Ram Raid

In Light Commercial Test, March 20227 MinutesBy Jacqui MadelinApril 25, 2022

If you have an image to uphold, this Ram 1500 Limited will guarantee you won’t go unnoticed.

If you need a ute for inner-city streets or narrow rural lanes, turn the page now, as even today’s Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux are smaller than this Ram 1500 Limited. At 5916mm long and more than 2m wide, it won’t thread a narrow gap any day soon – or fit most city car-park slots.

But what it does do – other than let you look down on other drivers in a manner few outside trucking will experience – is tow a lot more than any other standard ute.

It will pull a 4500kg (braked) trailer with ease and look damn good doing it.

Those looks come primarily because of the Limited tag, which brings with it a swag of additional goodies. There are the blacked-out grille, wheels, mirrors (and indeed anything that doesn’t need to light up or be looked through), side steps that automatically deploy when a door opens, a luxurious leather-wrapped embroidery- embellished cabin, a 12-inch touch screen to access the many electronic features, and a battery of camera views designed to help you manage this Ram’s size when manoeuvring – not to mention the blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path and trailer detection.

There’s nothing new about this eight-cylinder hemi, with its decent power and grunty dollops of torque. It delivers plenty of pull from low revs, and effortless performance. Mind you, it’s not exactly frugal, despite a Magneti Marelli–built electric generator attached to the engine. That adds about 40kg of weight and makes 12kW and up to 176Nm of assistance while charged via regenerative braking. Its assistance gives the engine a bit of extra shove when needed, extends deployment of the cylinder deactivation, which drops four under light loads, and thus trims a whisker off petrol use.

The Ram even has active grille shutters, which adapt to speed and engine needs, opening when cooling is required and closing to improve aerodynamic efficiency when not. All that helps offset the cost of powering a beast that weighs a good half tonne more than Ford’s Ranger, but not by much. Without a back-to-back with another Ram not fitted with the complicated tech, it’s hard to tell if it’s worth it: the overall claimed thirst is 12.2l/100km. But our test was almost entirely undertaken navigating the hilly Waitakeres and some of Auckland’s more tangled suburbs, with not much open-road work to drop the average fuel use, which spent most of the time hovering at about 16l/100km.

That would climb if you were towing the full 4500kg.

But it all works very well when you’re driving. There’s plenty of torque at pretty much any real- world speed, the eight-speed gearbox helping this leviathan to feel quite brisk. With its extended wheelbase and track, it feels planted, while the air suspension helps keep the whole lot workable with whatever load you are carrying or towing.

Drive it briskly, and you’ll find its road manners are confident enough that you’ll often forget its size until the road narrows, or you need to park around town. In tighter going, there were times we’d have traded the extra size cachet for the more compact exterior lines of a Ranger or Hilux, even while approving the spaciousness of this smart interior – rear legroom is 1147mm.

Practical? Yep, any busy driver will enjoy the range of cubbies and storage, particularly the centre console, which could swallow a small child. There are sockets and chargers aplenty, not to mention the lockable 210-litre Ramboxes in the tray sides with their drainage bungs and a 230V, 400W power outlet for one side.

The seats adjust over a wide array of positions, too – even the rear seat reclines, while you can electrically adjust the driver pedals. I was glad of the auto-lowering steps to haul myself up into the cabin but had no reason to wish for extra leg length once at the wheel.

That 12-inch configurable infotainment touch screen is huge – it’s very easy to navigate and hard to fault, especially when you factor in the Premium 900W Harmon Kardon sound system.

In fact, it’s hard to fault anything in this interior. The Australian left- to right-hand- drive conversion is so good, you’d assume it was a factory build. And there’s so much added fruit that it’s hard to keep track and impossible to list within this word count. Those leather seats are not only heated both front and rear but the fronts are ventilated – don’t knock it when the mercury’s hitting 30.

The tub out back isn’t the largest we’ve seen, but it is square and versatile, with its spray-in liner, its bed divider, and that folding tonneau cover.

Yes, it does cost from $155,990, and if you love a V8 soundtrack, you may wish the cabin was less well insulated and the active noise cancelling less efficient. But if the boss wants a vehicle to impress anyone from a Merc-driving suit to a hard-drinking forestry boss, this could be his or her solution. And, if you need to tow more than 3.5 tonnes, it’ll be hard to beat.