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Jammin’ in a Ram Van

Feb. 16, 2012

So I’m rolling down the road in a 2012 Ram Cargo Van (C/V) earlier this week, with (appropriately) Turn up the Radio by one-hit-wonder metal band Autograph blasting from the dashboard speakers, when I belatedly realize I’ve forgotten to tie down the coolers and boxes of donated canned goods stacked in the cargo bay I’m transporting to the local food bank.

Definitely a slap-the-forehead “Duh!” moment, I groan to myself, for everything back there will be slip-sliding in every direction. I’ll be lucky if the boxes don’t tip over and leave cans rolling hither and yon across the aluminum cargo floor – leaving me a mess that’ll take a half hour or more to put right again.

Yet luck – and the design engineers at Chrysler – were with me, as I’d also forgotten that the cargo floor of Ram’s C/V features several long stripes of non-skid surface, which prevented everything I’d packed into the cargo bay – even the slick-bottomed plastic coolers – from shifting even an inch.

[You can view more photos of the Ram C/V by clicking here.]

Now that’s some smart thinking for a Class 1 commercial cargo van destined to handle a variety of package delivery needs in crowded urban and suburban locales.

The particular C/V I’m driving is equipped with some optional features, such as what’s called “privacy panels” meaning solid metal inserts replace the glass windows along the side and rear hatch door of the vehicle – a necessary option when transporting goods one wants to keep out of public view, especially high value items such as pharmaceuticals.

As a result of the privacy panels, though, the lines of sight are somewhat obscured, meaning greater care must be taken when backing out or changing lanes. Also, a rear-view camera system is thus a necessity – a feature nicely incorporated into a flat-panel in-dash display that also doubles as a satellite and AM/FM band radio as well as onboard navigation aide.

The steel mesh “cargo divider” separating the driver/passenger compartment from the cargo bay is another optional yet necessary feature in my view – allowing for safer cargo stacking without fear that it might fall upon either the driver or shotgun-seat passenger.

(However, upon spying the divider, my kids immediately dubbed the C/V the “Prison Van” and thus renamed the cargo bay a “jail.” When you’re stuck with junior comedians like these …)

For the record, despite its size, the Ram C/V can haul quite a bit in its 144 cubic foot cargo bay – up to 1,800-lbs. worth of cargo payload, with the ability to tow up to 3,600 lbs.

[Nothing, however, like the monster 2011 Ram 3500 Laramie crew cab I test drove last year. You can some photos of that cobalt-blue ride by clicking here.]

The towing power comes from the Pentastar 3.6 liter V6 engine that cranks out 283 hp and 260 ft.-lbs. or torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic, the Ram C/V offers surprising get-up-and-go, especially in those moments where fast acceleration (like merging onto a busy highway) is a must.

Yet the van also comes with a fuel economy setting, too, which triggers a pre-set series of actions by both the engine and transmission in concert to maximize fuel economy – such as decreasing engine idle speed, altering gear shift points, and lowering horsepower output. Thus, the C/V can at times attain 25 miles per gallon, although in typically driving it gets about 18 to 20 mpg. (Fully loaded, you’re looking at between 14 and 17 mpg).

Small details, however, are often what really count when you’re living all day, every day in cargo-hauling operations. That’s why a bunch of the C/V’s standard features make good sense: a 160-amp alternator, 730-amp maintenance-free battery, 20-gallon fuel tank, all-season extra-load capacity tires, commercial-duty suspension, engine oil cooler, and fold-away power exterior mirrors with heating element to keep them free of ice and snow in the winter.

Inside, the C/V comes standard with dual-zone temperature control, air conditioning, outside temperature display, 120-volt auxiliary power outlet, 12-volt front and rear DC power outlets, audio jack input, door courtesy lamps (REALLY helpful at night let me tell you), dual glove boxes, plus a liftgate floodlamp.

Another nice feature: when you open the sliding doors, the flashers automatically engage, and automatically shut off when they close. That relieves the driver of an often-forgotten task, yet one that can help protect them better – especially when making deliveries along busy and crowded streets.

Other standard safety goodies include: active head restraints, advanced multistage front airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a tire-pressure monitoring sensor, tire pressure monitoring warning lamp, a driver’s side inflatable knee bolster air bag, and finally – a must have – electronic stability control.

That’s a lot of good stuff packed into the Ram C/V package. Gotta love that.

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