RAM LARAMIE 2500
RAM broke away from the Dodge brand some years ago to become its own entity, while the trucks are still built by Chrysler in the USA. The Dodge RAM nameplate goes back for decades and is a staple of the American truck market. American Special Vehicles (ASV) is a division of Ateco who, among other brands, also bring Warn winches to Australia. The left-to-right conversion and engineering is carried out by the Walkinshaw Group, which includes Holden Special Vehicles. ASV is currently selling only the high-specification RAM Laramie crew-cab 4x4 model in Australia, in 2500 or heavier-duty 3500 guise.
We’ve got the 2500 here in line with the others’ offerings, and it’s the lowest priced truck in the trio at $139,500.
DRIVELINE & CAPACITIES
THE RAM might be the only non-v8 engine here but its in-line six-cylinder donk gives nothing away in capacity, coming in at a massive 6.7 litres. It’s the mid-runner for output, pushing out 1084Nm from the Cummins-branded engine. The transmission is a six-speed auto, while 4x4 is part time with shift-on-the-fly and low range – just like the other two.
The RAM has Tru-lok diffs front and rear, which are an autolocking design. ASV’S Australian models are already de-rated from the US specs to a maximum 4500kg GVM, to accommodate local licences. That means a 913kg payload and 3500kg towing on a 50mm ball (4500kg on 70mm ball, or 6989kg on a Pintle).
CHASSIS & HANDLING
THE RAM 2500 bolts to a ladder-frame chassis like the other two trucks – it has live axles front and rear like the Ford, but unlike the truck-like leaf springs under the first two, the RAM rides on coils at each corner. We expected that using coils might make the RAM softer and more compliant in its ride, but the opposite proved the case.
The very stiff RAM suspension provided a sometimes jittery ride, and handling was very flat.you can feel it has been sprung to carry a load, which was reflected in its towing performance.
In its left-to-right steering conversion, ASV has taken the steering box from the left and moved it to the right, but placed it on the outside of the chassis rail just like another Chrysler product – the Jeep Wrangler.
THE stiffness of the RAM’S suspension was felt on the off-road track, where it bucked like a bronco over the bumps and bounced off-line. It was never challenged for grip, but it was bouncing over rocks rather than crawling over them, which made the job a lot harder than it needed to be. The tyres on all the trucks were left at road pressures throughout the test; dropping them might have helped the RAM’S performance.
THE RAM was the most surprising performer on the towing hill climb. It was the only truck equipped with a multi-link coil-sprung rear end, however it was the most solid rear end – its bum barely moved when the trailer was hitched to it. A towing capacity of a little less than seven tonnes is still nothing to be sneezed at!
The six-cylinder Cummins lets out a truck-like growl under load and has an impressive spread of power and torque. The engine brake did an awesome job of holding back the loaded truck on
The RAM was never challenged for grip, but it was bouncing over rocks rather than crawling over them
the descent, and it had the tranny down-changing early to make the most of the Cummins’ compression braking power. It sounded awesome as well!
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION
ANYONE who has driven a Jeep Grand Cherokee will feel at home in the RAM. The centre stack, Uconnect system, steering wheel and gauge cluster are all very similar (if not the same parts), there’s just a lot more real estate around them in the RAM. In that regard it was pretty easy for us to get acquainted with.
Like the other trucks here, the RAM Laramie has all the luxury mod-cons: climate control; heated and cooled seats; sat-nav with local maps; heated steering wheel; power pedal adjustment; and primo audio. None of these trucks are lacking in the features department! Considering they are all so highly specced, it was surprising that the RAM is the only one with keyless entry and start.
The RAM’S also the only one with the ability to carry six passengers, as the console folds up to reveal a centre seat in the front. The console bins in all of them could house a small family, though!
One annoying thing is that the park brake is a foot pedal on the right-side kick panel in the footwell – and when you stop the car you generally have your right foot on the foot brake, so it requires a change of habit to get used to.
THE RAM has the most practical wheel and tyre package with its LT265/70R18 Michelins. They mightn’t look as flash as the big chrome 20s, but they’re more resistant to damage than the lowprofile jobbies.
Again, there are two big tow-loops up front and a receiver hitch at the back. The air intake is through the front ’guard and requires a screwdriver to open the air box. There are two batteries in the engine bay.
The huge tray has a spray-on protective lining and four tie-down hooks. A nifty trick here is that up near the cargo area light, a camera displays the cargo bed on the Uconnect screen and lets you know if the load is moving around or your dog has jumped ship.
The RAM has a 117-litre diesel tank and, like all of these trucks, the engine runs SCR/DEF to cut emissions.
AMONG our trio of trucks the RAM looked the smallest, but that was just an illusion created by the dark colour and the styling of the front, which isn’t as brash as the Ford’s or GMC’S. It’s still a big truck, and with the bench front seat has the highest seating capacity here.
It’s also more than $10K cheaper than the other two rigs, which can buy you a lot of accessories. Some upgraded suspension with softer springs might be the go if you’re not going to haul heavy loads all the time.
The RAM holds the middle ground in performance and in the way it towed, but the six-cylinder Cummins engine proved relatively thirsty at 21.35L/100km.
ASV backs its RAMS with a three-year/100,00km warranty, with roadside assistance.
RAM gauges are big and easy to read.
Coils on the rear of the RAM don’t limit suspension travel.