Ram 1500 tipped to be the next big thing in utes
OUR thirst for US pick-ups has hit a new high: the V8-powered Ram 1500 has arrived in Australian showrooms.
It's designed to bridge the size and price gap between the top-selling Toyota HiLux ute and the full-size mega pick-ups from North America.
Priced from $79,950 drive-away for a basic version and stretching beyond $100,000 for the luxury Laramie model we tested, the Ram 1500 is expected to appeal to cashed-up tradies who want V8 grunt and can afford the fuel bills.
Powered by a 5.7-litre petrol V8 it's the most powerful pick-up among its peers but also among the thirstiest because its main rivals have more efficient diesel engines. A diesel option will follow later this year.
The official fuel consumption claim is a respectable 9.9L/100km, aided in part by an eight-speed automatic that improves economy at freeway speeds.
However, during our test drive we saw an average of 14 to 18L/100km, roughly twice as thirsty as the top-selling diesel-powered utes but not far off V8-powered Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore utes once favoured by tradies.
The Ram 1500 is expected to appeal to top-end HiLux buyers and those who miss their V8 Fords and Holdens.
The distributor says the fastest growing segment of the ute market is made up of workhorses turned show-ponies priced above $57,000.
At 2.6 tonnes - about 400kg heavier than a HiLux or Ford Ranger - the Ram 1500 isn't exactly light on its feet but its acceleration is equal class best.
The V8 Ram 1500 when equipped with the "slingshot" diff ratio that aids acceleration and towing performance can do the 0-100km/h dash in 7.8 seconds - the same as a turbo diesel V6 Volkswagen Amarok - according to our timing equipment.
That's at least a couple of seconds quicker to the speed limit than most ute rivals.
Unlike some locally-converted US pick-ups, the Ram 1500 has full factory support from the Detroit production line to the Melbourne facility that converts it to right-hand drive.
But the model we get is a superseded one. A next-generation model, said to be new from the ground up, has just been launched in the US. It will sell alongside the old model for at least 18 months.
The local vehicles arrive ex-factory in left-hand-drive with Australian-compliant tail-lights, speedometer, radio frequencies and built-in navigation.
Then approximately 400 parts are fitted at Walkinshaw Automotive Group's local assembly line, a process that takes about two days.
The Ram 1500 can tow 4500kg when a 70mm tow ball is fitted, or 3500kg on the standard 50mm tow ball. Most utes can tow between 3000kg and 3500kg.
Despite the large proportions and tough looks the payload of 800kg is actually a little less than most rivals, which are closer to 1000kg.
However, the trade-off is a larger cabin that's roomier shoulder-to-shoulder and front-to-back than the VW Amarok.
The Ram 1500 has other convenient touches such as two-tiered door pockets - in all four doors - and rubber sleeves in the centre console that keep smartphones in place.
The infotainment system can switch between two phones - including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - when both are connected at the same time.
Visibility all around is surprisingly good and the 12.1 metre turning circle is tighter than a HiLux, making it relatively easier to manoeuvre. Rear sensors and a rear camera help with parking.
Downsides? The foot park brake is to the right of the accelerator pedal, which takes some getting used to.
And if you look close enough you'll notice the plastic trim at the bottom of the windscreen - near the base of the wipers - has been put back together like a jigsaw puzzle. A neater alternative is being developed.
Unlike other converted pick-ups, the Ram's changes have been verified with local crash tests, although the vehicle is unlikely to be independently crash tested by ANCAP because of the low volumes involved. If it were, it would be unlikely to receive five stars due to the lack of automated emergency braking.
On the road it jiggles over bumps as most utes do, but the steering is reasonably direct for the size and weight of the vehicle and it is quieter and more refined than the cheaper diesel offerings.
This shouldn't come as a surprise given pick-ups such as the Ram 1500 are default family cars in the US.
It appears things are headed the same way here - the HiLux and Ranger are our top two selling vehicles.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE From $79,950 drive-away (expensive)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3-yr/100,000km (avg) capped servicing N/A (bad)
ENGINE 5.7-litre V8 petrol, 291kW/556Nm (powerful)
SAFETY Not tested. Six airbags. No auto emergency braking (avg)
THIRST 9.9L/100km (thirsty)
PAYLOAD 800kg (below avg)
TOWING 3500-4500kg (above avg)
SPARE Full size (excellent)