Is the RAM 2500 the aspirational ute for tradies? Chris Mullett finds the answer.
Weighing in at 3820 kg with a full tank for fuel, the RAM is no shrinking violet. It oozes its self-confidence on the road by outshadowing everything around it that’s not actually a full-sized truck, with the height of its bonnet equalling the roofline of most of the aerodynamically focused sedans and hatchbacks in the adjoining traffic lanes.
So, is the RAM a vehicle fit for a poser, or does it have a genuine place in the consideration process for tradies looking for transport and a working vehicle?
The first hurdle to cross is of course the cost. A drive-away price of $139,500 for the RAM 2500 crew-cab 4×4 literally means there are no hidden extras, unlike the obvious comparison with the Toyota LandCruiser where additional on-road costs include dealer delivery charges, stamp duty, CTP and registration. Pretty much the same charges apply to buyers of the top-of-the-line Ranger and Colorado models, albeit they can tip the pricing into the mid $75,000 area when adding all the extra bling. Both these options will also be eclipsed by the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, where rumoured pricing will be slightly north of the $100,000 mark, but it will undoubtedly come with a high degree of prestige.
Is the RAM a go anywhere off-road challenger? Definitely not! With a wheelbase of 3797 mm and approach and departure angles of 21.8 and 22.3 degrees respectively, plus an overall length of 6027 mm, there would be an embarrassing moment at the first culvert. Is it capable of easily covering long distances on dirt roads or freeways? Absolutely! With one click of the switch selecting 4WD while on the move before reaching 88 km/h, you’ve got the benefit of additional traction and control from all-wheel-drive on loose dirt roads.
The first impression on heading into inner city traffic is one of its enormity. It dwarfs everything around it and there’s a perception that other drivers are probably thinking that you are the epitome of their concerns about gas-guzzlers and high emissions producers.
Let’s tackle that supposition first. The 6.7-litre Cummins diesel produces 276 kW at 2800 rpm and 1084 Nm of torque at 1600 rpm, a far cry from the common torque rating of the general ute brigade at 400-430 Nm. The fuel tank holds 117 litres, while the DEF/AdBlue tank holds approximately 19 litres.
The exhaust gases emitted at the tailpipe go through a cleansing process called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), which means the RAM conforms to a higher standard than any other ute currently on the Australian market. The SCR process injects a urea-based liquid commonly called AdBlue in Australia or DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) in the United States. The fluid is injected into the exhaust system to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and turn it into harmless nitrogen (N2) and water vapour (H2O). The ratio of DEF/AdBlue use is around three percent that of diesel fuel consumption, meaning that in most cases the DEF/AdBlue tank will be refilled by the dealership at the time of an interim 12,000 km service. Major service intervals remain for oil drain and filter replacement at 24,000 km intervals.
Because it’s an American vehicle the gauge indicating the DEF/AdBlue tank level is marked as DEF. On our test vehicle with 18,000 km on the odometer the DEF tank low-level warning advice came up on the dashboard, necessitating a visit to the local truck stop and the purchase of a 10-litre container over the counter.
Some truck stops now have a DEF/AdBlue bowser incorporated in the diesel bowser, and when buying in bulk the price is around the $1.50/litre level. Purchasing an aftermarket 10-litre carton cost $30.00. The fluid is poured into separate filler clearly marked DEF that is positioned next to the diesel tank filler. If you don’t refill the DEF/AdBlue tank and ignore the warning prompts the engine will de-rate and limit your speed to 8.0 km/h when it runs out. No, you can’t fill the DEF tank with any other fluid or it will again shut down the engine.
Now that you are comfortable with your green credentials, matched only by some premium luxury, diesel-engined, Euro 6 compliant, prestige cars, we come to the question of fuel economy.
With a six-speed automatic transmission and more than double the torque output of your competitors, we managed a best figure on a highway run of 10.9 l/100 km and an overall average of 12.8 l/100km. This figure is undoubtedly helped by the top two ratios being over-driven at 0.82:1 and 0.63:1.
If you need instant acceleration for an overtake, the power comes through by the bucket load. If you need additional retardation such as when towing a laden trailer down a steep hill, you can switch on the exhaust brake, which slows down the combination without reliance on the footbrake.
When towing with the 2500 the weight limits are 3500 kg with a 50 mm tow ball, 4500 kg with a 70 mm tow ball and 6989 kg with a pintle hook. Your payload level is 913 kg and the RAM comes with an integrated electric trailer brake actuator with controls on the dashboard.
Becoming acclimatised to the size of the RAM happens surprisingly quickly, and within a couple of days a driver can feel safely in control, assisted when parking by reverse cameras that show the tow ball position and surrounding rear area, plus front and rear reverse park sensors. As you select reverse the wing mirrors tilt downwards, another benefit to safe reversing.
With a huge amount of interior space and six seats, RAM is much more upmarket in terms of its inclusions and comfort levels than any of the Japanese-style competition. A high-quality sound system with Bluetooth connectivity and voice actuated controls sets the scene for the premium level interior of the Laramie, and with leather trim and power seats with adjustable lumber support it sets a high standard of personal comfort.
Front seats are heated or cooled individually, and even the steering wheel rim has its own heater for frozen mornings in the snow season. If you want to have a warm interior you can start the engine remotely by pointing the key fob and pressing the engine start button. The engine will then idle for 15 minutes, warming up itself and your environment.
In the rear-seat area the seat bases lift upwards and a fold-out shelf then levels off the floor area making it suitable for carrying parcels or shopping, and not having it rolling around in a foot well. In the front seat the centre passenger seat has a fold-down backrest that turns into a centre storage area, creating individual left and right bucket seats.
With a tare weight over 3500 kg this is obviously not a vehicle to throw into corners and challenge the neighbours, but with its coil springs all-round and three-link front suspension with five-link rear suspension designs, it handles Australian roads better than expected. Remember though that your overall width is 2009 mm and you will need 13.38 m to complete a U-turn.
Finally, from a tradie perspective, the tray bed length is 1939 mm with a width of 1295 between wheel arches and 1687 wall to wall, with side heights of 511 mm. Standard equipment only provides a tie-down point in each corner, but you can add a genuine accessory in the form of additional side rails with sliding tie-down points. The same applies to adding a tonneau cover, some extra chrome bling and a chromed exhaust pipe tip.
The RAM turned out to be a complete surprise, in terms of interior appointments, quality of the conversion and general ability of the vehicle. Look past the initial potential for sticker shock of the pricing and you’ll find a work-oriented vehicle that is unique for safe towing and that offers so much more than the current standard ute alternatives.