Mo­tor­ing

The 2014 Ram 1500 Laramie is tough, but re­mark­ably lux­u­ri­ous too.

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Guys who drive pickup trucks are more at­trac­tive. This was proven in a re­cent study, with the same boffins dis­cov­er­ing that junk food is in fact very good for you. Armed with these, er, in­con­tro­vert­ible facts, I de­cided there’d be no bet­ter ve­hi­cle to spend the weekend in than the 2014 Ram 1500 Laramie. Boffins know best...

Even though the Ram was re­vised last year, it’s un­der­gone more im­prove­ments this time around. The big news is the ad­di­tion of a tur­bocharged diesel V6 – which we’re not get­ting. But there are plenty of other fea­tures to get ex­cited about, such as a fab­u­lous new in­te­rior, new eight-speed au­to­matic and a new air sus­pen­sion set-up.

Start­ing with the for­mer, it’s so well ap­pointed that it ri­vals some lux­ury sa­loons. Com­pared to the Sil­ver­ado and F-150, I’d say the Ram’s cabin leads the way in terms of kit, com­fort and prac­ti­cal­ity. Boast­ing an up­graded 8.4in colour touch­screen with Chrysler’s Ucon­nect Ac­cess in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem (it’s the best in class) it in­te­grates ev­ery­thing from the ra­dio to the AC and is very user­friendly. With an at­trac­tive de­sign and qual­ity ma­te­ri­als used through­out (the woodgrain trim and leather up­hol­stery are fab), not to men­tion in­tu­itive con­trols and a com­mand­ing seat­ing po­si­tion, you’d have no qualms about spend­ing some qual­ity time in the posh cabin.

The high­light has to be the new Jaguar-in­spired ro­tary shift knob – al­though it may not be to ev­ery­one’s lik­ing, it re­ally does free up more space on the cen­tre con­sole. The seats (10-way power driver seat, heated and cooled) are well padded and of­fer plenty of sup­port, while those at the back have more room than they’ll know what to do with.

It’s ex­cep­tion­ally spa­cious, both at the front and back, and as for stor­age space, there are so many com­part­ments and cub­by­holes that you’ll def­i­nitely

mis­place your wal­let or phone – or both, as I did. Now, that’s a com­pli­ment; the cabin is so big that you’ll lose your valu­ables in it. It even has two glove­boxes and a se­cret com­part­ment un­der the left flipup back­seat – the right one hides a mas­sive sub­woofer, which is part of the up­graded sound sys­tem in this Laramie trim. An­other fine piece of whizbangery is the re­mote start that turns the AC on and cools the cabin down. No more burnt bot­toms ev­ery time you get in when it’s been sit­ting un­der the beat­ing sun.

The cabin is a deal-clincher, but chances are you’ll al­ready have been won over by the ro­bust ex­te­rior; it’s as im­pos­ing as they come. People move aside for only a hand­ful of cars here, no­tably white Rangeys and, yup, you guessed it – pick-ups. You don’t want the Ram’s grille, the size of a house, in your rear-view. It does the trick – people give way and you don’t even need to flash the head­lights, which in­ci­den­tally, have been re­shaped with a twin-beam pro­jec­tor de­sign.

The chrome bumpers and wheels (huge 20 inch­ers) are un­miss­able. This truck cer­tainly wasn’t de­signed for in­tro­verts – they’ll want noth­ing to do with it – but extroverts can re­joice. Fur­ther up­dates in­clude LED in­di­ca­tors and new fog and tail lights, while power is sup­plied by a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 with vari­able valve tim­ing and a cylin­der shut-off sys­tem. It pro­duces a whop­ping 395bhp and 555Nm of torque and is mated to a new eight­speed au­to­matic, which helps to bring fuel con­sump­tion down to a re­spectable 13.8 litres per 100km. What’s far more im­pres­sive is the way it drives. Thank­fully, it isn’t car­like; this is a truck, and proud of the fact.

Like its ri­vals, it suf­fers a bit from tail hop, but that’s part of the charm and you only ever en­counter that when you tackle speed bumps; other­wise the ride is smooth. Whether you’re am­bling along in heavy Deira traf­fic or merg­ing on to Shaikh Zayed Road, the Ram 1500 copes ad­mirably. The V8 feels un­fussed while the auto swaps cogs al­most im­per­cep­ti­bly.

At this point, I should men­tion pay­loads, but when was the last time you saw a pick-up pick any­thing up over here? Plus, this feels so re­fined that load­ing the bed with cargo seems wrong. OK, max­i­mum ca­pac­ity stands at 4,740kg, and that’s best in class.

The new air sus­pen­sion doesn’t just deliver a sup­ple ride, it al­lows you to drop the ride height by as much as two inches via the off-road set­tings placed be­low the ro­tary gear knob. Sim­i­larly, this can be in­creased by four inches above the stan­dard height to give you ex­tra clear­ance when ven­tur­ing off the beaten path and you’ll never get stuck, what with the avail­abil­ity of four­wheel drive. It’s not all good, how­ever; the new elec­tric power steer­ing of­fers, as you’d ex­pect on a rig this big, very lit­tle feed­back, and it’s a chunky wheel too, which, while not easy to ma­noeu­vre, does suit the over­all char­ac­ter. Safety fea­tures in­clude a host of airbags, sta­bil­ity con­trol and hill-start as­sist, while the rear-view cam­era helps out with tricky park­ing.

It’s dis­tinc­tive, rugged, ex­tremely ca­pa­ble and lots of fun. I’m a big fan of this Ram.

MO­TOR­ING

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