first five feet of the van, as if the two front tires did every bit of work, and the lengthy rear end simply followed along, sluggishly but obediently like a clumsy puppy.
Refueling the ProMaster with about 22 gallons of gas every 330-odd miles, we averaged 15.2 mpg driving almost exclusively on highways. As the 2014 Ram ProMaster 3500 isn’t tested for by the EPA for fuel economy, I have no idea if this is good or not, but it seems all right, seeing as how I never drove less than 5 mph over the speed limit.
Time to log onto Craigslist
I drove the entire trip, going once for 17 hours straight. (Yes, too much driving; trained professionals only.) We arrived at my new home in Hermosa Beach, California, about 48 hours after leaving Chicago. Not the most rousing cross-country drive I’ve ever done, but the 2014 Ram ProMaster proved to be an extremely pleasant highway hauler. I had no regrets driving it from Detroit to Los Angeles until I pulled into my driveway and realized I had to empty out the jam-packed 463-cu ft cargo hold. I do own too much stuff.
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