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William Maley

Review: 2016 Buick Cascada Premium & Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible

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Summertime means something different for everyone. For some, it’s time to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. For others, it is the time to take that trip you have been thinking about for awhile. If you’re an automotive writer like myself, summertime means convertible season. The feeling of having the roof down and enjoying the expanded view of the sky is something quite special. This summer saw two of GM’s latest convertibles roll into the Cheers & Gears’ Detroit garage, the new Buick Cascada and recently redesigned Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible. How did these two droptops fare in the summer heat?

Exterior:

There is no denying the Opel/Vauxhall roots of the Buick Cascada as it is just basically the Cascada sold in Europe with Buick basing. But that isn’t a bad thing since the Cascada is handsome for the most part. The front features a new grille design and headlights with LED accents. The side profile reveals short overhangs for the front and rear. These overhangs make the side look somewhat oddly proportioned. A set 20-inch wheels come standard. Around back, a long chrome bar runs along the trunk lid into the taillights. 

On the opposite end is the Chevrolet Camaro. If you’re looking for something quiet and doesn’t bring attention, then maybe you should pass on it. Redesigned last year, Chevrolet retained the Camaro’s basic profile with its sharp lines and rounded corners. But major work was done on the front and rear ends. The front features a narrow top grille and slim headlights. A massive grille sits underneath between a set of deep cuts into the front bumper. The back has been cleaned up with a new trunk lid design, rectangular headlights, and quad-exhaust tips. 

One item both the Cascada and Camaro share is a fabric top. Putting the top down or up takes under 20 seconds for both vehicles. With the tops down, both vehicles look quite good. But put the tops up and the Cascada is the better looking of the two. I can’t put my finger as to why, but I think it deals with how the Cascada has a little bit more glass than the Camaro. 

Interior:

Unfortunately, both the Cascada and Camaro fall on their face when it comes to the interior for different reasons.

In the case of the Cascada, it features the dash from the outgoing Verano and Encore. This reveals that the Cascada is older despite what Buick may have you think. For example, the center stack is laden with buttons and it will take you a few moments to find the specific one you’re looking for. Not helping is the Cascada using GM’s last-generation infotainment system. While the system is easy to use, the interface is looking very dated. It would have been nice if Buick could have slipped in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascade, but that would have likely introduced more problems than solutions.

On the upside, the Cascada’s interior is well-built and features decent quality materials. A fair amount of dash and door panels feature some soft touch material. The front seats are comfortable for short and long distance trips. Power adjustments for the driver’s seat make it easy to find a position that works. One touch Buick deserves applause for is the seat belt presenter. The front seat belts are nestled away when the Cascada is turned off to make it easier to get in and out of the back seat. But when you start it up, the presenter extends for both the driver and passenger to buckle in. The back seat provides enough space for kids or small adults. Taller folks like myself will find minimal legroom. With the top up, anyone sitting back here will feel very confined. With the top down, this feeling goes away. 

Step into the 2016 Camaro Convertible’s interior and you’ll find the same retro ideas from the previous model such as the shape of the dash and circular vents. But Chevrolet improved the overall usability of the Camaro’s interior. For example, the retro-inspired engine information gauges that were placed ahead of the shifter in the previous generation are gone. In its place are a set of air vents that also control the temperature of the climate control system. 

Our tester featured the optional Chevrolet MyLink system with navigation. We know we’re beating a dead horse with our complaints with MyLink such as a slow response when going from various screens and recognizing devices plugged into the USB ports. But you would think that GM would maybe issue an update or something by now to fix some of these issues? Like other Chevrolet models we have driven this year, the Camaro’s MyLink system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We tried CarPlay and found it to be easier to use than most automaker’s infotainment systems. But, we had issues with apps crashing and the system not always recognizing our phone.

The front bucket seats are quite comfortable and will hold you in if you decide to tackle that special road aggressively. A set of power adjustments makes it easy for anyone to find a comfortable position. The back seat is best reserved for small kids or extra storage as legroom is nonexistent. You would think that the Camaro Convertible wouldn’t feel as claustrophobic as the coupe since you can put the top down, but it isn’t. Sitting in the Camaro convertible with the top down, I felt like I was being contained in a small box. Blame the high belt line for this.

