What is it?
RAM Trucks Australia is a joint venture between Walkinshaw Engineering – of HSV and other performance car fame – and Ateco, with support from the original manufacturer Dodge. The trucks are shipped direct from the RAM factory to Australia where they are converted to right-hand drive over the course of a week.
Named simply ‘RAM’, we only receive just one of the many models available in the USA, and we have a choice of two different suspension and GVM levels. The 2500 is coil/live axle front and rear with a GVM of 4495kg so it can be driven on a car license and has a payload of 913kg. The 3500 is identical except it has a 5309kg GVM so you need a light truck license, and it has rear leaf springs with a payload of 1713kg.
What about design?
I picked up the RAM and ran a few errands in it before arriving at a favourite cafe for a Fat Mick burger. The guy behind the counter had noticed me arrive and asked if I was on Blackburn Road earlier. Yes, was the answer – and that shows how much of a statement the Ram makes. It’s unmissable, not just because of the sheer size but also its in-your-face USA styling.
Some will dig into their tired old bag of cliches and say people only own these trucks for the looks or to ‘make up for something else’, but I don’t agree with that at all. From what I can see, the owners of trucks like the RAM 2500 and 3500 buy them because they need the capability it provides over a small ute.
The conversion itself is a quality job and there’s no significant misplacements as a result – in fact, there are factory RHD vehicles that have bigger issues, and all the conversion parts have OEM part numbers so they can be obtained easily.
The RAM is a part-time 4WD vehicle with low range, just like the smaller utes, but there are several design differences to the norm; the 2500 is coil-sprung in the rear, has rear disc brakes and a front live axle.
What’s it like inside?
You’re not left wanting for space or features, and indeed the luxuries are up there with the likes of the Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series Sahara.
The steering wheel is tilt adjustable only, but like many American trucks, the pedals can be adjusted fore/aft. Both front seats are electric with several adjustment options, and two memory positions on the driver’s seat, although those buttons are inconveniently hidden from view like other Fiat-Chrysler products.
There’s several nice little features, such as a light on the underside of the bonnet, and the vehicle is a six-seater, although the first row centre seat is only suitable for smaller people. The gearshift is a stalk mount so it doesn’t get in the way. There’s a split glovebox, three padded drinks holders in the centre, a pull-out tray under the dash, two levels of door pockets, and a big centre storage system too. You don’t hurt for cubbyholes in this truck. And there’s plenty of electrical points; USB and 12v in the dash, 220v in the dash, more USB and 12v in the centre console.
The rear seatback is fixed, but the seatbase is a 33/66 split and folds up, so you can create a nice flat load area.
On the passenger side there’s a storage compartment under the seat. Both front seats have storage pockets at the back, and there’s plenty of interior lighting.
The Ram is also pretty luxurious. The front seats are both heated and cooled, and even the steering wheel can be heated. Split climate control is actually useful given the size of the cab too. Both front windows are auto one touch up and down, but not in the rear. All controls are easy to use except for the parkbrake which is foot-to-engage and hand-to-release. Given the size and weight of the truck a more substantial parkbrake should be fitted, and the unit on our test truck didn’t engage well.
The tub is huge for a dualcab ute, and the tailgate can be locked.There’s a tub camera and a tub light - unusual but welcome features - and the window on the back of the cab can be opened.
Performance, ride and handling
Under the bonnet we have a 6.7-litre Cummins turbocharged diesel developing 276kW of power and 1084Nm of torque connected to a six-speed automatic gearbox and a part-time 4WD system with low range. Suspension on our 2500 tester is coils and live axles front and rear. The suspension tune is slightly different for Australia; as steering components had to be relocated from left to right the front swaybar (anti-roll bar) also had to be redesigned and it is a little less stiff as a result. Local engineers claim it is an improvement over stock.
The RAM, like most American trucks, has a few little features we don’t find on normal utes and an automatic transfer case with neutral for towing is one of them. There are also a variety of towing systems which are explained in the towing section below.
The RAM has the usual brake traction control, engine traction control and stability control (explanation here). When 4WD is engaged you can disable stability and engine traction control, but brake traction control happily remains active in both high and low range, so you’ve got the traction assists you need but not the ones that get in the way. The transfer case ratio is 2.64:1 and the crawl ratio is 29:1.
There is a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that insists that the tyres be inflated to 4.4 and 5.5 bar, which is 64 and 80 psi. That is far too high especially as the max-inflate on the tyres, the never-exceed pressure, is 80psi for 1600kg load.Tyres are 265/70/18 which equate to an overall diameter of 32.6 inches, and the wheels are 8-stud.
