2018 RAM 1500 Ute First Drive Review

2018 RAM 1500 Road Test Review

RAM 1500 Overview

The RAM 1500, first previewed in June 2018, has now launched in Australia. RAM 1500 comes in two model variants, the  RAM 1500 Express and RAM 1500 Laramie.

RAM 1500 sits midway between the current crop of Utes in Australia like the Holden Colorado, Toyota Hilux, Mazda BT-50, Ford Ranger, Isuzu D Max, and Nissan Navara, and the larger Ute style Pick Up trucks like the Ford F250/350, RAM 2500/3500 etc.

The only direct price competitor for the RAM 1500 Express would be the Toyota LC70 Dual Cab Ute or a number of aftermarket conversions F150 that come from Performax or Harrison F Trucks. The distinct advantage, and it’s a huge one, is that the RAM 1500 is factory backed. But more on that later.

RAM 1500 Laramie front

RAM 1500 Exterior

The RAM 1500 looks like and is a big American Ute or Pick Up. And I like it. There is quite an appeal about that big bold, brash style that announces itself wherever it goes.

There are two body styles with two grills and obviously two tray lengths.

RAM 1500 Express front

RAM 1500 Express is what we would call a space cab, xtra cab but RAM calls it a quad cab. This means that the trade-off is less room in the back seats but a 6’4” tray. The Express has colour co-ordinated grill surrounds, black cab length tubular side steps, front fog lamps and 20” chrome clad aluminium wheels.

RAM 1500 Laramie 4WD 2

The top spec (in Australia) Laramie is a crew cab style with a 5’7”tray. It also features a big bold chrome grill, front fog lamps, 20 inch chrome clad wheels, wheel to wheel side steps and chrome bumpers and badges. Both have folding external mirrors, heated and power on the Laramie, both have the optional RAM Box tub available.

RAM 1500 RAMBOXES

RAMBoxes, are two 240 litre lockers on either side of the tub that may be used as secure storage or as a pair of ice-filled cool box. This is a completely different tub as an optional extra for about $5,000. It does also have a clever load management system, so you can actually have shopping or luggage in the tray without it flying everywhere.

Both Utes look impressive, I particularly like the colour co-ordinated look of the Express, but the overall proportions of the Laramie. Both Utes run Hankook Dynapro HT tyres at 276/60R 20 road tyres, which we will chat about later. The Laramie has a rear power sliding window and wheel flares.

I have to say it looks better from the front and side, but slightly boxy from the rear. The dual chrome tipped exhaust pipes look cool though.

RAM 1500 Laramie front seats

RAM 1500 Interior

For readers that are used to the current crop of Utes we have here in Australia, the interior will be a surprise. The reason is the internal space.

The two variants have different interior fixtures and space.

The Express has cloth seats with manual adjustment, a rear bench seat, a height adjustable steering wheel with phone controls only.

RAM 1500 Express dash

In front of the driver there is a twin dial dash, white on black, with a 3.5 inch display cluster between. It’s clear to read and easy to use. The dash itself has made an attempt at soft touch. The screen is a long way forward.

Between the two front occupants is a very large centre console but that is offset by a small crappy glove box. The centre console folds upright to form a third front seat.

RAM 1500 Express front seats

There are cup holders everywhere. The rear bench seat is reasonably comfortable and the room is similar to a standard dual cab Ute. Overall head room is excellent and it will fit 5 in comfort.

The Laramie is a much more comfortable and luxurious space.

See the features list below to look at what it has over the Express. The electronic leather seats are very comfortable, with additional lumbar support.

RAM 1500 Laramie Dash

The steering wheel is heated and has audio controls as well. The dash has a 7 inch multi cluster between the larger dials and multi dials around.

The rear seats in the crew cab have enough room for my rather large 190cm frame to sit in there with the front seats all the way back and my knees only just touch the front seat. There is enough room all around, even with the sun roof. Three will fit in comfort, due to the extra width.

This is where the American Utes have it all over the standard size Utes, the interior space is leagues in front.

Visibility is good over the bonnet, for taller drivers, however the ‘A’ pillars are wide and have a handy grab handle, but are obstructive in roundabouts and corners. Entry and exit in both Utes is easy.

