Car reviews - Ram - 2500 - Laramie
Tough and macho styling matches workhorse ability, fat tow and payload ratings, super comfortable, heaps of cabin room, 8000kg tow rating
Room for improvement
Vague steering, imposing seat height, awful turning circle, side bins are handy but chew tray capacity, feels big on Aussie roads
US iron spreads its wings to appeal to leisure and trade duties
13 Jun 2022
By NEIL DOWLING
NO-ONE messed with the fat kid at school. It wasn’t that he was a bully or bad-mouthed or just plain aggressive, merely that he looked like he could damage you. So, us littler kids stayed out of arm’s reach.
Away from school, the lessons remain. On the roads, we know what has the potential to hurt. So, we keep a distance from larger vehicles, even though they are likely to be benign.
Like the big kid in primary school, intimidation deserves respect. Now intimidation has a new abbreviation – Ram.
The ute – er, truck – from North America may be now growing in popularity but its belligerent grille in the rear-vision mirror and its sheer height and length have created a new way to part the freeway congestion.
By now you’d assume that it’s a new road pest, succeeding the big 4WDs. There’s always something bigger and more threatening ready to occupy our lives, for better or for worse.
Ram brings its bulk and tough payload and tow rating to a country and a lifestyle that is almost purpose built for its qualifications. It will clearly thrive in an environment where its attributes are welcome.
But it has a niggle. In fact, probably a bit more than a niggle. It’s just so big that it needs two car bay lengths. Its turn will etch a circle of 14.6 metres in diameter.
Position this in a Bunnings carpark and aim to get out at the end of the visit and you’ll need a lot of distance between you, the other handypeoples cars and the shop’s front door.
An urban environment isn’t its ideal playground. This is one for the open road, wide country park bays and a traffic community that is far less dense than a city.
I get that it has ego appeal. It’s a truck that even a moonshine bender would fail to turn invisible.
But it’s costly and a bit thirsty and requires sufficient real estate to keep it happy and secure at night.
It’s one for people who need a lot more out of the average ute and so stretches a niche audience from a cashed-up holiday maker with a caravan – or fifth wheeler – in tow, or a tradie who is really in the big end of town.
Towing? Try 3500kg out of the box and up to 8000kg with upgrades.
And even dishing out the negatives, it remains a desirable machine and a lusted step-up for every driver of a one-tonne dual-cab ute. And perhaps every one-tonne driver of a dual-cab ute.
Think of a Louisville or Kenworth bonneted truck. That imposition on space that is like an annoying uncle at a wedding party photo session who continues to be in the frame.
It’s the same with the 2500. Albeit on a slightly smaller scale. It doesn’t matter which way your head is pointed, you just seem to keep looking at its sheet metal.
Maybe I needed to have been born taller. I’d also need to be physically a bit more dexterous as body flexibility is a plus if you want to make a respectable entrance to the cabin.
Once inside, level with a bus driver, the truck can be lauded for cavernous interior and dashboard simplicity akin to most other large US iron.
Nothing intimidates save for the elephant in the room – the enormity of the beast – with most controls easy to assess and access, although the handbrake combination of foot lever engagement and under-dash mounted right-hand lever button are ergonomic oddities.
The 2500 is a six-seater and that’s six adults. Three in the front and three in the rear with barely room to knock elbows.
The column-mounted shift lever for the six-speed Chrysler-built auto is mounted on the right which, in combination with the retiring park brake lever locations, neatly opens up the floor for leg space for the front-centre occupant.
Along with this is the near-acreage of shoulder space to make this a machine that feels as airy and free to drive when loaded with passengers as when it does when one-up.
The slow, almost painful, crank of the Cummins mill is the entree to the deep bass exhaust note that exits through a downpipe-size pipe aimed chest-high at any following motorcycle rider.
The gear shift lever limps through a ragged gate to D, there is some hesitancy as the torque converter nervously picks up the message that 1152Nm of torque is poised to come pouring through the flywheel.
From then on, it’s all a deep bass of exhaust, the mechanical thrum of the diesel and the subtle vibration through the steering wheel.