Powertrain:

Power for the Buick Cascada comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. The figures are impressive for this engine. But drop it into the Cascada and it is quite disappointing. Performance is very lethargic as the engine has to overcome the nearly two tons of Cascada. It feels like an eternity getting up to speed and you’ll find yourself putting the pedal to the floor to get the vehicle moving at a sufficient rate. EPA figures for the Cascada stand at 20 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. My average for the week landed at 21 mpg. 

The Camaro’s engine lineup includes a 3.6L V6, turbocharged 2.0L four, and our SS tester’s 6.2L V8. The V8 pumps out 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. We had the optional eight-speed automatic, but you can get a six-speed manual. The V8 makes the Camaro Convertible stupidly fun. I found myself wanting to roll down the window at a stop light to tell the vehicle next to me “let me play you the song of my people” before stomping on the accelerator and having the V8 roar into life as the light turns green. The engine will pin you in your seat if you floor it and there is a never-ending stream of power throughout the rev range. A nice touch is the optional dual-mode exhaust system that only amplifies the noises of the V8. The eight-speed automatic is ofine around town and on the highway but stumbles somewhat in enthusiastic driving where it takes a moment to downshift when slowing down. Fuel economy for the Camaro SS Convertible stands at 17 City/28 Highway/20 Combined. I got about 19 mpg during my week-long test.

Ride & Handling:

Describing the ride and handling characteristics of the Cascada can be summed up in one word; smooth. Buick’s engineers tuned the Cascada’s suspension to deliver an almost magic carpet ride. Even with a set of twenty-inch wheels as standard equipment, the Cascada is able to deal with rough roads with no issues. Around corners, the Cascada feels planted and body roll is kept in check. But don’t plan on doing anything enthusiastic with it. The steering is a little bit too light for it. Drive it like a relaxed cruiser and you’ll enjoy it. Wind buffeting is minimal with either the windows rolled up or down.

The Camaro Convertible is shocking as to how well it handles. Part of this comes down to optional Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) system which limits body roll. Chevrolet engineers also worked on improving the structural rigidity of the Camaro. The combination makes the convertible just as good as the coupe in corners. Direction change is fast and there is plenty of grip coming from the meaty tires. Where the Camaro Convertible falters is the ride quality. The SS comes with a set of twenty-inch wheels. While they do look sharp, it makes for a somewhat unbearable ride. Bumps of any size are clearly transmitted to those sitting inside. MRC does its best to provide a comfortable ride, but it might be worth considering going down to a smaller wheel to improve the ride. Wind buffeting is kept in check with the windows up or down.

Price:

The 2016 Buick Cascada starts at $33,065 for the base model. Our up-level Premium starts at $36,065 and comes to an as-tested price of $37,385 thanks to the vehicle being finished in an optional blue color. You really don’t get much in terms of additional features when compared to the base Cascada aside from some additional safety features - front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert - and automatic wipers. Also for that amount of cash, you could with the Audi A3 cabriolet which offers a slightly more premium interior. But you would lose out on the larger back seat of the Cascada. You would be better off with the base Cascada.

If you have your heart set on a Camaro Convertible, be ready to shell out the cash. The 2016 Camaro 2SS Convertible carries a base sticker of $48,300 - $6,005 more expensive than the coupe. Add on the list of options fitted to our tester such as the eight-speed automatic, magnetic ride control, and dual-mode exhaust system and you’ll end up with an as-tested price of $54,075. I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up from the floor due to the price shock. The Camaro is nice car all-around, but is it really worth dropping $54,000?! We’re not so sure. 

Verdict:

Both of vehicles have issues that don’t make them as appealing. The Cascada’s engine either needs to be kicked to the curb or head off to the gym to get a bit more power. It would nice if Buick could also figure how to put in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascada, although that might prove to be an engineering nightmare and something that would be better suited for the next-generation model. The Camaro Convertible’s price tag will make a number of people and their bank accounts cry. Also for being a convertible, the Camaro still feels as claustrophobic as the coupe.

