Car reviews - Ram - 1500 - Laramie
Comfortable unladen ride quality, well-specced and roomy interior, solid performance from Hemi engine, 4.5t towing capacity, decent handling considering its size
Room for improvement
Sheer size makes it a tough proposition around town, thirsty engine, some cabin rattles, no AEB or other driving aids, Laramie clearly more expensive than other premium pick-ups
For when a mid-size pick-up just is not enough, enter the Ram 1500
31 Aug 2018
WHEN it launched in Australia in late-2015, Ram Trucks Australia mostly attracted buyers looking to use its 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty trucks for towing and purpose-built applications, with their size and price restricting the selling potential of the mammoth pair.
To increase the brand’s selling potential, Ram has now introduced the slightly smaller – but still imposing – 1500, aimed at tradies, people looking for a dual-purpose work/play vehicle, and even those in the market for a large family SUV.
The 1500 also greatly reduces the point of entry to the Ram range – which now starts at $79,950 driveaway for the entry-level 1500 Express Quad Cab – a huge discount over the $139,950 plus on-roads 2500 Laramie.
Ram estimates the new 1500 will bring in 85 per cent of the brand’s total sales volume, with the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 to be joined by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 at the start of 2019.
Does the 1500 have what it takes to capture the hearts of ute-loving Australian buyers?
The arrival of the 2500/3500 pair marked a new era for the Australian pick-up market, with heavy-duty haulers made available for mass-market consumption. HSV joined the party earlier this year by importing and converting Chevrolet Silverados, giving choice to customers who need to haul over six tonnes of weight behind them.
Ram thinks the 1500 can help build on this success, but for different reasons. Sales of the 2500/3500 have so far seen around a 70:30 split between rural and metropolitan buyers, however the brand sees an opportunity to snare more urban customers with the slightly smaller and more manageable 1500.
While the more stripped out Express variant is aimed at tradies shopping in the $57,000-plus pick-up segment, the more expensive Laramie – the only variant we drove through the countryside around Bathurst, NSW – is marketed as both a large SUV alternative and a dual-purpose work/recreation vehicle for small business owners.
At $99,950 plus on-roads ($104,450 with the lockable RamBoxes optioned), the Laramie is clearly more expensive than the dearest one-tonne utes on the market, such as the Mercedes-Benz X350d Power ($79,415), but is also a much larger offering with no real direct rivals.
Stepping into the cabin of the Laramie for the first time, it is apparent that Ram has gone to efforts to make the 1500 a premium offering, and one that prospective buyers of a Toyota LandCruiser 200 may want to consider.
Generous lashings of soft leather upholstery are found on the seats, steering wheel, dashboard and door trim, with black plastic, brushed metal and faux wood found elsewhere.
It comes with interior features befitting a luxury vehicle, including heated and ventilated front seats (with heated rear seats), a heated steering wheel, sunroof and an 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system.
The only feature that feels cheap on the 1500 is the foot-operated parking brake, which sits on the right of the accelerator, requiring the driver to move their left foot onto the brake while using their right to depress the parking brake. To release, a latch is pulled with the hand, making for a clunky process.
Owners of the Jeep Grand Cherokee will find the 1500 Laramie’s dashboard to be strikingly similar, because it essentially is. The 8.4-inch screen sits above the air-conditioning cluster, which looks a tad basic but works simply and intuitively.
The UConnect system is easy to use and intuitive, with the large, square screen offering good clarity and simple navigation.
A second 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster display shows a number of different readouts extending to oil and transmission temperatures, fuel economy and vehicle speed, flanked by an analogue tachometer and speedometer on each side.
As expected for a car of this size, both front and rear adult passengers can sit in comfort, with front passengers separated by a huge, two-part centre console storage bin with two USB ports. Seats are well-padded and comfortable, with the heating and ventilation and electric adjustment only adding to the comfort.
While the 1500 has a feeling of solid build quality, we experienced some bumps and rattles around the driver’s side footwell, not ideal for a brand-new vehicle. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are generally solid, however the 1500’s boxy body shape does lead to some wind noise when up to speed.
One problem many pick-ups encounter is that due to their payload and towing abilities, unladen ride quality suffers and can be bone-jarringly stiff.
Despite being able to pull 4500kg (depending on which axle ratio is optioned) with a payload rating of 800kg, the Laramie rides comfortably on the road with an empty tray. Imperfections are dealt with well, no doubt in part thanks to the vehicle’s long wheelbase and sheer size, and ride quality is comparable to a LandCruiser or Nissan Patrol.
It also makes long-distance travel an easy and comfortable proposition, however we still think driving the 1500 in metropolitan situations would be a tough ask. Our drive route did not allow us any opportunities to drive the 1500 around town, however we feel that situations such as underground car parks and narrow urban streets would present a problem for buyers.
Despite its size, the 1500 handles reasonably well, feeling planted through corners even at high speeds and offering well-weighted steering, unlike other large vehicles with have a super-light steering feel.
One of the most unique features of the 1500 is its powerplant, being the only pick-up on the market to be offered with a petrol V8 engine.
The 5.7-litre Hemi V8 outputs 291kW at 5600rpm and 556Nm at 3950rpm, mated to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission. On the Laramie, four driving modes are available, including 2WD, 4WD auto, 4WD lock and 4WD low range.
Fuel consumption depends on which axle ratio is chosen – either a 3.92 or 3.21 ratio – which also dictates acceleration and towing capacity. Consumption for the 3.21 is rated at 9.9 litres per 100km, while the 3.92 sips 12.2L/100km.
On our trip of mainly countryside driving with some low-speed off-roading, we recorded approximate fuel consumption figures of 13 and 14.5L/100km respectively, a figure that would only increase with a majority of urban, stop-start driving. A fuel tank size of 98L on the Laramie (121L on the Express) ensures trips to the bowser do not have to be too frequent, but they will be expensive.
The Hemi’s performance is more exciting than other four-cylinder diesel pick-ups, accelerating well off the line and giving drivers a dose of hefty V8 noise that can be enhanced by an optional sports exhaust.
We still prefer the V8 petrol unit from the Nissan Patrol, which revs more freely and provides more punchy performance, however the Hemi does provide a unique selling point in the pick-up market.
The addition of a V6 diesel will help improve popularity for those concerned about a hefty fuel bill, but for those who love V8 power, the 1500 is a tantalising option. Furthermore, the interior comfort and luxury of the Laramie is likely to tempt some SUV buyers to make the switch to the Ram brand.
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