The EuroVan Revolution Has Arrived: Ram ProMaster and Ford Transit Join Mercedes Sprinter – Which One Shall It Be?

Sprinter 2006 sportsmobile

I’ve been MM’ing over a Sprinter van since they arrived in 2002 or so. But I couldn’t justify the expense, and have become a bit queasy about their inconsistent rep on maintenance expenses, reliability and parts prices. The first few years seem to have a pretty good rep, before they had to modify the diesel engine for tighter US emission regs.

Mercedes 2014 Sprinter-1

The NA gen2 version Sprinter that arrived in 2007 grew in its dimensions, got a V6 engine, and the price went up even higher. The 2014 refresh gets a new front end that is more in keeping with Mercedes current styling, and has a new base engine. It’s all of 2.1 liters, a twin-turbo four diesel that makes 161 hp and 265 ft.lbs of torque, and is matched to a seven-speed transmission. The optional 188 hp V6 diesel with 325 ft.lbs. torque is mated to the older five-speed transmission. MSRPs run some 20% higher than similar-sized ProMasters. I think the Sprinter is going to be a bit challenged, especially when the Ford Transit gears up too. How much is the star on the grille worth?

Ford 2015 Transit-Diesel_2

The Ford Transit is also a big seller in Europe, especially so in the UK. Over there, the Transit can be had in both RWD and FWD versions, which allows it to be configured for its optimal use.

Ford Transit tipper

For those needing to tow heavy loads, or for the truck/dump versions that are so popular in Europe instead of our pickups, RWD is the way to go. But for the smaller-mid sized delivery vans and such, the FWD version offers a lower floor and lighter weight, as with the ProMaster. And if the choice between FWD and RWD is too difficult, the European Transit is also available in all-wheel drive.

Ford 2015 Transit

The 2015 Transit for NA will be RWD only, and come in two wheelbase lengths (130 and 148 inches), and three body lengths as well as three roof heights. Standard engine will be the 3.7 V6, and the Eco-Boost 3.5 V6 is optional. No word yet on whether a diesel will eventually be offered.

Presumably pricing will comparable to the ProMaster (roughly $28-37k MSRP), with fleet prices undoubtedly lower. The biggest difference between the two will of course be the RWD vs. FWD issue. The Transit will offer superior towing capacity (the ProMaster tops out at 5000lbs), and its traction will of course improve under heavy loads.

I don’t consider the traction issue to be significant, except of course when it is, like a steep hill with loose gravel or snow. I’ve taken the Chinook on some roads that would normally be considered 4WD, and its dual rear wheels and short wheelbase (129″) allowed it do get through a couple of places I would not take a ProMaster on. But I think my days of trying to push the limits like that are probably best left behind.

Chevrolet 2013 Express b

The Chevy is going to get short-shrift in this comparison. It just doesn’t come in the high-roof and extended body version that makes for enough space for a conversion, without an after-market fiberglass roof or such. The 4.8 L V8 is an appealing engine in terms a balance between economy and power, but the Pentastar V6 comes very close to matching it in power, and will likely yield better fuel mileage, at least as installed in the ProMaster. But the Chevy’s low price and proven technology and well-known operational costs, will undoubtedly continue to make it a popular choice for basic fleet use, especially when the Econoline bows out.

Ducato NZ

I suppose I’ve more than tipped my hand here, but I’m willing to give the Transit a bit more consideration. But if I had to pull the trigger today, it would be for a ProMaster, not unlike this Ducato conversion in New Zealand. I just need to add some big DODGE letters on the hood.

2020 Update: In 2017, I did buy a Promaster. And did my own conversion. And the Promaster has had zero issues in almost four years.

my 2017 Promaster conversion

Follow-up: My 2017 Promaster Van Build: Rear Entry, Hidden Bath, and a few other unusual details

Pages: 1 2