Five Things You Should Know About the Ram C/V
Based on the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Ram C/V handles like a minivan (which it is) and gets reasonable gas mileage. It’s far more powerful than the similar purpose Ford Transit Connect. Yet it has enough cargo room and payload for many business firms’ needs. C/V is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Only one trim level is offered, but multiple factory options and even more aftermarket accessories will allow a business to tailor a C/V to its needs.
Previously, the Dodge truck division (now Ram) sold the Sprinter full-sized van, based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Now that Chrysler and Mercedes are divorced, Chrysler needs a cargo van. Chrysler hopes the Ram C/V will meet the needs of many commercial buyers.
Here are five important things we think you should know about the 2012 Ram C/V.
C/V is a Minivan
In spite of wearing the Ram badge of Chrysler Group LLC’s new truck division, the C/V shares most of its engineering with the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country–the same minivans you see at malls and soccer practices across the country. We recently drove a C/V and it comes very close to emulating the comfortable ride and near car-like handling of the Grand Caravan.
The minivan market is more competitive than the full-sized van market, and a new generation appears about every five years. Full-sized van progress is more glacial. For an extreme example, the 2003 Dodge Ram Van traced it basic design back to 1970. That means minivan buyers tend to get more refined and up-to-date designs.
The C/V also has a sensible size. With an overall length of 202.8 inches, it will fit in places where a large van (such as the 216.7-236.7-inch Ford E-Series) won’t. And with a height of only 69 inches, it will pass through the average-sized garage door opening–something many full-size vans can’t do either.
C/V Gets Better Fuel Economy Than Full-Size Vans
The C/V’s smaller size translates to decent fuel economy. EPA estimates for the C/V are 17 city/25 highway. This compares well to 15/20 for a V6 GMC Savana or 13/17 for a V8 Ford E-Series. On the other hand, the Ford Transit Connect gets 21/27 from the EPA, but it is smaller and has a lower payload. A Ram C/V averaged 20.2 mpg in our care, but most of that was spent with an empty cargo area. Most customers drive their vans with heavy payloads, so actual mileage will probably be less.
C/V is Tougher Than a Minivan
Ram did more than take out the back seats to turn the Grand Caravan into the C/V. Spring rates and shock absorbers are uprated to carry heavier loads. There is also a heavy-duty radiator and transmission-oil cooler. Power steering and tires are also upgraded for commercial duty. Thanks to those modifications, C/V has an 1,800-pound payload versus around 1,500 for the Grand Caravan.
While testing the standard antiskid system, Ram took into account that some customers might put heavy loads in racks near the ceiling, thus raising the van’s center of gravity. This would change the balance of the van, and the antiskid system was tuned to take that possibility into account.
The rear window and rear-side windows have been replaced by privacy panels for added security. Those blank panels provide a convenient place for company logos. The blanked-out windows also make the C/V look more like a commercial van and might reduce the number of soccer mom jokes at the loading dock. For those who want to see what’s going on behind them, a rear window and rear-side windows can both be ordered. The rear window will cost $ 590 and includes defogger and wiper/washer. A rearview camera is also available.
C/V Has 144.4 Cubic Feet of Cargo Room
Minivans have always had a lot of cargo room. Taking out seats and adding a flat aluminum floor gives the C/V 144.4 cubic feet of cargo space. By comparison, a Chevrolet Express regular-length cargo van has 239.7 cubic feet of room. Obviously the C/V won’t be big enough for everyone, but for many businesses it will be an economical alternative to a full-size van. The floor is big enough that 4×8 sheets of plywood can be carried flat with the rear doors closed.
A plus from the C/V’s minivan roots is dual sliding side doors. Most full-sized vans only have a right-side sliding door, but with C/V, you have the option of loading from either side.
An odd carryover from the Grand Caravan is the rear fender-well panels with cupholders. In the minivans, these would have served the 3rd-row passengers. On the C/V with no rear seats, they’re perhaps useful for small items like screws, or as a place to put your coffee while loading cargo. Ram says it would have cost more to develop panels without cupholders than to just reuse the Caravan’s sidewall.
C/V Has a Less Expensive Cousin
If you like the idea of using a minivan for business, there’s a cheaper alternative at your Dodge dealer. The 2012 Grand Caravan is valued at $ 20,995 versus $ 22,420 for the 2012 Ram C/V. (Add $ 935 destination charge to either one.) Remove the back seats from the Grand Caravan and you’ll have similar cargo room for $ 1,245 less than the C/V. However, keep in mind that the extra money for the C/V brings the heavy-duty upgrades mentioned above. Plus there are almost no commercial-related options available on the Grand Caravan, while with the C/V, one can order a navigation system, rearview camera, and host of other convenience and job-related options.
The Ram C/V weighs less than a Dodge Grand Caravan and that results in slightly faster acceleration–at least unladen. C/V also has the grunt to tow up to 3,500 pounds. The ride is close to minivan comfortable. Handling is also similar to the Dodge Grand Caravan. Noise levels are higher than a Grand Caravan because of less insulation and an unfinished cargo area, but this is expected in a cargo van.
Whether the C/V is right for you boils down to your needs. If you really need the payload and cargo capacity of a full-sized van, look elsewhere. But if your current full-sized van typically runs half empty, the C/V might be an economical and easy-to-drive alternative.
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