At $80K-plus, the mas­sive US pick-up mus­cles in on the fam­ily ute ac­tion

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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.

FIRST DRIVE

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