RAM Trucks’ Australian arm says it will look at the potential to add more hardcore versions of its newly launched 1500 light truck as the number of available performance-honed variants dries up.
The version of the RAM 1500 light truck imported here, and converted to right-hand drive by American Special Vehicles, an off-shoot of Walkinshaw Performance, is not the all-new “DT” series launched in the US earlier this year.
Instead, the version sold in Australia will be the fourth-generation “DS” series, launched in 2009 and continuing production as a cheap, entry-level light truck for the North American market.
And because the old 1500 is not meant to compete with the shiny, new fifth-generation one, Ram Trucks Australia is faced with picking its feedstock from a pared-down model range stripped of its former hero models.
It also means Ram Trucks will base any decision to introduce a performance hero of its own – to take on the likes of the Ford Ranger Raptor – will depend on how well buyers take to the 5.7-litre Hemi engine.
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“Let’s face it, there hasn’t been a V8 (pick-up) in the market for quite some time, so I think there is a good opportunity there to see what the appetite is for that particular market,” Ram Trucks general manager Alex Stewart said.
“The DS is the current model, and that is currently in production, and that’s going to continue for at least three years,” Stewart said at the launch of the smaller sibling to the 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty light truck range.
“[The new DT 1500 is] not taking over from the old model, it’s actually an additional model,” he added. ”It sits above the DS.”
However, while the higher performance Rebel variant of the 1500, which added features such as height-adjusting air suspension, tow hooks, a lower final drive ratio, more underbody protection and a more aggressive-look grille, has rolled out for the new version of the light truck, it’s no longer available for the old model available here.
“The  Rebel is only available on the new DT range, and the DS is now a slimmed-down vehicle range for both domestic and global markets,” Stewart said.
“The Rebel is just a particular model, with some leather trimmings and some different suspension setups. You know, for us, we will probably look at what the local market wants in the way of specialisation, so we will build up to something.
“What that is, we don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s early days.”
The 1500 will initially be available with what RAM Trucks calls the Black Pack, featuring a blacked-out grille and other body parts, a twin-nostril bonnet and revised suspension system, and built off the entry-level $79,950 1500 Express. It will get the same 5.7-litre Hemi V8 as the regular truck.
While all versions of the 1500 will have a reversing camera, they will miss out on some driver assist technology that is being added to rivals including the Ford Ranger and the Toyota Hilux, including automatic emergency braking, a feature that will be standard on the Raptor-badged version of the trade ute that will fight the 1500 for buyers hearts and wallets.
Stewart said he did not think this would be a problem for buyers.
“Is it always all about safety?” he asked. “It always goes back to this five-star ANCAP safety rating, but there’s a lot of other aspects of this vehicle.
“A lot of focus at the pointy end will lose focus of the bigger picture.”