Ford made a brilliant move when it decided to bring the Transit Connect in from Europe to be a light commercial vehicle for tradesmen. Sure, the company has a variety of bigger trucks to choose from, but essentially, larger vans and trucks are overkill for a variety of applications, ranging from plumbers to florists. And given that fuel economy is an increasing concern when it comes to profitability of small businesses, a vehicle that is more fuel efficient is all the more important for one’s fleet, even if it is a fleet of one.
Arguably, Chrysler may have done Ford one better with the development of the Ram C/V Cargo Van. And the reason is simple: While the Transit Connect (which is built in Turkey) may be familiar in Europe, in the U.S. it is uncommon. But the Ram C/V Cargo Van is based on something that is ubiquitous: the minivan. Chrysler has been building them since November, 1983, and has consistently out sold all other entries in the segment (and has seen its crosstown rivals leave it).
Chances are good that more than a few tradespeople have a minivan in their garage for daily driving, so they are well versed in the vehicle. So the Ram C/V Cargo Van doesn’t have a particularly steep learning curve for someone when it comes to driving—assuming that the person is used to driving a vehicle where there are only three areas where there is glass: the windshield and the two front door windows. That’s right: rather than having a full complement of windows all around, the Ram C/V has that space, in keeping with its functional, let’s-get-down-to-business approach, covered so as to keep the tools or goods inside out of the view of prying eyes. So you (1) learn to use your side-view mirrors more and (2) you give serious thought to getting the option package that includes a backup camera that is shown on a 6.5-in. screen (although with navigation, audio, etc.).
The Ram C/V has two front seats and then the rest is open for business, with a total cargo capacity of 144.4-cubic feet. It can handle 1,800-lb of cargo. There is a flat load floor. Because it is based on the Grand Caravan minivan, it has access to that cargo area from the sides and the back. The floor in the people area of the vehicle has a rubber covering instead of carpet (a friend who has a non-Class-1 version of the minivan says he wishes his vehicle were so equipped, given the stuff that ends up on the carpet).
It isn’t simply a matter of taking things out to transform this into a working truck. They’ve engineered a commercial-tuned ride and heavy-duty suspension for the Ram C/V. They’ve installed a heavy-duty radiator and a heavy-duty transmission oil cooler. They’ve implemented a unique hydraulic power-assist rack-and-pinion steering system. They’ve equipped it with a front anti-sway bar and a rear twist-beam axle with coil springs.
Like the Transit Connect, the Ram Cargo Van is shipped in to the U.S. From across the Detroit River from Windsor. The engine is produced in Trenton, Michigan. Local van makes good.
The Ram C/V is a commercial vehicle, full-on. Which is probably the point.
Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V6
Material: Aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 283 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 121.2 in.
Length: 202.8 in.
Width: 78.7 in.
Height: 69 in.
Curb weight: 4,150 lb.
EPA: 17/25 mpg city/hwy