When it comes to presence on the road, there’s nothing subliminal about the RAM 2500 Laramie that Delivery Magazine is evaluating over the first 12 months of its life. No matter how nondescript the driver might aim to be during his or her travels, rest assured this is one vehicle that stands out from the crowd.
With its high bonnet, wide cab and long wheelbase, the RAM can be challenging when negotiating the urban jungle, not least because the bonnet height is often matching the roof height of the average hatchback. Where it comes into its own is out on the highway, where the 6.7-litre Cummins turbocharged diesel under the hood ticks over at around the 1100 rpm mark while the speedometer is registering the legal highway maximum.
The RAM generates questions from passers by wherever you happen to park, especially in Northern Queensland where mine application vehicles are plentiful, together with the ever-intrepid band of grey nomads towing combinations that are usually illegal and potentially dangerous.
The first question is usually about fuel economy, with the onlooker expecting a tale of woe about fuel consumption. As far as the fuel cost per kilometre is concerned, the RAM is consistently returning 10 l/100 km on a highway run, with around-town consumption figures averaging 13.4 l/100 km. This is without towing, and for general driving over long distances with typical runs being of 1200 km.
When it comes to towing, the RAM moves into a class that’s well above any of the Japanese-style utes competing for your attention. Forget the 3000-3500 kg maximum towing limits we have come to expect from Rangers, Colorados and the like, the RAM comes in with towing limits of 3500 kg for a 50 mm towball, rising to 4500 kg when using a 70 mm towball and increasing further to 6942 kg when using a pintle hook.
The gross weight of the trailer determines the type of connection necessary to keep thing safe and legal on the road. Although every day on the highway it’s possible to see gross trailer weights much higher than the 3500 kg limit being used with a 50 mm towball, it is rare to see any vehicle using a 70 mm towball, and rarer still to see a pintle hook in use for any vehicle other than a truck hauling a plant and machinery trailer.
There will obviously be a fuel consumption penalty when towing high gross weight trailers, but with the six-cylinder, 6.7-litre Cummins diesel pumping out 276 kW of power at 2800 rpm and with a peak torque rating of 1084 Nm at 1600 rpm the act of towing ends up being an easy-going affair.
Good fuel economy, even when towing high weights, is benefited by the six-speed automatic transmission where 4th gear is direct drive 1:1 and the top two ratios are overdriven at 0.82:1 and 0.63:1. With 1084 Nm of torque the engine can easily cope with those ratios, without requiring the engine management system to hunt through ratios.
Being based in Queensland and running at night between Rockhampton and Cairns, with the occasional 1200 km trip south to Brisbane or 2000 km to Sydney, means there’s a risk of animal impact when out on the highway. To counter the possibility of damage we visited TUFF Bullbars Australia at its head office in Toowoomba to add one of the most durable bullbars we have come across in our travels.
The risk of impacting an animal at night on northern roads is not just confined to the occasional lone kangaroo. The danger could equally come from wandering cattle or horses, so protecting the front and sides of the vehicle becomes an integral part of making it to your destination.
Prior to having the TUFF bar fitted we had checked the weight distribution of each of the axles of the RAM at the local weighbridge at Toowoomba Grain Storage and Handling. In standard trim, and with a full 117 litres of fuel and some cargo, the RAM 2500 tared off at 3820 kg. The front axle capacity is quoted by the manufacturer at 2609 kg with the rear axle being 3176 kg.
Before adding the TUFF Bullbar it was necessary to remove the standard factory-supplied side steps and front bumper bar, and, when we reweighed the rig after adding the bullbar, the total tare weight was differed by around 120 kg from the original weigh ticket.
Staying within manufacturers recommended weight ratings for axles is vitally important to ensure maximum durability and safety. In this instance, with the new bar, side rails and steps fitted, the tare weight was 3940 kg, with the front axle split weighing at 2440 kg. Front ride height decreased by 10 mm on each side, staying identical at the rear.
Having completed the fitment of the alloy bar and side steps, before we headed northwards we called in to the local Toowoomba branch of JAX Tyres, where Steve Berlin and his team quickly had the RAM hooked up to check whether a change in weight over the front axle could have altered the steering geometry with changes to caster and camber angles.