But when you drop the tops in both models, you forget all about the issues. Instead, you begin to take in the sky and rush of the wind. This makes you remember why you bought a convertible, to enjoy the feeling of openness. It is only when you put the top back up that makes you wonder if you can live with the issues. In the case of the Cascada, the answer is no. The Camaro is a maybe.
 

 

Disclaimer: General Motors Provided the Cascada and Camaro; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2016
Make: Buick
Model: Cascada
Trim: Premium
Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L SIDI DOHC with VVT
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 200 @ 5,500
Torque @ RPM: 207 @ 1,800 - 4,500, 221 @ 2,200 - 4,000 (with overboost)
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/27/23
Curb Weight: 3,979 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Gliwice, Poland
Base Price: $36,065
As Tested Price: $37,385 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Deep Sky Metallic - $395.00

Year: 2016
Make: Chevrolet
Model: Camaro Convertible
Trim: SS
Engine: 6.2L VVT DI V8
Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 455 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 455 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/28/20
Curb Weight: 3,966 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI
Base Price: $48,300
As Tested Price: $54,075 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Magnetic Ride Control - $1,695.00
Eight-Speed Automatic - $1,495.00
Dual-Mode Exhaust - $895.00
Chevrolet MyLink with Navigation - $495.00
20" 5-Split Spoke Aluminum Wheels - $200.00


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Maybe GM will fix all issues with the Cascada either next year or the year after.  That 4cyl has to go though, since it is as weak as any motor as they always push in displacement-constrained European markets.

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Of the two the Camaro woudl interest me the most, but I much prefer the Camaro as a coupe.  I have no bias against convertibles, but with both the Camaro and Mustang, the proportions of the current convertible seem slightly off visually.  I am kind of glad in a way that the MOPAR boys have not followed suit and built a Challenger convertible.

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The Cascada, being Astra based, should naturally get the new Astra's dashboard. 

cq5dam.web.1280.1280 (3).jpeg

 

The 1.6T is a perfectly fine engine... it's just not enough for this particular application. I would have loved to see this engine as a mid-level engine in the Verano, an optional engine in the Encore, and possibly even the base engine in the Regal.  In a car that isn't so heavy, it reportedly gets fantastic fuel economy and the power band is excellent. 

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1 hour ago, Drew Dowdell said:

The Cascada, being Astra based, should naturally get the new Astra's dashboard. 

cq5dam.web.1280.1280 (3).jpeg

 

The 1.6T is a perfectly fine engine... it's just not enough for this particular application. I would have loved to see this engine as a mid-level engine in the Verano, an optional engine in the Encore, and possibly even the base engine in the Regal.  In a car that isn't so heavy, it reportedly gets fantastic fuel economy and the power band is excellent. 

I do like that Dashboard!

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15 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

The new Camaro pricing has gotten awful ambitious. 

I think GM is showing a change of attitude.... they care less about volumes and more about profit. They feel they can set the price, and if they sell fewer of them (them being just about any model except full-size trucks), then they are fine with it.  They're no longer building cars just to keep the lights on like they were 10 years ago. 

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A friend on another site(facebook) son just bought a 2016 or 2017 1SS with 10k off sticker, walked out for only 28k. Freakin' great deal!

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39 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

I think GM is showing a change of attitude.... they care less about volumes and more about profit. They feel they can set the price, and if they sell fewer of them (them being just about any model except full-size trucks), then they are fine with it.  They're no longer building cars just to keep the lights on like they were 10 years ago. 

Yes, but it is obviously costing them sales. Neither Chevy store I've worked at in the last 2 years sell Camaros for crap. Not even much interest in them. There's no markup in them. The incentives are terrible. The back seat is now almost unusable. The visibility is still poor. And Ford is selling Mustangs hand over fist. And I'm a GM guy.

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41 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

Yes, but it is obviously costing them sales. Neither Chevy store I've worked at in the last 2 years sell Camaros for crap. Not even much interest in them. There's no markup in them. The incentives are terrible. The back seat is now almost unusable. The visibility is still poor. And Ford is selling Mustangs hand over fist. And I'm a GM guy.