Cummins supplied the 6.7-litre in-line six-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled diesel that is a not-to-distant relative of the 5.9-litre six that Ram (then known as Dodge Ram) used 33 years ago.
The latest under-square six is rated at 370kW at 2800rpm and 1152Nm of torque at 1700rpm. While that appears plentiful, it is beaten in the family by a high-output (313kW/1458Nm) version available only for the bigger Ram 3500 variant and only with the six-speed Aisin auto box.
The Cummins has SCR for its emission control and uses active radiator shutters to control air flow and speed up the morning warm-up.
A nice addition is the “smart” exhaust brake that detects coasting or downhills and rather subtly engages the valve brake to save on the wheel brakes.
Clearly this is a true 4WD and should be pointed at dirt and made to do its stuff. I’m a bit cautious about throwing this thing into soft sand. Digging out 4WDs isn’t my favourite pastime and doing that in a vehicle that weighs 3667kg is right down the bottom of pleasurable pursuits.
It was shown a dirt road and some modest, firm soil and it didn’t even blink. The transfer case system is electric, with the default 2WD flicking through to 4WD High on the run, then stationary for the move to 4WD Low.
On the road the truck sits fat and wide, but not especially assured. There’s relief that the steering is suitably power assisted but the vagueness in the communication from the steering wheel to the front wheels is disconcerting.
It’s much like the lazy relationship found on early US cars and for some drivers, isn’t a concern. Step up from a more modern vehicle and it just feels disconnected.
In the scheme of things, the steering feel is minor. The 2500 makes up for it with its comfort and no-one on this test complained about not having enough space or feeling road bumps.
There’s nothing really sophisticated under the body until you look closer. The truck uses the age-old recipe of ladder frame but it’s a relatively new design and now made of high-tensile steel to cut weight without sacrificing strength.
The rear suspension is a clever five-link and coil system on a live axle, with air as an option. Up front it’s a three-link with coils, again on a live axle. Brakes are four-wheel ventilated discs.
Ride comfort borders on plush. It’s an unexpected bonus in a vehicle so large and along with its monstrous towing ability, payload (828kg) and lounge room cabin, it’s easy to see why cash-rich tradies get into these things and love them.
It may seem that it’s all about the cabin room and homely decor – leather, wood and metal bits are real – but there are other attractions inside. The two floor bins to hide valuable items is a bonus, as is the centre console that can be reconfigured to suit owner needs and has plenty of zones for big and lightweight stuff.
There are four USB ports and four USB C-ports and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 10-speaker Alpine audio and a 12.0-inch touchscreen fed by Uconnect technology for infotainment and a 7.0-inch screen for the driver’s info.
There are two glove box bins, and seats that flip and fold with 40:20:40 configuration at the front and 60:40 in the back. Rear passengers can breathe a bit easier with an electric sliding glass window behind them, although more likely this is for storing long objects.
Outside, the Ram boxes each hold 243 litres. Although they creep into the tub’s space, there’s still a healthy 1939mm of length and 1270mm of width (1687mm without the Ram boxes) with a volume of 1.6 cubic metres.
As a point of interest, the tailgate is balanced and sprung by a torsion bar. Despite the super-size dimensions of the Ram 2500, it is about the lightest tail gate to raise and lower of any ute. Bless.
Tow ratings start at 750kg unbraked, through to 3500kg (braked, 50mm towball); 4500kg (braked, 70mm towball); and 8000kg (gooseneck tow hitch and air brakes); with the option of a fifth-wheel tow system.
Safety spec is high. The 2500 gets six airbags, lane-keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, surround-view camera, front and rear park sensors, adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitor, tyre pressure monitor and LED head and taillights.
Buy it because you need it, not because you think you look good sitting up that tall. The 1500 (same body, different length and payload) may be a better bet for someone wanting more grunt with the same street cred. As a worker it’s in the mix with other imported iron, but I admire the effort of Walkinshaw (remanufacturers) and Ateco (importers) to make this work and provide plenty of buyer back up.
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