Wheel alignment and castor and camber settings can be influenced by a variety of reasons, including whether the original suspension design was intended for left-hand or right-hand-drive application, plus the road camber prevalent in a particular area. That’s where local knowledge of a tyre expert becomes doubly important.
Adding a bullbar will inevitably mean a change in weight distribution, and if not checked and corrected the result will be seen in reduced tyre life and increased tread wear. To maximise tyre life and suspension performance the industry recommends regular steering geometry checks, as well as tyre rotation at 10,000 km intervals.
No self-respecting bullbar is complete without a decent set of driving lamps. For the RAM we turned to HELLA and fitted a pair of Luminator XENONs, teaming up a spread beam and pencil beam for maximum effect. Whereas the Laminator LED version is currently only available in a pencil beam spread, the Luminator XENON system provides a wider beam spread extending forwards to almost 500 metres and widthways out to 40 degrees left and right from the straight ahead position, making this ideal for country road running.
LED light bars are increasing in popularity, but there’s a wide range of variance in terms of performance. HELLA makes two versions, a 350 mm length and a 470 mm length, with the former available configured to pencil beam or spread beam, but with both spread and pencil combined on the latter. The HELLA LED bar light features optical lenses that produce a similar beam spread to that of a round lamp, but from a bar design that may be easier to mount in confined spaces.
The beam spread of the HELLA 350s extend to 300-350 metres, adding a high fill-in factor to complement the longer beam spreads of the Luminator XENONs. The result is an excellent combination for highway night running in country areas.
Increased vehicle visibility to oncoming traffic during daylight hours is improved by fitting LED daytime running lamps.
With added safety in mind, we fitted HELLA’s latest surface mount flat bar lights. Each unit contains 10 high-power LEDs to suit forward facing application, plus there are specific models available to mount on 15-degree and 30-degree angle offsets such as swept back side bar sections. These enable the unit to still project its light forwards towards oncoming vehicles.
It’s common practice on country roads during daylight for many vehicles, especially those built to mining spec, to travel with the vehicle headlamps on dipped beam. LED daytime running lamps take much less current draw but project their beam forwards, towards the oncoming traffic, rather than downwards towards the road surface.
Communication out on the highway can provide advanced warning of traffic congestion or more serious problems, providing strong justification for fitting one of the latest UH9050 UHF CB mobile radios from Uniden.
Suitable for 12/24-volt fitment, this 5-watt output CB returns to the idea of having a 1 DIN sized receiver with one big on/off and volume switch plus a large digital display of the selected channel. Having trialled the alternatives of having all controls on the handpiece, I much prefer the quicker recognition of the basic functions, especially in dim lighting.
The Uniden UH9050 comes with all the SMARTS for effortless communication with innovative features such as Smart Mic, Master Scan® and a built-in scanner.
Smart Mic technology features on the heavy-duty speaker microphone allowing users to simply push a button to switch between 100 user-programmed channels, the voice enhancer, call tone and SELCALL.
Master Scan® enables uninterrupted communication on not just one channel, but a group of channels. If the current channel is interrupted by others outside the group, all radios in the group will automatically switch to a new clear channel allowing for communication to continue seamlessly.
With the addition of the Triple Watch feature, it’s also possible to monitor two channels plus a standby channel. The radio is built with dual speakers in the head unit, and speaker microphone with the option of an additional speaker connecting to the rear of the unit.
The built-in voice enhancer feature allows the UH9050 to choose different audio level settings (Normal, Bass, Midrange and High) to provide a natural voice enhancer for super clarity and performance.
The voice scramble function lets businesses conduct private communication by scrambling the voice signal, preventing other users, without special scrambling equipment, from understanding the conversation.
Using the dedicated Uniden antenna simply enhances the compatibility of the unit, which is priced at $399.50. Uniden offers over 15 antennas and they are available in two strengths (3 and 6 dBi), catering for the best signal in any environment, from suburban areas and rural locations, to heavily forested and hilly country.
Each antenna has unique features including flexible rubber whips for high terrain or city environments, a portable magnetic antenna for people on the move changing in and out of different vehicles, antennas with heavy-duty springs to allow for tough terrain or heavy-duty use, along with a four-wheel-drive specific antenna.