Time to get heavy

Su­per-size pickup is re­built here to tow your boat or horse float

The Advertiser - Motoring - - ROAD TEST RAM 2500 - BILL McK­IN­NON

“NICE truck!” the beam­ing kid says, lean­ing out of the back win­dow of his dad’s SUV as I pull up along­side.

He’s got it in one. The RAM Laramie is, for the mo­ment, one of a kind on Aus­tralian roads: a fac­tory-backed, war­ranted and ADR com­pli­ant right-hand drive con­ver­sion of an Amer­i­can icon — the su­per-size pick-up.

RAM is a truck brand of Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles, spun off from Dodge in 2009. Walkin­shaw Au­to­mo­tive in Mel­bourne does the con­ver­sion.

It’s a full body-off re­make, with lo­cally sourced in­te­rior and fac­tory-made (in Mex­ico) front-end com­po­nents.

At $139,500 drive-away, the RAM Laramie 2500 ap­peals to a niche group of buy­ers who want to tow heavy trail­ers.

DE­SIGN

The RAM makes Ford’s Ranger look like a bon­sai truck. It is more than six me­tres long, al­most two me­tres tall and two me­tres wide. It weighs 3577kg — al­most two Mit­subishi Tri­tons.

The tub is al­most two me­tres long with 1.3 me­tres be­tween the wheel arches, so you can carry a cou­ple of mo­tor­cy­cles with the tail­gate closed.

Its haul­ing cre­den­tials are even more spec­tac­u­lar. It will pull up to 3500kg — cur­rently the heav­i­est le­gal trailer weight for pro­duc­tion one-ton­ners and 4WD wag­ons in Aus­tralia — with a 50mm tow­ball on the stan­dard re­ceiver hitch. You can add an­other tonne with a 70mm tow­ball. With a pin­tle (tow ring) or a goose­neck in the tub, it will pull up to 6989kg.

So you can tow one car­a­van for your­self, hook up an­other be­hind it for the kids, plus a trailer with a few bikes! Sorry, that’s il­le­gal. Bum­mer.

Gross com­bined mass — the num­ber that re­ally counts, be­cause it in­cludes the truck, trailer and ev­ery­thing else, in­clud­ing oc­cu­pants — per­mits a max­i­mum pay­load of 913kg. This ap­plies even with­out a trailer, and some smaller one ton­ners will carry more.

You can drive the RAM 2500 on a car li­cence. Its max­i­mum gross com­bined mass, hitched and loaded to the last le­gal kilo­gram, is 11,479kg. That’s nine and a half Toy­ota Corol­las.

AROUND TOWN

No mat­ter how tall you are, you have to use the side steps and grab han­dles for the as­cent to the lux­u­ri­ous, leather wrapped, heated and cooled driver’s seat.

The view from up here is im­pres­sive. You’re al­most eye­ball to eye­ball with the big boys in their Ken­worths and West­ern Stars, and it’s im­pos­si­ble not to feel just a tad su­pe­rior to the hoi pol­loi in their lit­tle HiLuxes and Rangers.

The right-hand drive dash is so well done I would have picked it as fac­tory fit­ted. It re­mained squeak and rat­tle free on test, and there are no ob­vi­ous com­pro­mises to func­tion­al­ity, ei­ther.

Myr­iad stor­age op­tions in­clude five large cov­ered com­part­ments up­front and re­mov­able, wa­ter­proof tubs un­der the 60-40 split fold­ing rear seats; th­ese also fold up to make a handy cargo bay in the rear of the cabin.

The front arm­rest/stor­age box can be raised to cre­ate a mid­dle seat, so you can carry up to five. Rear seat space is vast, though the cen­tre oc­cu­pant sits knees up on a hard perch.

Around Syd­ney, the 6.7-litre Cum­mins turbo diesel av­er­aged 18.0L/100km. I used to curse truck driv­ers for the amount of space they take up on Syd­ney’s tight streets. Now, I feel their pain.

ON THE ROAD

I apol­o­gise for all the num­bers in this test but they are noteworthy be­cause they come from a unique world of big­ness. How about 1084Nm of grunt? That’s more than dou­ble the torque of the Ranger’s 3.2-litre en­gine but the Cum­mins, though com­pletely ef­fort­less in its per­for­mance, de­liv­ers the goods with a sim­i­larly lazy re­sponse to the pedal.

It revs to just past 3000rpm, so it’s de­signed to haul, not hurry. The 0-100km/h times are ir­rel­e­vant.

A six-speed column shift auto, part-time 4WD and du­al­range trans­fer case are stan­dard. Off road, the RAM’s ma­jor lim­i­ta­tions are its lim­ited ram­pover an­gle (18.2 de­grees) and low (188mm) ground clear­ance.

Spe­cific heavy-duty tow­ing fea­tures in­clude an ef­fec­tive ex­haust brake that also makes a great sound, a trailer brake con­troller with man­ual over­ride and a Tow/Haul trans­mis­sion shift mode that min­imises hunt­ing on hills and keeps the trans­mis­sion cool.

Un­laden, you can get 9-10L/100km on the high­way.

Han­dling? If you drive it slowly the RAM won’t frighten you or fall over when you go around a cor­ner and the steer­ing is well weighted and sur­pris­ingly pre­cise.

That’s about as com­pli­men­tary as I can be, re­ally, but it’s con­sis­tent with the RAM’s de­sign brief and pur­pose and it would be un­fair to ex­pect any­thing else.

The ride is inevitably rugged too, again be­cause it’s a truck. It would im­prove with a de­cent load on the back, which would also quell the rear end’s twitch­i­ness on rough roads.

VER­DICT

If you need a truck that can eas­ily and re­li­ably pull three tonnes or more, noth­ing can touch the RAM Laramie 2500. Its cre­den­tials are unar­guable. The num­bers say so.

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