Even if you snapped up one of the final V8 powered Holden Commodore utes or equivalent Ford Falcon. It’ll be at least two years old today and you might be looking to replace it.
But if you wandered into one of the thousands of dealerships dotted about the country, the closest thing you could roll out in is a high-riding, four-cylinder diesel-powered Colorado or Ranger.
If, like many Aussies, a true ute is only found with the pairing of a pick-up tray at the back and a pounding petrol V8 at the front, then there’s currently only one machine on sale right now that will fit the bill.
WHAT IS IT?
Don’t be put off by its arguably lame Laramie moniker which, depending on the interpretation, translates as either ‘from the leavy grove’ or ‘tears of love’. This hulking American-made truck is one tough beast that commands respect.
The Ram 1500 offers the only V8 petrol engine in its class, delivering 291kW of power and 556Nm of torque, and with its massive 4.5 tonne max towing capacity, nothing quite compares.
The Ram trucks line-up includes the heavy duty diesel-powered 2500, and the ‘light duty’ 1500 which is available with either a turbo V6 diesel or the V8 petrol we snatched the keys to. Only the Americans could describe a monstrous 5.7-litre truck that can tow two Ford Rangers as light duty.
Ram Trucks Australia imports left-hand drive vehicles direct from the factory in the US, and the conversion to right-hand drive is completed under contract with Walkinshaw in Melbourne's east.
As such, Ram Trucks Australia claims “It’s built by Aussies, for Aussies”. Really? Can this American pickup truck ever replace the home-grown Aussie ute?
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Laramie and I head North, straight up the guts of Victoria, bound for the rural NSW town of Deniliquin. Our destination: The Deni Ute Muster — AKA “Ute Utopia”. Our aim: To see if those true-blue, iconic, Aussie ute lovers would accept a Yank Tank.
The first thing I notice is the unmistakable V8 rumble which, unlike many American models, is not just theatrics and little substance, and provides awesome pulling power despite its massive size and 2.6-tonne kerb weight.
The multi-link coil rear suspension provides both competent stability control, as well as a comfortable ride. This is noticeable on both the long freeway haul and the bumpy, dusty road to Deni.
As expected The Ram feels monstrous in the inner city, and parallel parking is not for the faint-hearted. Out on the freeway, however, it has the space it needs along with a smooth cruise and a cabin that is so very quiet.
The Ram has a stellar view thanks to its altitude. No one is going to mess with you driving this thing. Everyone stares before giving way.
I’m ashamed to say I’m carrying nothing in the tray. Even so there was little, if any, jittery roll often felt in an un-laden ute.
Perhaps my only grievances are: 1. The quintessentially American foot-operated park brake, which is released by hand (go figure); and 2. The reversing camera display, which could be bigger and clearer, especially if you’re hooking up a trailer, boat or caravan.
There’s also another bugbear when it comes to safety tech. Aussie ute buyers — except those doing circle work at Deni — are increasingly demanding modern driver assistance equipment (including forward collision mitigation tech) which is lacking in the Ram. You might forgive this in a budget one-tonner but it’s harder to overlook in a truck with otherwise decent equipment levels and a price tag that breaches the $100k mark.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LIVE WITH?
From hamburgers to TVs, Americans love to super-sizeand the Ram is no exception. To Australian eyes, this is a monster pickup truck. The massive front grille and lashings of chrome ensure the Ram cannot be mistaken for anything other than “Born in the USA”.
According to its maker, the cabin is fit for a King. Or in my case, a princess. It’s much more luxe than you might be expecting.
The front and rear seats are heated. And, wait for it, so is the steering wheel; a must for those chilly dawn starts, but as the temperature climbs in Deni I’m more excited about the ventilated cooling seats to prevent your Wrangler-clad booty heating up.
It’s easy to keep finding unique functional touches throughout the 1500. Remember before aircon you had to wind-down the windows? The Ram has a neat, electronic sliding rear hatch in the back window that allows a refreshing breeze to blow through the cabin. Also a clever idea if you’re shouting instructions regarding hitching up stuff or just want to keep the dog happy.
Inside the dual-cab there’s heaps of room for five adults. A split folding rear seat reveals a flat floor in the back. It even rivals many large SUVs for interior space.
The standard tub impressed the locals at Deni: Five foot, seven inches long in the old language – or 1,712m long by 1,295m wide as measured between the wheel arches. This works out to be 1400 litres. As the fans pointed out, when the tray is folded down there’s even a cup holder divot for your Bundy and Coke. Thoughtful.
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY?
The Ram 1500 Laramie costs $109,950 (plus on-roads) which might seem like a lot to the average one-tone-ute customer, but you get heaps of vehicle for your money.
The 5.7L ‘Hemi’ engine is equipped with fuel saver technology. Fuel consumption is not as horrific as expected; stated combined is 11.9L/100km. We clock a still reasonable 13L/100km.
The Ram comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty which is so-so when you look at virtually any rival.
This huge pickup will never be a you-beaut Aussie. Let’s face it, with a name like Laramie it’ll get teased at the pub. But this piece of Americana is well received at the Deni Ute Muster by hard-core locals.
With Ford and Holden having shuttered their production lines, an ardent traditionalist audience will have to look to the future. And the Ram might just be it.
PROS: Massive presence; only V8 in its class; 4.5 tonne towing capacity; luxurious interior
CONS: Might be too big for some; lacking modern safety equipment; reversing camera could be better; fuel consumption
Elise has been a journalist across the trifecta of TV, radio and print for more than twenty-five years. When not shackled to her computer or beloved kid, you’ll find this working mum indulging her other passions — skiing powder off piste or trying to catch a wave on her 8’ Mini Mal.
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