RAM 1500 Review – First drive
Alright, I know that a young Ram is called a ‘Ram Lamb’ but it didn’t have the same ring to it. The point is RAM (the truck type) have just launched their new 1500 and despite it being shorter, lower and lighter than its siblings, according to them it ‘eats utes for breakfast’. We flew to Bathurst to find out what to feed this baby RAM.
We joined the tail end of the week-long launch and as luck would have it, bad luck that is, Bathurst was blowing a gale and raining. It made for an interesting landing in our thirty-year-old twin prop plane that’s for sure, thankfully the rest of the day went a lot smoother – apart from the flight back to Sydney that is. Funnily enough, we had landed in time for breakfast and as we chowed down on homemade scones and savouries, we learned a little more about what RAM has been up to.
With 2018 sales that top 770,000 and a heritage that dates back 100 years, RAM, (not to be mistaken with Dodge RAM – it hasn’t been that since 2009), is the fastest growing commercial vehicle brand in NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement. The range of product offerings is actually quite vast, however, we and specifically RAM trucks ANZ (the World’s only RAM factory authorised right-hand drive manufacturer) were focused on Heavy Duty 2500/3500 and of course the new 1500 Light Duty.
The 1500 model comes in two variants, the Express and the Laramie (baseish/younger target and luxury) but as we spent the whole day in the Laramie, I’ll stick to telling you about that. First of all, let’s talk size. When I say ‘baby’ it’s all relative. The 1500 is still 5.82m long, 2.02m wide, 1.92m high and weighs 2,650kg’s. It sports the trademark RAM chrome grille, chrome bumpers, side steps, 20” wheels and a 5’7” tub round the back, make no mistake, this is no shrinking violet.
Under the muscular nose is a deliciously gruff sounding 5.7L Hemi V8 that delivers 291kW of power and 556Nm of torque, capable of pulling up to 4.5 tonnes. Yet with its 8-speed box, variable valve and fuel saver technology (that will shut down four of its cylinders), the 1500 claims it will sip petrol at a rate of 9.9L/100ks, hmmm. To be fair, we did put a fair amount of heavy footed mileage on the truck during the day and still came back with ¾ of its 98L tank full.
Keyless entry, push button and remote start (for those cold and nasty Bathurst days) gains you access to a very, and I mean very spacious lounge that is adorned with leather and prestigious (and robust) materials. Heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, chrome accents and no less than 18 cup holders, that’s 3.6 per person! UCONNECT Infotainment is provided via an 8.4-inch colour touchscreen with sounds delivered on a 10-speaker Alpine system. The instrument cluster is 7-inches.
With the briefing over, we headed out to the trucks and hit the mean streets of ‘hurst. Drive is engaged at the turn of a dial, it’s straightforward, you’re either going or not – none of this paddle shift nonsense. The route took us north to Wattle flat, then south to Mayfield Gardens near Oberon. It’s a typical Aussie country route that includes heaps of winding roads and plenty of stationary roadside wildlife RAM country. Regardless of the (at some point) torrential rain, the 1500 felt unwavering on the tarmac, as well it should. It’s stoic yet not oppressively so, the reduced size was immediately noticeable. Steering had a slight truck like vagueness to it but this just seemed to confidently underline its pedigree. We arrived at Mayfield for lunch and I opted for the burger and fries, it was the fitting choice.
With a belly full of food, we were let loose on the muddy grounds adjacent to the restaurant, and essentially allowed to roam free. Climbing hills and wiggling our tail ends. Mud was splayed, wheels were spun and smiles were had all round. It gave us the chance to engage low-range 4WD and but I have to admit to having some sneaky 2WD donuts for dessert.
Having spent a little too much time having fun, it was a bit of an enthusiastic drive back to the airport, but thankfully at no point did we need to engage any of the 1500’s suite of safety features such as ABS, TCS, EBD… phew.
The RAM 1500 is a ‘Bucking’ (sheep reference) the trend of smaller turbo powered utes and when you hear that V8 roar you’re glad they have. Although it’s smaller than its Heavy Duty siblings, it still makes quite the statement. It’s built for both towing and for standing out and has some most excellent tub smarts too, like an extendable bed and RAM boxes on the side but I’ll explain them further when I get behind the wheel again – fingers crossed.
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