It is an American monster. A massive FU to the environment. A Hemi V8 that should be firmly consigned to the history books.
But, boy, does it have its uses.
With a 5.7-litre turbo-charged engine and a 4.5-tonne towing capacity, the Ram 1500 Limited Night Edition is a truly useful beast.
Our family relocated an old Epsom bungalow to our farmlet at Paparoa in Northland and we’ve just finished fixing it up to be a totally self-contained, off-grid refuge from covid. The finishing touch was a deck, for which we needed a pizza oven.
I took the Ram to Brustics landscaping supplies store in Albany to pick up my new 600kg purchase. The guy behind the counter looked at me in my Hawaiian shirt and shorts and asked, “What ya got to move this with?”
Then he saw the truck and said, “Yeah, I reckon you’ll be all right.”
As the oven was lowered on to the deck of the double-cab ute, the rear dropped down by about 8cm. And then the truck looked me dead in the eye and said, in a Texan drawl, “That all ya got?”
I tell you no lies. Then it was an easy two-hour trip north.
The ride, thanks to superb air suspension, is always comfortable. You don’t even notice the raised road markings, or the occasional possum. That air suspension means it is able to raise the body up when off-road, and lower it when going at speed. If you are on the motorway, it will let you know it has adjusted to reach the best ride height.
Despite weighing 2749kg, the Ram 1500 corners fine and accelerates without any noticeable difficulty.
It gets a lot of looks. Potentially those looks are split down some kind of political or city/rural lines. Parked on Auckland’s Shortland St, it took nearly two full spaces.
People looked at me like I was some sort of Trump-loving, Earth-hating prick.
But parked in Maungaturoto, near where our house is, I got the impression passers-by were thinking it looked like a mighty useful vehicle to have – though the owner must indeed be a prick.
The truck has a mild hybrid system to improve fuel efficiency, stop/start tech for idling, and cylinder deactivation for when you are cruising along (this turns off four of the eight cylinders).
The Ram 1500 Limited Night Edition retails at $155,900, but the model I tested included storage compartments and a sunroof, so is $162,900. The entry-level version is $104,990 with the same V8 engine, etc, but missing a lot of nice-to-haves.
There’s also a 6.7-litre turbo diesel version that goes for $184,990.
One reason for the massive price is that the Ram is converted to right-hand drive in Australia. Over in Texas, effectively the same model sells for the equivalent of just NZ$108,000.
The huge rear deck has lockable cupboards (the RamBox) above the wheels that are large enough to store a decent number of tools. That extra bit of kits adds $5000 to the cost, including a foldable roof for the deck.
The Ram is so big it dwarfs everything around. You look down on bus drivers. A high-spec Hilux looks like a Tonka toy. The 1500 is a full 20cm wider than a Ford Ranger.
It is so big that when you open the doors, a stepping platform comes out from under the body to help you get in.
It is so big that the interior has approximately 63 cup holders, and slots for objects that are the same shape and size as bullets. The passenger is basically in a different town to you.
It’s so big that... Hang on, this is actually the smallest truck Ram makes. There are two bigger ones that I’m guessing make the interisland ferries look small.
Anyway, it is really big. I had to park it on the road – the first time I’ve ever had to do that with a test vehicle.
Driving around Auckland is a bit of a nightmare. It is just, erm, so big that you don’t really feel like taking it to the supermarket, or down Ponsonby Rd for dinner. But when a friend needs to move a couple of wardrobes, you’ll get the call. (You’re welcome.)
And that’s the point. A truck like the Ram does have a purpose. In my time with it, I averaged 14.7 litres of gas per 100km, and that’s not great, but it’s also par for the course if you need a vehicle like this. The official fuel-use rating is 12.2 litres per 100km.
It also feels incredibly safe. That’s because most other vehicles on the road are not even as tall as its bonnet. The scale of the thing envelopes you in a sense of security. There’s a fair chance if you rear-end a hatchback, you’d just drive over the top of it without noticing.
The Ram 1500 doesn’t pretend or try to be something it is not. It is a big American truck that can tow pretty much anything, provides a super comfortable ride, and may be just what you need.