At $80K-plus, the massive US pick-up muscles in on the family ute action
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 tested, the Ram 1500 is expected to appeal to cashed-up tradies who want V8 grunt and can afford the fuel bills.
Its 5.7-litre V8 is the most powerful among its pick-up 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 returned 14L-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 topend 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, when equipped with the “slingshot” diff ratio that aids acceleration and towing performance, does 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 factory that converts it to right-hand drive.
But we get the superseded model. The next generation, 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 five years.
The local vehicles arrive ex-factory in lefthand drive with Australian-compliant taillights, speedometer, radio frequencies and built-in navigation.
In a process that takes about two days, about 400 parts are fitted at the Walkinshaw Automotive Group’s local assembly line.
The Ram 1500 can tow 4500kg when a 70mm tow ball is fitted, or 3500kg on the standard 50mm tow ball. Most utes tow between 3000kg and 3500kg.
Despite the pick-up’s proportions and tough looks, the payload of 800kg trails that of most rivals, which take closer to 1000kg.
A trade-off is the larger cabin, which is roomier shoulder-to-shoulder and front-toback than the Amarok. Other convenient touches are two-tiered pockets in all four doors and rubber sleeves in the centre console that keep smartphones in place.
The infotainment includes Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto and can switch between two phones connected simultaneously.
Vision all around is surprisingly good and the 12.1m turning circle is tighter than a HiLux, making it relatively easier to manoeuvre. Rear
sensors and rear camera help with parking. The foot park brake is to the right of the accelerator pedal, which takes some getting used to.
Look close enough and 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 sales volumes involved. If it were, it would be unlikely to receive five stars due to the lack of autonomous 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. It is quieter and more refined than the cheaper diesel utes.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise given pickups such as the Ram 1500 are default family cars in the US. It appears things are headed the same way here — the HiLux is our top selling vehicle, followed by the Ranger.
The Ram 1500 V8 will appeal to cashed-up tradies who miss their locally made Holden and Ford utes — and can write-off the fuel as a business expense.