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John Darnielle explores the humanity of wizards, sports legends, Ozzy Osbourne, and other folk heroes and beacons of hope.
“Old wizards and old athletes are the same,” John Darnielle said during a Facebook live stream at the headquarters of Wizards of the Coast, the game company that owns Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. He was there to announce the latest record from the Mountain Goats, In League With Dragons, and his rhetoric was appropriately fanciful: “They were once magic,” he offered by way of explanation.

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2018 Ram ProMaster Review

2018 Ram ProMaster Review
The 2018 Ram ProMaster lineup offers good utility, as long as you’re not looking for any semblance of style.

Consider commercial vans like the 2018 Ram ProMaster aren't pretty, but when has work ever been glamorous?


The ProMaster gets the job done well and boasts a remarkably tight turning radius. It rates a 4.0 out of 10 on our scale, a reflection of its purpose-built nature. 

This year, the ProMaster adopts a rearview camera and Bluetooth as standard but otherwise sees few changes for the 2018 model year.

The ProMaster is the only front-wheel-drive full-size van, which endows it with a terrific turning radius and a low load floor at the expense of maximum towing and hauling ability. Three wheelbases ranging from 118 to 159 inches are available with several body lengths and roof heights. Ram also offers the ProMaster in chassis cab and cutaway versions destined for aftermarket upfitters.

One of the biggest Ram ProMaster fleet operators is the United States Postal Service, which has replaced thousands of mail trucks with short-wheelbase models.

The ProMaster can be ordered with either a 3.6-liter gas-fueled V-6 rated at 280 horsepower or a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-4 engine rated at 295 pound-feet of torque. All ProMasters are front-wheel drive with an independent front suspension and a simple solid axle out back.

ProMasters are pretty spartan in base configuration, although this year’s tech upgrades help a bit. They can’t really be built up to a luxurious level as in, say, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. However, commercial users can spoil their drivers with heated front seats while still being practical with the myriad cargo area options that range from simple hooks and lights to a factory-applied spray-in bedliner.

Styling
The 2018 Ram ProMaster is laughable in its awkwardness.

If you’re looking for a swanky truck to impress your clients, the 2018 Ram ProMaster isn’t it.

We’ve rated it a 1 out of 10; it’s not pretty from inside or out. 

Reflecting Ram’s parent company, FCA, the ProMaster is actually a rebadged Fiat Ducato. We have higher expectations from the Italians. At least the ProMaster’s low, unpainted snout allows for a terrific view from the driver’s seat and Ram tells us that the front fascia is inexpensive to mend when it is inevitably bashed into a loading dock.

The ProMaster is especially unattractive in its shortest form, where its tall body and raised rear end make it look almost unfinished.

Inside, things are better but hardly interesting. The symmetrical design puts the audio system  up high for convenience, but there’s hardly any hint of style.

Not that looks really matter here.

Performance
A tight turning radius is the 2018 Ram ProMaster’s best selling point.

The nimble 2018 Ram ProMaster earns a point for its tight turning radius, but we’ve peeled back two for a confused optional transmission and for its stiff unladen ride. That brings it to a 4 out of 10 on our scale. 

The ProMaster is available in three different wheelbases that can be paired to several body styles, so it’s hard to paint this entire lineup with one brush. There are three suspension setups based on the size of the van, but they’re all rather harsh, especially unladen, to account for the potentially heavy loads they’ll be tasked with handling on a daily basis.

ProMaster’s base engine is a 3.6-liter V-6 rated at 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-4 that comes in at 174 hp and 295 lb-ft, the latter of which comes on at just 1,400 rpm. Gas models send power forward via a conventional 6-speed automatic, while the turbodiesel uses a clunky 6-speed automated manual transmission.
The smooth V-6 provides good acceleration and mates reasonably well to the automatic; we can’t say the same about the gruff turbodiesel and its gearbox’s lunging shifts. It’s hard to say just how advantageous the turbodiesel will be in terms of fuel efficiency, since the ProMaster’s size means Ram isn’t required to test it on the EPA’s cycle.

No matter the configuration, the ProMaster’s biggest benefit is its tight turning radius thanks to its front-wheel drive configuration. In its shortest form, it’ll loop around in just 36.3 feet; the longest versions up that by a still impressive 10 feet to 46.8.

Comfort & Quality
A wide range of body configurations means there’s a 2018 Ram ProMaster for nearly every big van need.

The 2018 Ram ProMaster has a highly configurable cargo area available in several different sizes and its front seats are long-haul comfortable.

We’ve given it 6 out of 10 points, reflecting those assets but peeling one off for the chintzy materials used in its cabin. 

ProMasters can be ordered in 14 different wheelbase and body combinations, meaning there’s one for just about every need. The roomiest of the bunch offers an astounding 463 cubic feet of cargo capacity, making it larger than some Manhattan apartments.

The dashboard and front passenger compartment has plenty of spaces to tuck away small items like clipboards and drinks, even if materials are hardly decadent. The two seats up front are firm for all day use, either in the standard cloth or optional vinyl fabric. For an extra cost, Ram offers lumbar support for the driver and a choice of a suspension seat or a swiveling unit that helps transform this big van into a mobile office. Heated front seats are even on offer for those in wintry climes.

Safety
The 2018 Ram ProMaster includes safety basics, but hasn’t been crash-tested.

The 2018 Ram ProMaster hasn’t been subjected to either federal or independent crash-testing, but it does have some good standard safety equipment.

It doesn’t qualify for a score on our scale, however.

Ram includes six airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard. A rearview camera is now included ahead of a calendar year 2018 federal requirement. Rear parking sensors are optional only on the cargo van configuration and not the chassis cab or cutaway.

Ram doesn’t offer any advanced safety tech like lane departure warnings or collision alerts on the ProMaster.

Features
The 2018 Ram ProMaster is predictably basic, but it offers lots of work-oriented options.

Ram may not offer the ProMaster in a wide array of trim levels, but there are plenty of body styles and individual options to sort through.

Base models are just that: basic. As a result, they score 5 out of 10 here. 

Once you’ve picked one of the 14 available wheelbase and body combinations, you’ll have to spend some time working your way through the Ram ProMaster’s optional equipment to figure out what’s the best fit for your business needs.

All ProMasters come standard with a 5.0-inch touchscreen audio system with a rearview camera, power windows and door locks, and air conditioning (which can be deleted for credit). Major options are mostly relegated to cargo and utility, like extra tie-downs, preparation for shelving, and additional interior lights. However, Ram offers upgraded seats up front, seat heaters, satellite radio, integrated navigation, and a 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot as optional equipment.

Fuel Economy
The EPA doesn’t require the 2018 Ram ProMaster to report its fuel economy.

The EPA doesn’t look at larger vehicles like the 2018 Ram ProMaster, so it isn’t required to report its fuel efficiency.

We can’t assign it a score, as much as we’d like to give it—and big vehicles of its ilk—our lowest number here for the silly EPA loophole. 

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