ASV RAM Australia

RAM 1500 Features

Let’s have a look at the Laramie features. It has leather seats, power adjustable for both front occupants, heated leather steering wheel, larger dash and centre screen at (8.4 inches opposed to 3.5 inches), Apple Car Play and Android Auto, UCONNECT 4C with navigation, 10 speaker stereo with steering wheel audio controls, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, sunroof, dual zone climate control A/C, rear air vents, under rear seat storage and fold flat rear seats, electric sliding rear window, with defroster and rear 12V outlets.

However, this can be a $100k plus vehicle and as such there are some features that buyers might expect like AEB, head up display, reach adjustable steering wheel, surround camera, lane keep assist, auto dipping headlights, LED DRLS, etc.

Ram 1500 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 engine and TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission

RAM 1500 Drivetrain and Engine

For all those, like me, that bemoan the loss of the Aussie V8 Ute, fear no more.

The RAM 1500 has the 5.7 litre HEMI V8.

This legendary engine has found its way under a whole raft of American muscle and motorsport cars.

This engine produces power of 291kW @ 5600rpm and torque of 556Nm @ 3950rpm. This can drive all four wheels through an innovative rotary e-shift dial that controls the TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission.

RAM 1500 4wd system

This new design allows quick blind-shift transitions from “Reverse” to “Drive” when towing or navigating out of mud, snow or busy parking lots and crowded worksites. The new rotary e-shift dial also yields space for more functional and usable storage in the console.

Keeping the engine at optimum operating temperature is a clever RAM grill shutter system that opens front louvres as necessary to cool the engine.

The fuel use is slightly less than you might expect but not only varies with a heavy right foot, but with the choice of optional diff ratios on the Laramie. The 3.21 diff (that has a 3500kg tow rating) has an ADR figure of 9.9L/100K and the 3.92 diff (that has a tow rating of 4500kg) uses 12.2l/100k.

 Ram 1500 suspension

Suspension in the front is upper and lower “A” arms, coil springs, twin-tube shock absorbers, stabiliser bar. The rear suspension is Five-link with track bar, coil springs, stabiliser bar, twin-tube shock absorbers, solid axle. Both have heavy duty shock absorbers.

Note that the RAM 1500 runs disc brakes front and back, which is unusual for Utes in Australia.

RAM 1500 Dual Cab Ute 4WD Capability and what it is like to drive.

On the launch we only had the Laramie version available.

On road the throaty V8 Hemi was a delight to drive. The electronic steering (recalibrated for Australia) is fairly direct and responsive. There is a reasonable degree of road feedback through the steering.

The ride is more akin to a luxury SUV rather than a Ute.

It simply doesn’t have the choppiness of a typical unladen Ute and was smooth and quiet. You quickly forgot how big it is when driving.

Sink the right boot and the V8 responds in a loud roar, while the RAM 1500 simply flies away. It will effortlessly lift its skirt and run hard when asked. As will the fuel.

The RAM 1500 is not a 4WD as such. It does have a dual range system, different in each variant.

RAM 1500 Laramie 4WD badge

The Express has a choice of 2WD High; 4WD High, Locked; Neutral; 4WD Low, Locked. The Laramie adds to this an Auto select 4WD system. They all operate at the push of a button.

If you think of the RAM 1500 as an all track or all road 4WD SUV, an outback tourer, rather than as a heavy duty 4WD such as a LandCruiser Ute, then you will be better satisfied.

RAM 1500 Laramie 4WD

The shortcomings of road going tyres, no hill descent control and no rear diff lock was evident on the launch test drive where we attempted to drive up and down some slippery slopes (yes we had rain) and simply became a passenger at times when the tyres filled with mud and the rear LSD simply gave up.

More off road orientated tyres such as all terrains will help dramatically, but if you’re looking for a heavy duty 4WD Ute, you are better looking elsewhere. However over different road surfaces the RAM performed comfortably and well within limits.

Towing is a strong point with the RAM 1500. Uniquely in this market sector, the RAM 1500 is available a choice of two axle ratios. In addition to the 3.92 ratio fitted to the Express as standard, the 1500 Laramie offers the addition choice of 3.21 ratio which makes for a more relaxed driving experience, improved fuel consumption and reduced emissions. It is the ideal choice for the owner who is not planning to take the RAM 1500’s towing capabilities to the maximum.