But are they now more profitable for GM even at the lower rate of sales?  That's the point I was trying to make.  If GM can get $5,000 profit per car (completely made up number) selling 50,000 of them a year, but would have to mark it down $4,000 to sell 70,000 of them a year... where is the financial incentive to do so?  They make more money selling fewer cars at a higher price. 

They are also likely making more per unit than Ford because of the fact they are using a platform shared by 2 other vehicles (both of which are in the premium segment), so the amortization costs of the platform will be much lower. 

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29 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

But are they now more profitable for GM even at the lower rate of sales?  That's the point I was trying to make.  If GM can get $5,000 profit per car (completely made up number) selling 50,000 of them a year, but would have to mark it down $4,000 to sell 70,000 of them a year... where is the financial incentive to do so?  They make more money selling fewer cars at a higher price. 

They are also likely making more per unit than Ford because of the fact they are using a platform shared by 2 other vehicles (both of which are in the premium segment), so the amortization costs of the platform will be much lower. 

Therefore the prices could be more aggressive, while GM still made money. 

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4 hours ago, Drew Dowdell said:

But are they now more profitable for GM even at the lower rate of sales?  That's the point I was trying to make.  If GM can get $5,000 profit per car (completely made up number) selling 50,000 of them a year, but would have to mark it down $4,000 to sell 70,000 of them a year... where is the financial incentive to do so?  They make more money selling fewer cars at a higher price. 

They are also likely making more per unit than Ford because of the fact they are using a platform shared by 2 other vehicles (both of which are in the premium segment), so the amortization costs of the platform will be much lower. 

That entire platform has sold less than the mustang last I looked. So while it gets spread out it still sells less units. 

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2 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

That entire platform has sold less than the mustang last I looked. So while it gets spread out it still sells less units. 

 ATS + CTS + Camaro - yes at the moment that is correct.  As of August they are at 72,963 while the Mustang alone is 80,829.   But Cadillac is getting some of the highest transaction prices in its respective classes (even higher than BMW), so that means they are pulling in much higher transaction prices than Mustang. The mustang, quite honestly, is often to be found as an option at the rental car counter while I can never seem to find a Camaro.  That isn't a judgement against the car (I actually quite like the Mustang overall), it's just a reflection of what's behind the sales numbers. 

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After 2 years, 3 max as they get their special models out, I believe they will have to start piling incentives on the Camaro just to move it.  I hate that as it is an excellent driving car, but it also has a lot of little issues such as visibility.  Looking at coupes and particularly if I was in the market for a turbo 4 or 6, I would look for a gently used ATS coupe.  My brother got a loaded 15 ATS could for the low 30s with only 4900 miles on the clock.  It was an AWD with the V6 too with driver assist and ever option Cadillac offers.  That is slightly optioned 1LT Camaro territory. 

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On the Cascada, why not put the 2.0T in there?  It would probably get better FE too as it shouldn't have to stay quite as far in the boost all the time to keep it going.  The 1.6T would be reat in a maybe a sporty Cruise or even Sonic model.  I agree with the Encore (and Trax) too. 

