THE ARRIVAL of the Ram 1500 with its 5.7-litre Hemi V8 engine has been seen by some as the new alternative for V8 ute buyers who might have once looked to Ford and Holden for their vehicles of choice. With no locally made utes available anymore and none of the popular 4x4 midsize utes offering a petrol engine option, let alone a V8, these full-size American pick-ups are really your best option.
With prices for the Ram 1500 Express V8 DS starting from $79,950 driveaway from Ram Trucks Australia, you can get into one for around the same price an old 2WD Holden or Ford ute from HSV or FPV would have cost. Ram variants including the more modern 1500 DT are available from importers other than Ram Trucks Australia.
The standard Ram 1500 Laramie V8 was a great jigger when we tested it in standard trim last year but, like most petrol engines, the Hemi V8 lacks the torque and grunt of a big diesel powerplant. You need to step up to the Ram 2500 to get the awesome Cummins inline-six-powered models, or the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V6 that has just been launched here. However, you won’t land either of them on the friendly side of $100K.
Melbourne tuning house and supercharger specialist Harrop Performance nabbed a base-spec Ram Express 1500 V8 and applied its talents to rectifying any lack of bottom-end mumbo. How did it do that? It simply bolted a big, fat supercharger to that V8 engine.
While hot-rodders have been bolting blowers to the top of V8s for generations, there’s a lot more to it when you want to engineer and produce a product to OE (original equipment) standards, as Harrop does. Harrop has been successfully developing supercharger kits for Ford and Holden V8 cars for years and even has packages for 4x4s, such as the Y62 Patrol with its VK56 5.6-litre V8 and the Toyota Tundra with its 5.7-litre V8. FCA’s modern Hemi V8, as found in the Ram or Jeep Grand Cherokee, was the logical next step.
4x4 video review: Ram 1500 Laramie
Central to Harrop’s supercharger packages is the TVS supercharger. This is a Roots-style positive displacement blower using high helix, four lobe rotors to pump more air into an engine, and it’s available in a range of sizes from 900cc displacement for smaller engines right up to the 2650cc unit for bigger mills like the Hemi V8.
In stock form, the Ram’s 5.7-litre V8 makes 291kW at 5600rpm and 556Nm at 3950rpm. Fitted with the 2650cc pump in its V, feeding just 5psi of boost into the intake, the Ram showed 333kW at 5600rpm and 580Nm at 3800rpm. Before you say that’s not a big gain, those numbers are measured at the rear hubs on the hub dyno at the Harrop Performance Centre. When the power losses through the driveline are taken into account, you could estimate around 410kW and 700Nm at the flywheel, which are far more impressive numbers.
Want more? The guys at Harrop say that with the right engine and transmission mods, this supercharger package is capable of producing upwards of 745kW, or more than 1000 horsepower in the old money. That would be one hell of a killer truck!
So how does it go? As it stands with just 5psi of boost, the supercharger package delivers just what it sets out to do. Nail the throttle and the Ram truck shoots off the mark without needing to build on the revs to get the best performance out of it; the grunt is there right from the get-go. At lighter throttle applications the added grunt translates to a more drivable package as you don’t need to wring its neck to get the best out of it, making it ideal for off-road work or towing. That’s especially pertinent if you bought your Ram for its 4.5-tonne towing capacity.
While it delivers more than enough grunt, the one attribute of the diesel engine the supercharged V8 can’t emulate is efficiency … the blown Ram certainly likes a drink. It might have been that we only had it for a couple of days when we drove it non-stop, gassing the accelerator whenever the road opened up in front of us and smiling from ear-to-ear, but, yes, it gulped down the 98 octane. We’re sure it would be better with more liberal use of the loud pedal, but who doesn’t like the sound of a V8?
We did some light off-roading in the Ram and it walked over uneven and rutted terrain with ease. The low-range ratio gives plenty of control and the throttle only needs to be lightly pressed to make use of the added torque. The stock suspension works well enough and clearance was never an issue, but what truck wouldn’t be better with bit of a lift. The 35-inch Toyos also worked a treat in the muddy conditions we encountered.
The Harrop kit includes the TVS2650 supercharger, a 55mm-thick dual-pass intercooler, upgraded injectors, all the required hardware and an ECU tune. It is designed to work with the stock intake, which is great if you run a snorkel, and the test vehicle retained its stock exhaust system. The package will sell for $15,990 fitted at one of Harrop’s approved installers around the country, and it should be available around the time you’re reading this.
Aside from the engine mods, the Harrop Ram is otherwise pretty stock. Stock suspension, exhaust system, eight-speed auto transmission and mainly stock interior. The seats have been updated with leather covers for added prestige and comfort and they complement the monochrome exterior you get when you tick the Black Pack option. Obviously the wheels and tyres have been upgraded, with Method alloys wrapped in 35-inch Toyo Open Country R/T rubber improving looks and off-highway performance.
If you’ve always baulked at the high price of imported American pick-ups, you should consider that you could be driving a supercharged Ram 1500 just like this one for less than $100,000, and then you might think again. Take a ride in this truck and you’ll seriously be thinking about it.