In addition to the usual swath of electronic safety features, the RAM 1500 adds Trailer Sway Control, Ready Alert Braking and, on the Laramie, trailer brake control (optional on the Express). Needless to say, a heavy duty tow bar is standard on all RAM 1500 versions, as is a seven pin towing harness plug.

Trailer Sway Control does what it says – it works to counter one of the most common problems with towing, a trailer weaving behind the tow car. Using sophisticated electronics combined with the RAM 1500’s brakes, it detects and counters a trailer swaying and pulls it back in line behind the RAM 1500, allowing the driver to maintain full control.

Tow Haul selection and (in the) Laramie the slider controls on the dashboard allow for control of the electric brakes on a trailer or caravan. These also bring up a choice of two readouts on the display screen in the instrument cluster to inform the driver exactly what setting the trailer’s brakes are set.

To be honest if it was me I would choose the 3.21 diff ratio, be happy with the 3500kg towing capacity and better fuel economy. If I wanted to tow anything heavier, well that’s what the 2500/3500 Pick Ups are for.

RAM 1500 RAMBOXES

RAM 1500 Laramie Dual Cab Ute Dimensions

RAM 1500 Dual Cab Ute has an

  • overall length of 5817 mm,
  • wheelbase of 3569mm,
  • width of 2017mm and
  • height of 1924mm (express) and 1917mm Laramie
  • Unladen ground clearance is 235mm.
  • Approach angle is 15.2 degrees, rampover is 17.1 degrees and departure angle is 23.7 degrees.
  • Wading depth is TBA mm
  • Turning circle is 13.9m (Express) and 12.1m (Laramie)
  • Fuel Tank is 121L for the Express and 98L on the Laramie
  • GVM of 3450kg, GCM of 7237kg (3.92 diff) and 6261kg (3.21 diff),
  • Kerb mass of 2650kg and Payload* of 845kg Express and 800kg Laramie.
  • There is 1.2m between the wheel arches
  • Towing capacity is 4500kg (3.92 diff and a 70mm ball) and 3500kg (3.21 diff and 50mm ball)
  • Tow ball rating is up to 10%.

*Includes occupants, fuel and fitted options/accessories. The weight of these must be deducted from the payload to determine load carrying   capacity. Front and rear axle loads must not be exceeded

RAM 1500 Safety

 The RAM 1500 hasn’t been tested for ANCAP as they haven’t selected it yet. However that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of the usual safety gear. This includes:

  • Airbags; Driver, Front Passenger, Front Seat Side & Curtain
  • Fog Light (both), Automatic Headlamps and Bi-function Projector Headlamps on Laramie
  • Front Stability Control
  • ABS Brakes, Ready Alert Braking
  • Traction Control
  • Electronic Brakeforce Distribution
  • Trailer Sway Control,
  • Hill Start Assist
  • Collapsible Steering Column
  • Front Seat Belt Height Adjustment Child Seat Anchorage Points 3 3
  • Cruise Control
  • Electro-chromatic Rear View Mirror (Laramie)
  • Heated Door Mirrors
  • Parksense® Park Assist System – Rear on the Express and  Front & Rear ParkviewTM on the Laramie
  • Rear Back-Up Camera Laramie only
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Rear Mud Flaps
  • Rain Sensing Wipers Laramie
  • Adjustable Pedals, Power Laramie

RAM 1500 Summary

The RAM 1500 will certainly upset the market. The key advantage over anything that is offered from aftermarket converters of similar vehicles, and there are some really good ones out there, is that the RAM 1500 is a factory built and backed vehicle for Australia.

The conversion from LHD to RHD is done here on a production line in Victoria, using Australian components. However right from the start of the production line in the States the 1500 is designated as an Australian vehicle.

This combined with the Australia wide dealer network (Ateco tells us there will be 40 dealers around Australia by year end) and the fact that potential buyers can go to the RAM  catalogue and order parts and accessories, means that the RAM  has a level of backing that can’t be currently matched.

The entry level pricing of $79,990 RDAP for the Express is also hard to match. However my feeling is that potential buyers will go into the showroom, attracted by the price, but walk out with a Laramie, simply because of the extra features.

