Pick up lines

Want to stand out from the crowd? In­fu­ri­ate driv­ers of hy­brid ve­hi­cles? Or maybe haul a house? Get the keys to a 2017 ASV RAM pick up. Just don’t get banned from the lo­cal Macca’s drive thru

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS MATT W OOD

Ev­ery time I drive a big Yank pickup these days I find my­self a lit­tle frus­trated. The main rea­son is that I long ago ex­hausted my sup­ply of red­neck anec­dotes. I’ve worn out many a back-woods cliché when writ­ing about full-sized pick-up trucks. I guess I’ll just have to re­sort to re­portage in­stead. They stand out like the prover­bial pair of ca­nine ac­cou­trements here in Aus­tralia. How­ever, over in the US of A, full-sized pick-ups are the best-sell­ing ve­hi­cles by a mile.

And it seems Aus­tralia is set to fol­low suit, though ad­mit­tedly on a smaller scale. It seems ev­ery­body wants a dual-cab 4x4 ute these days, though maybe not ev­ery­body wants one of these Amer­i­can mon­ster utes!

LIGHT TRUCK OR PICK-UP?

Re­ally, they’re closer to be­ing a light truck. There’s plenty of mumbo avail­able from un­der that vast ex­panse of bon­net and also plenty of crea­ture com­forts. There’s leather trim, cli­mate con­trol, sun­roof and a multimedia touch­screen.

But other than that, they still han­dle like a light truck and have a sim­i­lar foot­print, though they do have a much bet­ter ride from the driver’s seat.

For a truck tragic like me, there’s plenty to like about the ASV Ram 2500. For a start, there’s a 6.7-litre in-line Cum­mins 6 lurking un­der that sig­na­ture Mopar snout.

In Amer­i­can terms, it’s nei­ther the big­gest nor most pow­er­ful when com­pared with the GM’s Du­ra­max V8 diesel or Ford’s for­mi­da­ble 440hp V8.

How­ever, with 276kW (375hp) on tap

at 2800rpm and 1084Nm of torque from just 1600rpm, it’s hardly a slouch.

It’s also quite a flex­i­ble en­gine and there’s pretty ex­ten­sive Cum­mins ser­vice cov­er­age around the coun­try. Trans­mis­sion du­ties are han­dled by a 6-speed auto.

Given how spoilt for choice Aussies are when it comes to 4x4 utes, there are re­ally only two rea­sons for buy­ing one. The first is that you tow heavy loads over long dis­tances.

The sec­ond? You just want one.

BIG TOW­ING

Braked tow­ing is just shy of seven tonnes. With a pin­tle hitch, though, pay­load is pretty much the same as your av­er­age Aussie mar­ket dual-cab ute at 913kg.

The space be­tween the rear wheel arches leaves enough room for an Aussie pal­let to sit in the load bed. A fac­tory elec­tric trailer brake sys­tem adds to the Ram’s tow­ing cre­den­tials.

But the pick-up con­ver­sa­tion in this coun­try re­ally re­volves around what com­pany or in­di­vid­ual car­ries out the right-hand-drive con­ver­sion rather than whether it’s got a Ford, Ram, Toy­ota, Nis­san or GM badge on the front.

WHO’S GOT YOUR BACK?

If you’re shop­ping for one of these big brutes, what you re­ally need to know is how well en­gi­neered the con­ver­sion is. And does this com­pany have your back when it comes to ser­vic­ing, parts and war­ranty?

I’ve seen, heard of, and even driven some shock­ing con­ver­sions. These trucks aren’t cheap, re­gard­less of who you buy them from.

It may have an OE badge on the front but the truck has been re­man­u­fac­tured and re-en­gi­neered by a lo­cal com­pany – and in this coun­try that means that they are viewed as the man­u­fac­turer.

The level of com­plex­ity in cars and trucks

these days means that there are a whole bunch of sen­si­tive sys­tems to poke around in when do­ing the con­ver­sion. Things like mul­ti­ple airbags and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity sys­tems.

There’s also the struc­tural in­tegrity of the cab. Con­ver­sion com­pa­nies take a crash-tested, safety-rated de­sign and al­ter it to their own spec­i­fi­ca­tions. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the ASV Ram con­ver­sion, and it’s a pretty impressive job. And it has in­deed been crash tested.

WALKINSHAW AND ATECO

The trucks come to Aus­tralia straight from the FCA fac­tory in Mex­ico. They ar­rive com­plete with an Aussie-spec speedo and the Un­con­nect media sys­tem. ASV, which is a joint ven­ture be­tween Walkinshaw Au­to­mo­tive Group and auto dis­trib­u­tor Ateco, then re­man­u­fac­tures the truck com­pletely in its Clay­ton fac­tory.

As a re­sult, the in­te­rior looks fac­tory with a lo­cally man­u­fac­tured dash pad, and footwell room is also gen­er­ous (a com­mon is­sue when put­ting the steer­ing wheel on the pas­sen­ger side of the truck and the hot side of the en­gine).

The only real hic­cup in this pic­ture is the lo­ca­tion of the foot-op­er­ated park brake, which is above the ac­cel­er­a­tor. This is counter in­tu­itive to use and takes quite a bit of get­ting used to.

