The hefty Amer­i­can pick-up lands on our shores pack­ing mar­ket hunger and a big V8 en­gine

Priced from $ 80k, range to in­clude heavy-duty tow rig, diesel power and Ford Ranger Rap­tor-fight­ing looks

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS B ARRY P ARK

US brand Ram launched its Hemi-pow­ered 1500 light truck in Aus­tralia, priced from $79,950 drive­away and fea­tur­ing two bed lengths and a choice of diffs.

The brand, brought to Aus­tralia via Amer­i­can Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles, the off­shoot of Walkin­shaw Per­for­mance that swaps the steer­ing wheel from the left to right-hand side of the ve­hi­cle, ini­tially launched as the long-bed Ex­press, ar­riv­ing in July, and the short-bed Laramie, ar­riv­ing first in June and priced from $99,950 be­fore adding on-road costs.

Ac­cord­ing to its of­fi­cial im­porter, the 1500 – the only V8-equipped light truck in its class – “eats utes for break­fast”.

That’s likely to in­clude a diet of the Ford Ranger XLT and Wild­track, the Toy­ota Hilux SR5 and Rogue, the Holden Colorado.

Un­der the bon­net of both of these is the 5.7-litre Hemi V8, in this tune pro­duc­ing 291kW (390hp) and 556Nm.

But it’s not the old iron lump of a Hemi we’ve been used to in the past; it now fea­tures vari­able valve con­trol tech­nol­ogy and cylin­der deca­ti­va­tion – it will run as a four-cylin­der en­gine un­der light loads – to help with fuel econ­omy, as well as in­tro­duc­ing ac­tive shut­ters that push air around the shov­el­nose-fronted grille when it doesn’t need to gulp in air for cool­ing.

Fuel use is an of­fi­cial – and po­ten­tially op­ti­mistic – 9.9 litres per 100km on the com­bined cy­cle. Drive is sent to all four wheels via a Torqflight eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Join­ing them is a three-litre turbo-diesel V6 wrapped in­side the more ex­pen­sive Laramie, and car­ry­ing a slight pric­ing pre­mium to the Hemi-equipped ver­sion. Af­ter that comes the Black Pack, a Ford Ranger Rap­tor-chas­ing ver­sion fea­tur­ing men­ac­ing blacked-out trim, a pair of wide nos­trils fea­tur­ing promi­nently on the bon­net, and a sports ex­haust that

“To give all that scale, it is roughly half a me­tre longer than a Toy­ota Hilux.”

gives more voice to the 5.7-litre mill be­neath it. It ar­rives in about Oc­to­ber.

The 1500 is smaller than the HD se­ries al­ready launched un­der the Ram brand in Aus­tralia. It is 200mm shorter at 5,816mm, sits 50mm lower to the ground at 1924mm, and weighs in a whop­ping 1,157kg lighter at 2,418kg. To give all that scale, it is roughly half a me­tre longer than a Toy­ota Hilux and a cou­ple of 50- cent coins placed edge to edge wider.

The cheaper Ex­press will come with a 3.5-tonne tow­ing ca­pac­ity and what Ram says is a “quad cab”, a cabin that’s full-sized up the front, but with legroom in the rear that’s not ex­actly tight, bit also not ex­actly gen­er­ous.

It fea­tures a colour-matched grille and bumpers, but black mir­ror caps, cloth seats with a leather-trimmed dash, 20-inch al­loys, cab-wide side steps, and a sprayed-on liner in the 1.9m-long bed yield­ing a 912kg pay­load.

It also misses out on a few trim­mings, us­ing a smaller screen for the Ucon­net mul­ti­me­dia in­ter­face, lack­ing sat-nav and re­mote key­less en­try.

The leather-clad Laramie, though, gets this and more. Most no­tice­able is the much more gen­er­ous use of chrome-look trim around the grille and bumpers, and the side steps stretch from wheel to wheel rather than con­fin­ing them­selves to the cabin in the Ex­press.

In­side, there’s heated and cooled front seats, heated rears, a big­ger dig­i­tal dis­play in front of the driver and run­ning the mul­ti­me­dia in­ter­face, sat-nav, bet­ter smart­phone integration, 10-speaker au­dio in­stead of just six speak­ers, heated steer­ing wheel, a pow­er­ad­just­ing pedal box height, cli­mate con­trol air-con­di­tion­ing in­clud­ing rear air vents and key­less un­lock­ing and re­mote start­ing.

The cabin’s rear also fea­tures more legroom, cut­ting the load space out back to 1.7 me­tres in length and pay­load back to 855kg. Both ver­sions of the 1500 have a 3,300kg GVM.

The Laramie’s big-ticket ben­e­fit to buy­ers, though, is a choice of fi­nal ra­tios of­fered as a no-cost op­tion. They can choose be­tween a higher 3.21 ra­tio yield­ing a 3.5-tonne tow­ing ca­pac­ity for lighter du­ties, or if they’re pulling the ex­ca­va­tor around or the big­gest boat at the load­ing ramp, a lower 3.92 ra­tio yield­ing a 4.5-tonne tow­ing ca­pac­ity.

The Ram­box, an op­tion giv­ing own­ers a pair of lock­able tubs down each side of the tray bed and of­fered on the Heavy Duty se­ries, will ex­tend to the 1500.

Buy­ers here love it; take-up is around 37 per cent com­pared with just 15 per cent in the truck’s home mar­ket.

Ram deal­ers will be keen to sell you one, too. The com­pany’s Aus­tralian gen­eral man­ager, Alex Ste­wart, said the brand aimed to make 1,500 sales this year, step­ping up to 4,500 within three years – lofty plans that will see it snare a 10 per cent mar­ket share for utes priced from more than $ 57,000. That’s am­bi­tious.

It should have a sense of re­fine­ment, too. Lenn Ketch, the com­pany’s na­tional prod­uct and ser­vice man­ager, claimed the 1500 “drives like a pas­sen­ger car” – an as­ser­tion we’re yet to test. It uses dou­ble A arms up front, and a mul­ti­link with coils down the rear, which lends prom­ise.

We should know soon enough.

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