The Australian Ute market is growing, with more luxury offerings from most manufacturers hitting the market this year. The RAM 1500 is perfectly poised to take full advantage of that growth in the premium sector.

The RAM 1500 is backed by a three year/100,000 km warranty with roadside assistance and requires a service every 12 months or 12,000 km.

RAM 1500 Laramie rear

What’s good:-

  • V8 Hemi Engine
  • Ride and quietness
  • Towing capacity

What’s not so good:-

  • Pricey
  • Ridiculous foot brake as park brake
  • Lacking a few features for the price

Also look at

  • Ford F150 (Harrison F Trucks or Performax)
  • Chevrolet Silverado (Performax Engineering)
  • Any of the top spec dual cab Utes

Model:   RAM 1500 Laramie Dual Cab Ute 4WD  (3.21 diff)

  • Model Price       $99,950 RRP*
  • Engine                 5.7L V8 Hemi Petrol
  • Drivetrain           8 Sp TorqueFlite AT 4WD
  • Power                 291kW @ 5,600rpm
  • Torque                556Nm @ 3,950rpm
  • Safety                  TBC
  • CO2                     230g/km
  • Economy ADR   9.9 L/100 km
  • Servicing             TBA Price
  • Tow Rating         3,500 kg
  • Tow Ball Rating 350 kg
  • Warranty           3 Yrs. / 100,000 km with Roadside Assist

*excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP

 Overall Rating: 84/100

  • Behind the Wheel           8
  • Comfort                            8
  • Equipment                       8
  • Performance                    9
  • Ride & Handling              9
  • Practicality                        9
  • Fit for Purpose                9
  • Towing Ability                  10
  • Off Road Ability               7
  • Value for Money             7

2018 RAM Price List from 1 July 2018

Recommended retail prices excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and delivery unless indicated as driveaway, which applies only to the RAM 1500 Express Quad Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub as indicated below in the pricing in red. All other versions are non-driveaway pricing.

RAM  Model and version Price
RAM  1500 Express
RAM  1500 Express Quad Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub Driveaway $79,950
RAM  1500 Express Quad Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub with RAM Boxes $84,450
RAM  1500 Express Quad Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub Black Pack $89,450
RAM  1500 Express Quad Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub Black Pack with RAM Boxes $93,950
RAM  1500 Laramie
RAM  1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 5’7” Tub $99,950
RAM  1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 5’7” Tub with RAM Boxes $104,450
RAM  2500 Laramie
RAM  2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub $139,950
RAM  2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub with five seats (*) $140,950
RAM  2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 8’ Tub (*) $140,950
RAM  2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub Sport Appearance Pack $146,550
RAM  2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub with RAM Boxes $144,350
RAM  2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub with RAM Boxes and five seats (*) $145,350
RAM  2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub Sport Appearance Pack with RAM Boxes $150,950
RAM  3500 Laramie
RAM  3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub, car driving license rating $144,350
RAM  3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 8 Tub, car driving license rating (*) $145,350
RAM  3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 6’4” Tub, light rigid truck driving license rating $146,950
RAM  3500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 8 Tub, light rigid truck driving license rating (*) $147,950
Options 1500 Express 1500 Laramie 2500 3500
Metallic paint $850 $850 $950 STD
Pearl paint $850 $850 $950 STD
Wheel to Wheel side steps STD STD $1500 STD
Trifold Tonneau cover for non-RAM Box versions $1795 $1795 $1795 $1795
Auto level rear air suspension (*) N/A N/A $4000 N/A

* Factory order versions

RAM 1500 Laramie
4.0

Summary

The RAM 1500 will certainly upset the market. The key advantage over anything that is offered from aftermarket converters of similar vehicles, and there are some really good ones out there, is that the RAM 1500 is a factory built and backed vehicle for Australia.

About Rob Fraser 125 Articles
Rob first learned to drive on the farm in a left hand drive WW11 Jeep when he was 11, many years ago. He has maintained a strong interest in the industry ever since and was hooked on 4WDriving way back then. Often known for taking the 4WD in the driveway over the sports car, he has travelled pretty much everywhere in Australia and when he is bored goes for a drive.