Dodge's truck brand Ram has adopted its own version of the Grand Caravan for work duty called the 2012 Ram Cargo Van (or C/V). A cargo van based on Chrysler's minivan platform is nothing new. This is just a major upgrade for the workhorse end of Chrysler's minivan line.
The new Ram C/V trades in the old standard 3.3-liter V-6 for a 3.6-liter unit that makes 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque (an upgrade of 108 hp and 55 lb-ft.) The cargo van also gets a heavy-duty load-leveling suspension, heavy-duty radiator, and heavy-duty transmission oil cooler. All of this combined gives the Ram C/V has a maximum Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 8,750 lbs, which is an improvement of 2,700 lbs over the outgoing model. Towing capacity has also improved by 800 lbs to 3,600 total. Payload capacity remains at 1,800 lbs, but Chrysler is quick to point out that this is a class-leading figure.
Ram has not only engineered the 2012 C/V to haul more, but it is also offering smarter options for cargo. The maximum cargo room remains unchanged at 144.4 cu ft, but the flat load floor is now made of aluminum and now incorporates a much improved tie-down system. There is also an optional floor that will contain three covered storage bins.
The Ram C/V also now comes with standard metal panels to replace all rear glass including the tailgate (privacy glass is still optional.) The outgoing cargo van did not offer these solid panels, which are essential in some commercial vehicles. The absence of glass is sometimes needed not only for privacy, but also to avoid tall freight having costly run-ins with the fragile glass.
For passenger convenience, the Ram Cargo Van comes standard with dual-zone temperature control for both front seat occupants. The C/V also has power locks, power front windows, 12-volt front and rear DC power outlets, steering wheel mounted audio controls, audio jack input for mobile devices, AutoStick automatic transmission, cargo compartment observation mirror, a liftgate floodlamp, and dual sliding side doors with alert warning.
One major competitor to the Ram C/V may be the Ford Transit Connect. Ram seems to have some distinct advantages over the Ford's little hauler. Judging by the current Grand Caravan's dimensions, the Transit Connect is almost half a foot wider and nearly two feet shorter than the Ram C/V. The Ford's 2.0-liter engine makes 147 less hp and 132 less lb-ft of torque than the Ram's new 3.6-liter engine. The cargo room in the Transit Connect is slightly smaller with 135 cu ft and 1,600 lbs payload capacity. Ford may make the case that the smaller size and less power makes it more economical, but Chrysler claims that the Ram C/V will get 25 mpg on the highway, which is only one less than the Transit Connect (city mileage figures for the Ram C/V have not yet been released.)
The Transit Connect does have the advantage of being available in a "wagon" version that offers a second row of bench seating. The Ram C/V only comes with two front seats, and those who want additional rows will have to opt for a Dodge Grand Caravan. A distinct advantage for the Ford is that the Transit Connect does not have a version aimed at the everyday consumer. Although the Ram C/V seems very fit to pull commercial duty, not everyone wants to be seen in a work van that looks a lot like what's clogging up the soccer field parking lot.
The 2012 Ram C/V will go on sale this fall, and pricing will be available closer to the product launch.