Ram­ming through

2017 ASV Ram 2500 pickup

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Every time I drive a big Yank pickup th­ese days I find my­self a lit­tle frus­trated. The main rea­son be­ing is that I’ve long ago ex­hausted my sup­ply of red­neck anec­dotes.

I’ve worn out many a back woods cliché when writ­ing about full-sized pickup 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 cars 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 PICKUP?

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 – leather trim, cli­mate con­trol, sun­roof and a multimedia touch screen. 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 the GM’s Du­ra­max V8 diesel or Ford’s for­mi­da­ble 440hp V8. How­ever, with 276kW 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. How­ever, 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 truck’s tow­ing cre­den­tials.

But the pickup 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.

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.

JOINT VEN­TURE

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 Clay­ton.

As a re­sult, the in­te­rior looks fac­tory made 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 foot­op­er­ated park brake, which is above the ac­cel­er­a­tor. This is counter in­tu­itive to use and takes quite a bit of get­ting used to.

In fact 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. It is quite fun to drive. 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 and ne­go­ti­ate the lo­cal Macca’s drive-through.

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 this truck an ex­tremely sta­ble tow ve­hi­cle.

ASV only im­ports 2500 4x4 and the heav­ier-ca­pac­ity 3500 4x4 Ram mod­els at this point in time.

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 re­spectable off-road­ers. 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. Th­ese pro­vide handy lock­able stor­age in the sides of the pickup bed.

This 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 pickup 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, how­ever 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, 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. Many 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 three-year/100,000km war­ranty with road­side break­down cov­er­age.

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

1. In­side is a pretty neat con­ver­sion; it looks fac­tory. The cen­tre con­sole flips up to in­crease seat­ing for six if needed

2. The 6.7-litre en­gine is an SCR en­gine, so Adblue

is needed

3. Ram Boxes are awe­some. Th­ese stor­age com­part­ments ended up be­ing very handy in­deed

4. And they’re sur­pris­ingly roomy. The Ram Boxes

can also be used as an esky!

5. The Cum­mins has plenty of grunt on tap

6. The fac­tory-spec steer­ing box is mounted out­side the chas­sis rail, not un­like a Jeep Wran­gler

7. The name says it all. Ram is now the

brand­ing for all FCA com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles 8. More legroom than your typ­i­cal dual-cab ute. The seat bases also flip up to cre­ate more room for stor­age

9. The bed di­vider comes in dead handy and stops things rolling around in the tub. There’s also room for an Aussie­sized pal­let

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