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      Some turbo lag makes an appearance when the vehicle begins to accelerate. But once the turbocharger spools up, the Stelvio moves at a surprising rate. This comes down to a broad and flat torque curve. The eight-speed automatic mirrors what I found in the Giulia Quadrifoglio I drove earlier in the year - stumbles with gear changes at lower speeds, but becomes smoother as speed increases.
      Handling is where the Stelvio really pulls ahead of the competition. On a winding road, the crossover exhibits excellent control of body motions. Steering provides decent weight and feel needed for an enthusiastic drive. I had to remind myself this isn’t a Giulia sedan, this is a compact crossover. But there is one item that will make you think twice about driving the Stelvio with gusto and that is brakes. The pedal feel was very inconsistent - lightly press on the pedal and the vehicle didn’t feel like it was slowing down, press a little bit further and it felt like the vehicle was going into a panic stop. The issue deals with the brake-by-wire system which uses sensors to measure the amount of force and speed applied to the pedal. This information is then transmitted to a controller which applies the appropriate amount of braking force. This is a problem a few other reviews have noted and one Alfa Romeo needs to address.
      The ride is compliant with a fair number of bumps making their way inside. If you’re looking for a somewhat smoother ride, dropping to the smaller 18-inch wheels is recommended. Road and wind noise are kept to average levels for the class. But engine noise is very noticeable inside, sounding like an old diesel truck. Be prepared to keep the volume for the audio system up.
      Like the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Stelvio has me torn. The crossover has a lot going for it such as the sharp exterior, a very punchy turbo-four, and impressive handling. But then I look at the list of issues such as the problematic infotainment system, confused transmission, and a braking system that is very inconsistent. This isn’t including the dark cloud of Alfa Romeo’s reliability. During my week, I had a ‘Service Alarm’ light that would pop up when I started the vehicle. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I accidentally pressed the panic button and the alarm went off for five minutes. I was about ready to break out the wrenches and remove the battery to shut up the alarm, but then it stopped. It needs to be noted that FCA has issued four recalls on the Stelvio at the time of this writing.
      If you really have your heart set on a Stelvio, be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. There are moments of brilliance mixed in with the perils. Everyone else should look at the competition.
      Disclaimer: Alfa Romeo Provided the Stelvio, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Alfa Romeo
      Model: Stelvio
      Trim: Ti
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L MultiAir2 SOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 5,200
      Torque @ RPM: 306 @ 2,000 - 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/28/24
      Curb Weight: 4,044 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Cassino, Italy
      Base Price: $43,995
      As Tested Price: $54,090 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ti Sport Package 22S - $2,500
      Driver Assist Dynamic Plus Package - $1,500
      Dual-Pane Sunroof - $1,350
      8.8-inch AM/FM Bluetooth Radio with 3D Navigation - $950.00
      Harman Kardon Premium Audio - $900.00
      Driver Assistance Static Package - $650.00
      Vesuvio Grey Metallic - $600.00
      Compact Spare Tire - $450.00
      Convenience Package - $200.00
    • By William Maley
      (Author's Note: As was pointed out to me on Facebook, the diesel engine is nowhere to be seen on the consumer site or the configurator. Yet, it appears in FCA's media materials. In an email sent this afternoon, Ram Trucks spokesman Nick Cappa said the option has been dropped for 2018. This review has been updated with this new information. -WM)
      I’ll admit that I was a bit crazy requesting a 2018 Ram ProMaster van for review. Ever since it was introduced, I have been interested in this rebadged version of the Fiat Ducato van sold elsewhere. Unlike most vans that use a rear-wheel drive layout, the ProMaster uses a front-wheel drive one. I wanted to know if this works for a vehicle designed for work. But I also have an odd curiosity to cargo vans in general as I wondered what it would be like to drive one for a week as my daily driver. This is what I found out.
      Function over form best describes the design brief for the Ram ProMaster. The overall profile reminds us of an oversized dustbuster with a steeply raked and short front end and tall sides. Awkward is the kindest word to use on the ProMaster’s front end with the grille placed very low, acres of gray plastic, headlights positioned near the windshield, and a large glass area. The rest of the ProMaster’s design fits in line with other cargo vans with clean sides, split-opening rear doors, and a set of optional wheels. 