How­ever, I’d go as far as to say that it’s the best con­ver­sion job cur­rently avail­able on the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

There’s been quite a bit of Fiat Chrysler in­volve­ment in the en­gi­neer­ing of this truck. All the com­po­nents are val­i­dated to OE spec, and the right-hook steer­ing box is man­u­fac­tured by the sup­plier that makes the fac­tory LHD ‘ boxes.

So, af­ter all that guff, you may be won­der­ing how it drives. Truth is

“I’d go as far as to say that it’s the best con­ver­sion job cur­rently avail­able on the Aus­tralian mar­ket”

“While tow­ing may be the big­gest sell­ing point, they are also a re­spectable off-roader”

it’s quite fun. Sure it’s big, but it’s also cov­ered in park­ing sen­sors and in town it’s not re­ally that much of a pain to park.

TEST­ING TIMES

The only way to re­ally test the met­tle of such a typ­i­cally Amer­i­can ve­hi­cle like this is to try to ne­go­ti­ate the lo­cal Macca’s drive-thru. I’m happy to re­port that, with a lit­tle to-ing and fro-ing, I made it through. That said, the store man­ager asked me never to at­tempt this again. Maybe he was mad be­cause I only bought an ice-cream.

The Cum­mins has a nice growl to it and, as you’d ex­pect when empty, it doesn’t take much right-foot ac­tion to get the big jig­ger mov­ing. You can tell it re­ally wants to lug some­thing.

I didn’t have time to tow with the truck pic­tured here. How­ever, I have towed a de­cent load be­hind one in the past.

Again, you’d ex­pect a big truck like this to haul well, and it does with ease. The long wheel­base and heavy kerb weight makes these trucks ex­tremely sta­ble tow ve­hi­cles.

ASV presently only im­ports the 2500 4x4 and heav­ier-ca­pac­ity 3500 4x4 Ram mod­els. The 2-speed trans­fer case is se­lected via a dial on the con­sole when head­ing off the black top.

While tow­ing may be the big­gest sell­ing point, they are also a re­spectable off-roader.

The 2500 pic­tured here uses a multi-link coil-sprung rear end rather than tra­di­tional leaf springs. Sur­pris­ingly, though, the un­laden ride of the 2500 is still quite harsh.

SURF’S UP

We hit the beach to check out the big truck’s off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties as it’s a lit­tle big to be tak­ing bush without any pro­tec­tive bar work.

This 2017 model also fea­tures the Ram Box op­tion. This pro­vides handy lock­able stor­age in the sides of the pick-up bed. It may ini­tially seem like a bit of a gim­mick, but it turned out to be an an­swer to a prob­lem I didn’t know I had.

I sus­pect that Amer­i­can buy­ers find these a great place to store hunt­ing ri­fles, how­ever you can also fill them with ice and use them as an esky (there are drain plugs).

Af­ter a trip to the supermarket, I found the boxes were the per­fect place to stow my bags. Rather than ev­ery­thing rolling around in the back seat or in the pick-up bed, my weekly shop stayed snugly stashed. The Ram boxes re­ally are a handy op­tion.

Be­fore hit­ting the beach, I aired down the tyres to about half pres­sure. But on re­flec­tion I should have dropped them even fur­ther.

That said, the big ute mon­stered along the beach quite eas­ily, though you are al­ways aware that this thing weighs 3500kg. The com­bi­na­tion of weight and heaps of grunt from the Cum­mins en­gine means it would be very easy to bury it in the soft stuff.

As a truck for cov­er­ing long dis­tances, how­ever, the Ram ex­cels. It’s com­fort­able, cos­set­ing and well ap­pointed.

Fuel econ­omy was pretty good too. I av­er­aged 19.2L/100km in a mix­ture of ur­ban, off-road and high­way driv­ing.

A Ram dealer network cov­ers most pop­u­lated parts of the coun­try – a lot of these deal­ers also han­dle other FCA brands like Jeep, Chrysler and Alfa Romeo. Though it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that ASV is a sep­a­rate com­pany in Aus­tralia.

Ram trucks are cov­ered by a three­year/100,000km war­ranty with road­side break­down cov­er­age.

Do I need one? No. Do I want one? Yep.

It’s cer­tainly a dis­tinc­tive snout! The Ram look orig­i­nally came about af­ter re­search into mas­cu­line styling by an an­thro­pol­o­gist

Top: In­side is a pretty neat con­ver­sion, it looks fac­tory. The cen­tre con­sole ips up to in­crease seat­ing for six if needed

Right: And they’re sur­pris­ingly roomy. The Ram Boxes can also be used as an esky!; The bed di­vider comes in handy and stops things rolling around in the tub. There’s also room for an Aussie-sized pal­let

Op­po­site: At 3500kg it’s a heavy truck, not that you’d know it on the road

Above: More leg room than your typ­i­cal dual-cab ute. The seat bases also ip up to cre­ate more room for stor­age

Top: The Cum­mins has plenty of grunt on tap

Above L to R: The 6.7-litre en­gine is an SCR en­gine, so Ad­blue is needed; These ad­justable tie-down points make se­cur­ing your load eas­ier. How­ever, if my ex­pe­ri­ence in the US is any­thing to go by, no­body car­ries any­thing in their pick-ups any­way!

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