RAM on the Right Track | UTE Review – RAM 1500

Australia’s homegrown ute continues to improve!

The RAM Truck Australia marketing machine continues to move ahead of its competitors, announcing a series of upgrades to the flagship vehicles in the fleet, the 2500 and 3500 RAM utes. Production capacity is on the increase and the forecast is for the Melbourne production line to target over 4500 vehicles per year across the range.

It’s taken RAM Trucks Australia two and a half years since production started in December 2015 to produce its 1,000th RAM pickup truck in Australia. With production of the RAM 1500 adding to the numbers, the company looks set to achieve the 2000 vehicle mark in less than half the time of the climb to 1000 sales.

Having tested the market with the RAM 2500 and 3500 models, RAM Trucks Australia has now blasted into the hugely popular ute segment by launching the RAM 1500 in three different trim levels and with two different choices of engine, one a petrol V8 HEMI Head of 5.7 litres, the other, due for release later this year, being a 3.0-litre VM Motori diesel, which also finds its way under the bonnet of the Chrysler 300C.

When compared to the current crop of Japanese-styled utes, the RAM 1500 sets higher standards for towing capacity, tub size, interior space and comfort. Adding the 5.7-litre HEMI petrol engine brings back the V8 burble that’s part of the Australian ute owning psyche.

Those wanting more can have more in the form of the already established 2500 and 3500, both powered by the Cummins 6.7-litre, straight six with 276 kW of power and 1084 Nm of torque. This is matched to a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission with double overdrive ratios on 5th and 6th to give effortless cruising and surprisingly good fuel economy.

As its local remanufacturing assembly line in Victoria expands to match demand for the RAM 1500 Express and 1500 Laramie models, RAM Trucks Australia has announced a series of upgrades to its 2500 and 3500 trucks for 2018.

The RAM 2500 and 3500 feature revised suspension settings for 2018 that have been developed in Australia for Australian conditions and use Bilstein dampers. These provide a smoother, more comfortable ride quality without impacting on the class-leading towing ability of the RAM 2500 and 3500 of up to 6.9 tonnes.

For 2018, the latest uConnect 4 system brings a new 8.4-inch touchscreen with pinch to zoom operation, Apple CarPlay and Android compatibility. The USB flip connection allows two phones to be plugged into the system simultaneously, and, at the touch of the screen, the system will switch between the two phones without them being plugged in and out. Voice commands control the operation of the sat/nav unit and the phone operation.

Standard features now include rain-sensing wipers and headlights that dip automatically for approaching vehicles. The load bay lights may now be set to come on automatically when the RAM is unlocked.

As a fully factory-approved imports that are built specifically for the Australian market, the RAM 2500 and 3500 may be ordered with factory fitted optional equipment. The standard fit out is with six seats, but the RAM 2500 may now be ordered as a five-seater, with two bucket seats in the front replacing the current bench seat.

More choice extends to the tub sizes, with the standard length being 1938 mm or the optional extended length of 2496 mm. The minimum width between the wheel arches remains identical at 1295 mm, able to accept a standard pallet. Selecting the longer tub also brings with it a larger capacity fuel tank of 132 litres, plus a further factory fitted option for the 2500 of auto-levelling rear air suspension that automatically detects load on the suspension from a trailer or payload. The air pressure increases until the vehicle reaches normal ride height, levelling the truck and improving the laden ride quality. By manually deleting air pressure the rear may be lowered by 25 mm to assist with hitching up trailers.

RamBoxes are a great use of space with 243-litre capacity lockers built in to each side of the tub and accessed by lift-up lid that is locked and unlocked as part of the central locking system. A full tonneau cover is now standard equipment.

The RAM Sport Appearance package adds a colour-coded grille and front and rear bumpers, black tubular cab-length side steps, performance-tuned shock absorbers, and black 20” rims with Nitto 275/65 R20 All Terrain tyres, black badging and dark lined bi-function projector headlights.

The towing ability for the RAM 1500, RAM 2500 and 3500 is class-leading amongst the ute fraternity, with a 50 mm tow ball matched to a 3.5 tonnes limit, rising to 4.5 tonnes when fitted with a 70mm tow ball. When fitted with a pintle hook the towing limit rises to 6.9 tonnes. The payload is 913 kg in the 2500 and up to 1713 kg in the RAM 3500. Depending on specification and driving licence type, the RAM 3500 can have a gross combined mass of up to 11,479 kg.