      The ProMaster offers a wide variety of configurations. With three weight classes, three body styles, and various roof height and length options, you’ll be able to find a van that fit your needs. Our particular tester is one of the popular configurations; a 2500 with the 159-inch wheelbase and high roof option.
      Getting inside the ProMaster isn’t tough thanks to wide opening front doors and steps to help you climb up. Once in, you’ll notice one of the key benefits to the ProMaster’s exterior. The large glass area not only makes the interior feel airy, it provides excellent outward visibility. This helps make maneuvering in tight spaces easier.
      The design is very utilitarian with a plain look and controls within easy reach of the driver and passenger. There are some clever touches such as the integrated clipboard latch on the top of the dash to hold paperwork and numerous storage spaces. Many surfaces are covered in hard plastics which will hold up to the various work demands being put upon by owners.
      One area that will be a major issue for drivers is the seating position. Instead of you sitting in front of the steering wheel, Ram has the wheel set up similar to a school bus or semi-truck where you sit over it. Not helping is the placement of the pedals where you step down instead of push forward. The end result is a driver being in a hunched over position. This could be somewhat alleviated if there was a tilt adjustment for the steering wheel. But Ram only offers a telescoping adjustment. The only way to get a sudo-tilt adjustment is to adjust the angle of the seat.
      The seats themselves are perfect for a long workday with excellent support and firm cushioning. It needs to be noted that the ProMaster only offers the bare minimum when it comes to seat adjustments such as angle and position. If you want lumbar adjustments, you need to tick that box on the option list.
      All ProMasters come with a 5.3-inch touchscreen with FCA’s UConnect infotainment system. Our test van came with the optional TomTom navigation system. The small screen makes it slightly difficult to look at quickly or use while on the move. We would skip the TomTom navigation system as the graphics are quite dated and it takes some time to process before providing directions. At least the base UConnect system has many of the qualities we like on the larger systems such as a simple user interface and snappy performance.
      Step behind the cockpit to enter the massive cargo space. Our particular ProMaster configuration boasted 420 cubic feet of space and max payload of 4,020 pounds. One of the reasons I had requested the van was to get a number of items at my parent’s house to be donated. The van was up to the task by swallowing up everything including a dining room set. The low step-in height, rear-doors that open up 260-degrees, and numerous tie-down points to keep cargo in its place were appreciated.
      There are two engines on offer for the ProMaster. We had the base 3.6L V6 producing 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. There is an optional a 3.0L turbodiesel inline-four with a six-speed automated manual. (No more diesel for 2018 according to FCA). The V6 engine moves the van with no issue even with a large amount of cargo. As for the automatic, it delivers smooth shifts. However, the transmission showed some slowness to change gears. We’re assuming this is due to van only having 350 miles when we took delivery. For those who need a specific setup in the cargo area such as plumbers or painters, Ram offers various uplift packages that include such items as shelving, integrated tool boxes, and dividers.
      The low mileage might also explain the fuel economy figure of 15.7 mpg in mostly city driving. No EPA numbers are available due to the van’s gross vehicle weight being above 8,500 pounds.
      It is evident that Ram’s prime consideration for the suspension was tuned to deal with heavy loads and not comfort. With the van empty, the ride quality is quite harsh with many bumps making their way inside. Fill up the van and the ride begins to smooth out somewhat. Steering takes a lot of effort as it's very slow and requires a driver to make a number of rotations to do simple turns. There is a fair amount of road and wind noise coming inside the passenger compartment.
      If I was to judge the ProMaster like I would with a normal passenger car or SUV, it would be towards the bottom. There is a long list of problems such as the odd driving position, the number of comfort features that are optional, slow steering, and harsh ride. But I need to look at the ProMaster in a different light since it isn’t built for people like me. It is built for people who need a vehicle that can handle holding a lot of cargo or tools, along with being on some sort of worksite for periods at a time. Then the ProMaster begins to show some bright spots. The massive cargo area with the low step-in and tie-down point make it great for deliveries or moving. Using a front-wheel drive setup doesn’t hurt the ProMaster’s capability in terms of payload, and will help the van when the weather becomes terrible like a snowstorm. Finally, the V6 engine is plenty powerful for any situation the ProMaster is in.
