Ram 1500 Crew Cab comes Express from the US (via Melbourne)
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RAM 1500 Express Crew Cab
- USP of a 5.7L petrol V8
- Well-remade in right-hand drive
- Looks better than more expensive Laramie
- Too big for New Zealand cities
- Mega towing but modest payload
- Some cabin details a bit cheesy
Late last year when I was testing a Ram 1500 Laramie, I left it under a shady tree at Pukekohe Park Raceway for a day while I went and watched a mate do his thing on track. When I returned there was a flyer under the windscreen wiper inviting me to purchase a $1495 “Diesel ECU Reprogram”.
Even forgiving the American spelling (it’s a Ram after all), that was still a fail. The key thing about the 1500 is of course that it's a V8 petrol. The only V8 petrol double-cab pickup truck/ute you can buy in New Zealand.
Which just goes to show that even those in the truck-trade can be a little confused by the World of Ram.
So maybe we should start with a recap. There are 1500, 2500 and 3500 models, indicating different levels of hauling ability and different physical dimensions. The former is much more important than the latter.
The 2500 turbo-diesel was the first model launched in New Zealand via the right-hand drive Ram “remanufacturing” business of American Special Vehicles in Melbourne. The 1500 is a more recent arrival, launched here solely in 5.7-litre Hemi V8 petrol form.
The 1500 tows a paltry 4500kg, compared with 6989kg for its big brother (provided you have the special "pintle” hitch).
And it’s smaller, right? Well, yes and no. If you opt for the 1500 Crew Cab (that’s “double cab” to you and I), you get exactly the same interior environment as the big fella.
The 1500 Crew Cab tray is shorter than the 2500’s, but only by 210mm. The 1500 is still a 5.8 metre-long vehicle. If you want to pick up that extra tray length again, go back to the basic Express Quad Cab, which has a smaller cabin and gives you an extra 229mm of load floor.
It’s also worth noting that these big American trucks are more about towing than payload. The 1500 is only rated for 800kg on the tray, which looks a bit underdone next to a one-tonner like a Ford Ranger. Then again, if you want to make a Ranger look underdone, park a Ram next to it.
Anyway, we need to know all this stuff to understand that the Ram 1500 test vehicle you see here is the new Express Crew Cab model, which gives you the full-size double-cab at the most basic equipment level, saving you $14,910 over the 1500 Crew Cab Laramie.
You miss out on the on-demand AWD system of the Laramie, in favour of a switchable part-time setup (still with low-range). There’s also a lot less garnish, with black detailing instead of chrome (that’s better, surely?), cloth upholstery instead of part-leather, manual seat adjustment and so on. Really nothing to cry about, especially when the result is so much better looking than the enjoy-it-ironically bling of the flagship Laramie.
I know we’re saving cash here, but I would thoroughly recommend the $5000 RamBox option, which brings dual drainable lockers on either side of the tray (210 litres total), a “trifold” canopy and a plastic load extender gate-thingy that allows you to drop the tailgate and use that extra load length. It’s genius.
Maybe also get the $4370 Mopar exhaust; our vehicle didn’t have it, but we know Fiat-Chrysler is brilliant at this kind of thing; the Mopar pipes on the Jeep Gladiator are astonishing.
Granted, that would take you much further down the road to spending what you’ve just saved over the Laramie. Even in standard trim the Hemi V8 sounds pretty good, with a subdued woofle at low spend and an authoritative rumble once you wind it up.
A pushrod V8 sounds pretty old school, but it does have “fuel saver” (Ram’s words) cylinder deactivation technology and the eight-speed transmission is pretty smooth. It’s positively modern; almost.
The 1500 V8 still likes a drink in city driving (20l/100km is to be expected), but on the open road you’ll easily lope along at 12-13l/100km.
Fanciful talk about handling doesn’t seem appropriate for a monster truck. But it’s a decent drive and certainly nothing to be scared of. The main thing to be aware of is that you’re taking up a lot of road, because it’s nearly two metres wide. Sometimes it’s other people’s road. But that size can also make it feel like a glorious way to travel in the right environment.
You don’t need me to tell you that even the 1500 is really too big to use as a lifestyle/urban truck, in the way that you can with a Ranger or Toyota Hilux. But it does make sense for rural driving and it does make sense if you need to tow something really substantial on a regular basis, but don’t want to have a separate commercial vehicle to do it.
Given the number of people buying $80-90k one-tonne utes and then loading them with expensive accessories, even this Ram’s $105k price looks like good value. You’re getting a lot of truck for that.
See? Emotional and rational appeal.
RAM 1500 EXPRESS CREW CAB
ENGINE: 5.7-litre petrol V8
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, part-time 4WD