The long wheelbase contributes to exceptional towing stability, with the added safety of a full exhaust brake system to reduce or control speed on over-run for less brake wear. A slider control for electric trailer brakes is also standard and built into the dashboard, and ratio shift points in the automatic transmission can be modified to suit the vehicle load and terrain by pressing the Tow/Haul button. Camera vision of the tray area and the tow ball makes trailer coupling easy when reversing.

Power adjusted seats and external mirrors, windows and sunroof are complemented by power adjusted pedal positioning to suit different leg lengths. The front seats are also heated and cool-air ventilated and the steering wheel is also heated. The large centre locker between the front seats has two cup holders and USB power points and folds upwards to provide a backrest for the centre seat. The dashboard, also has the usual USB and 12-volt sockets, but adds a 240-volt 100 W mains power socket. The air con is dual-zone and the driver can start the engine from outside the vehicle through using the remote key fob to organise the cab temperature prior to entry.

The rear bench seat takes three passengers and the seats can be flipped upwards in a dual/single seat combination. With the seat bases flipped upwards, a foldout flat floor panel levels the rear of the cab for load carrying or to facilitate pet comfort. Rear seat passengers are also well catered for by the inclusion of air conditioning, storage lockers, a centre armrest with cup holders and reading lights.

The decision of whether to buy a 2500 or 3500 really comes down to the intended use. The RAM 2500 features a coil spring rear suspension while the 3500 is fitted with a Hotchkiss leaf spring rear suspension to meet additional towing demands. To maximise this ability, the RAM 3500 is available in two versions, one rated for a car driving licence and a second version rated for light rigid driving licence, which allows a higher payload as well as the 6.9-tonne towing capability.

New chassis frames for the 2500 and 3500 feature high-strength 50 KSI steel and include eight separate cross-members, hydroformed main rails and fully boxed rear rails for optimal strength and mass efficiency.

Wide front frame rails (approximately 25 mm per side; 50 mm overall) enable front suspension springs to be positioned slightly outboard – generating more positive roll stiffness. A new front suspension cross member is now a two-piece welded component, essentially vacuum formed between the front axle and oil pan. The larger plated structure’s interface to the frame brings a lengthened weld surface that creates a significantly stiffer, more robust front section. Centre frame rail sections are roll-formed, and in the rear portion of the new frame the structure includes fully boxed rear rails and a factory-installed rear axle cross member with provisions for 5th wheel and gooseneck hitches.

Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, with front/rear rotors of 373-mm/356-mm operated by dual-piston callipers.

The exhaust system for the Cummins 6.7-litre uses AdBlue (diesel exhaust fluid or DEF), which is injected to reduce NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions coming out of the tail pipe. This is a fully automatic system, and with a 27-litre AdBlue tank the refill intervals are timed to match regular service intervals. For those with more interest in technical features, the frame-mounted fuel filter/water separator unit delivers best-in-class, 3.0-micron particulate filtration and water stripping. A unique venting system is designed to prevent dirt and water from entering the tank and a warning light illuminates on the truck’s instrument cluster when the high-capacity sump requires draining.

With more than 45 active and passive safety and security features, RAM Trucks include standard front air bags and seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags with Enhanced Accident Response System (EARS), BeltAlert system and ParkView rear back-up camera system. The standard electronic stability control (ESC) hosts a number of technologies including all-speed traction control, trailer-sway control, hill-start assist and anti-lock brake system (ABS).

There are some tricky tech features such as the flashers initiate and doors are unlocked after air-bag deployment, which also corresponds with shutting off the flow of fuel to the engine. Tyre pressure monitoring of all four wheels gives an accurate reading on the dashboard and an alert when there’s any pressure deviation from the norm, interior surfaces are designed to minimise the opportunity for head impact, and knee bolsters keep the occupant in the right position for airbag actuation.

American-style utes have the benefit of offering the buyer greater suitability for towing, and, with local production and a significant level of local Australian input, the future for RAM Trucks looks particularly impressive.

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