      While I found the ProMaster to be a bit much to be used a daily driver for me, I can very much see the appeal for those in the commercial market. Just be sure to try the seating position as that will be the item that will influence your decision the most.
      Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the ProMaster 2500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Ram Trucks
      Model: ProMaster Cargo
      Trim: 2500 159" Wheelbase - High Roof
      Engine: 3.6L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A
      Curb Weight: 4.483 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: N/A
      Base Price: $35,095
      As Tested Price: $43,460 (Includes $1,395 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Sliding Driver-Side Door without Glass - $595.00
      Trailer Tow Group - $585.00
      UConnect 3 Navigation with 5-inch Display - $495.00
      16-inch x 6.0-inch Aluminum Wheels - $445.00
      Wood Composite Floor - $445.00
      Premium Appearance Group - $395.00
      Interior Convenience Group - $345.00
      ParkSense Rear Park-Assist System - $295.00
      Rear Hinged Doors with Deep Tinted Glass - $295.00
      Speed Control - $295.00
      Upper and Lower Side Wall Paneling Group - $295.00
      LED Cargo Areas Light Bars - $285.00
      225/75R16C BSW All-Season Tires - $250.00
      Driver/Passenger 6-Way Adjustable Lumbar Seats - $245.00
      Power Folding/Heated Mirrors - $245.00
      Security Alarm - $245.00
      DOT Certified Roadside Safety Kit - $195.00
      Heated Driver Seat - $195.00
      Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel - $195.00
      SiriusXM Sat Radio w/1-Year Subscription - $195.00
      Rear Assist Handles - $150.00
      Heated Passenger Seat - $145.00
      Instrument Panel Bright Bezels - $95.00
      12-Volt Rear Auxiliary Power Outlet - $45.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      (Author's Note: As was pointed out to me on Facebook, the diesel engine is nowhere to be seen on the consumer site or the configurator. Yet, it appears in FCA's media materials. In an email sent this afternoon, Ram Trucks spokesman Nick Cappa said the option has been dropped for 2018. This review has been updated with this new information. -WM)
      I’ll admit that I was a bit crazy requesting a 2018 Ram ProMaster van for review. Ever since it was introduced, I have been interested in this rebadged version of the Fiat Ducato van sold elsewhere. Unlike most vans that use a rear-wheel drive layout, the ProMaster uses a front-wheel drive one. I wanted to know if this works for a vehicle designed for work. But I also have an odd curiosity to cargo vans in general as I wondered what it would be like to drive one for a week as my daily driver. This is what I found out.
      Function over form best describes the design brief for the Ram ProMaster. The overall profile reminds us of an oversized dustbuster with a steeply raked and short front end and tall sides. Awkward is the kindest word to use on the ProMaster’s front end with the grille placed very low, acres of gray plastic, headlights positioned near the windshield, and a large glass area. The rest of the ProMaster’s design fits in line with other cargo vans with clean sides, split-opening rear doors, and a set of optional wheels. 
      The ProMaster offers a wide variety of configurations. With three weight classes, three body styles, and various roof height and length options, you’ll be able to find a van that fit your needs. Our particular tester is one of the popular configurations; a 2500 with the 159-inch wheelbase and high roof option.
      Getting inside the ProMaster isn’t tough thanks to wide opening front doors and steps to help you climb up. Once in, you’ll notice one of the key benefits to the ProMaster’s exterior. The large glass area not only makes the interior feel airy, it provides excellent outward visibility. This helps make maneuvering in tight spaces easier.
      The design is very utilitarian with a plain look and controls within easy reach of the driver and passenger. There are some clever touches such as the integrated clipboard latch on the top of the dash to hold paperwork and numerous storage spaces. Many surfaces are covered in hard plastics which will hold up to the various work demands being put upon by owners.
      One area that will be a major issue for drivers is the seating position. Instead of you sitting in front of the steering wheel, Ram has the wheel set up similar to a school bus or semi-truck where you sit over it. Not helping is the placement of the pedals where you step down instead of push forward. The end result is a driver being in a hunched over position. This could be somewhat alleviated if there was a tilt adjustment for the steering wheel. But Ram only offers a telescoping adjustment. The only way to get a sudo-tilt adjustment is to adjust the angle of the seat.
      The seats themselves are perfect for a long workday with excellent support and firm cushioning. It needs to be noted that the ProMaster only offers the bare minimum when it comes to seat adjustments such as angle and position. If you want lumbar adjustments, you need to tick that box on the option list.
      All ProMasters come with a 5.3-inch touchscreen with FCA’s UConnect infotainment system. Our test van came with the optional TomTom navigation system. The small screen makes it slightly difficult to look at quickly or use while on the move. We would skip the TomTom navigation system as the graphics are quite dated and it takes some time to process before providing directions. At least the base UConnect system has many of the qualities we like on the larger systems such as a simple user interface and snappy performance.
      Step behind the cockpit to enter the massive cargo space. Our particular ProMaster configuration boasted 420 cubic feet of space and max payload of 4,020 pounds. One of the reasons I had requested the van was to get a number of items at my parent’s house to be donated. The van was up to the task by swallowing up everything including a dining room set. The low step-in height, rear-doors that open up 260-degrees, and numerous tie-down points to keep cargo in its place were appreciated.
      There are two engines on offer for the ProMaster. We had the base 3.6L V6 producing 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. There is an optional a 3.0L turbodiesel inline-four with a six-speed automated manual. (No more diesel for 2018 according to FCA). The V6 engine moves the van with no issue even with a large amount of cargo. As for the automatic, it delivers smooth shifts. However, the transmission showed some slowness to change gears. We’re assuming this is due to van only having 350 miles when we took delivery. For those who need a specific setup in the cargo area such as plumbers or painters, Ram offers various uplift packages that include such items as shelving, integrated tool boxes, and dividers.
      The low mileage might also explain the fuel economy figure of 15.7 mpg in mostly city driving. No EPA numbers are available due to the van’s gross vehicle weight being above 8,500 pounds.
      It is evident that Ram’s prime consideration for the suspension was tuned to deal with heavy loads and not comfort. With the van empty, the ride quality is quite harsh with many bumps making their way inside. Fill up the van and the ride begins to smooth out somewhat. Steering takes a lot of effort as it's very slow and requires a driver to make a number of rotations to do simple turns. There is a fair amount of road and wind noise coming inside the passenger compartment.
      If I was to judge the ProMaster like I would with a normal passenger car or SUV, it would be towards the bottom. There is a long list of problems such as the odd driving position, the number of comfort features that are optional, slow steering, and harsh ride. But I need to look at the ProMaster in a different light since it isn’t built for people like me. It is built for people who need a vehicle that can handle holding a lot of cargo or tools, along with being on some sort of worksite for periods at a time. Then the ProMaster begins to show some bright spots. The massive cargo area with the low step-in and tie-down point make it great for deliveries or moving. Using a front-wheel drive setup doesn’t hurt the ProMaster’s capability in terms of payload, and will help the van when the weather becomes terrible like a snowstorm. Finally, the V6 engine is plenty powerful for any situation the ProMaster is in.
      While I found the ProMaster to be a bit much to be used a daily driver for me, I can very much see the appeal for those in the commercial market. Just be sure to try the seating position as that will be the item that will influence your decision the most.
      Disclaimer: Ram Trucks Provided the ProMaster 2500, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Ram Trucks
      Model: ProMaster Cargo
      Trim: 2500 159" Wheelbase - High Roof
      Engine: 3.6L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A
      Curb Weight: 4.483 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: N/A
      Base Price: $35,095
      As Tested Price: $43,460 (Includes $1,395 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Sliding Driver-Side Door without Glass - $595.00
      Trailer Tow Group - $585.00
      UConnect 3 Navigation with 5-inch Display - $495.00
      16-inch x 6.0-inch Aluminum Wheels - $445.00
      Wood Composite Floor - $445.00
      Premium Appearance Group - $395.00
      Interior Convenience Group - $345.00
      ParkSense Rear Park-Assist System - $295.00
      Rear Hinged Doors with Deep Tinted Glass - $295.00
      Speed Control - $295.00
      Upper and Lower Side Wall Paneling Group - $295.00
      LED Cargo Areas Light Bars - $285.00
      225/75R16C BSW All-Season Tires - $250.00
      Driver/Passenger 6-Way Adjustable Lumbar Seats - $245.00
      Power Folding/Heated Mirrors - $245.00
      Security Alarm - $245.00
      DOT Certified Roadside Safety Kit - $195.00
      Heated Driver Seat - $195.00
      Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel - $195.00
      SiriusXM Sat Radio w/1-Year Subscription - $195.00
      Rear Assist Handles - $150.00
      Heated Passenger Seat - $145.00
      Instrument Panel Bright Bezels - $95.00
      12-Volt Rear Auxiliary Power Outlet - $45.00
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