The RAM runs 20L of AdBlue for diesel emissions purposes, and on the dash there’s even a gauge marked DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid).
The first thing you need to fix is those crazy tyre pressures. I dropped them to 52psi front and 60 rear, and the vehicle rode much better unloaded, but I didn’t see a way to stop the TPMS whinging about it. As you’d expect from a vehicle that’s over half a metre longer and around 140mm wider than a Ranger, the RAM is not exactly your first choice for a run to the local shops. The turning circle at 13.38m is 0.7m more than the Ranger.
So the vehicle is big, but it does as well as it can in tight spaces thanks to front and rear parking sensors, plus a good reversing camera. You need the front sensors as when parallel parking (yes, it is possible) as most cars can entirely disappear from sight under the huge bonnet.
The throttle is easy to control at low speeds, delivering the engine’s tremendous grunt smoothly, and the steering is always easy. The one criticism at low speeds is the smallish mirrors which have too narrow a viewpoint.
One surprise to many drivers will be that the Ram is surprisingly nimble, thanks to fairly direct and fast steering and a responsive throttle. It’s not car-like, but the handling is a lot closer to the better small utes than you’d expect. The ride is a long way off a road car, but it’s not harsh by ute standards.
A neat trick is the remote start, fire up the engine as you’re walking towards the vehicle.
The RAM is an easy cruiser. You’ve got the height to see anywhere, more torque than you’d ever want, and more luxo features than average. The steering is more direct than you’d think, better than some smaller utes, so you’re not making constant, small corrections.
The 2500 has a coil-sprung rear so it doesn’t suffer from the handling issues associated with leaf springs such as spring twist leading to a dancing back end once the pressures are under control. You can hustle the big RAM along nicely indeed, and it’s even fun to do so. The exhaust brake can be engaged even though you’re not towing, as can the tow/haul mode although the latter makes no useful difference without a load. The luxury features start to be appreciated too. Cooled seats on a 40-plus degree day are a bonus.
You need to engage the part-time 4WD system to effectively drive the RAM on dirt roads. Once that’s done, the truck can put its considerable power to the ground and you’re away. Several points help the RAM cruise comfortably on dirt; tall tyres, heavy weight, long wheelbase so you’re not bounced around as much as a smaller vehicle. You could definitely cruise long distances on dirt in comfort.
The suspension isn’t particularly long-travel given the width of the vehicle and the live/coil design, but it’s enough and is supple over ruts, even unloaded – the length of the car helps too, and you find that where other cars have dug out diagonal ruts the Ram with its longer wheelbase – over half a metre longer than the Ranger – never has diagonal wheels in the holes at the same time.
There’s no factory-fit cross-axle locking differential, but there is a mechanical LSD in the rear and the brake traction control is highly effective,especially as both engine traction control and stability control are disabled in low range, as they should be. You can get the thing cross-axled – diagonal wheels in deep ruts – and on a steep slope with loose shale it’ll still pull forwards without too much drama. That’s the sort of capability you need. The low-speed throttle response is excellent, allowing inch-by-inch progress.
The RAM 2500 has a tare weight of about 3500kg, is rated to tow 6,989kg and has a GVM (gross vehicle mass) of 4490kg with a GCM (gross combination mass) of 11,479kg.
To put that in perspective, the Ranger PX2 has a tare of about 2250kg, is rated to tow 3500kg, and has a GCM of 6000kg, which is about average for a small ute. So the RAM’s numbers are impressive.
You can load the RAM to its maximum capacity of 4490kg, tow nearly 7 tonnes, and be within limits. Again, most small utes are misleading when it comes to max towing capacity. The Ranger PX2 for example, cannot tow 3500kg unless you reduce payload to a miserable 300kg or so as its GVM plus max braked tow is well below its GCM.
However, most people won’t want to tow over 6 tonnes. The good news is that if you tow around the 2500-3500kg mark then the Ram is laughing as it’s so far within its capabilities you get a very easy, comfortable and safe tow. As a real-world example, with a 3500kg trailer on the back, and the Ram fully loaded you’re looking at 4490kg + 3500kg = 7990kg, which is around 3500kg below the GCM. That’s a decent safety margin.
So the short story with the numbers is that if you’re looking at trailers around 3000kg the Ram is exactly what you want, and with the right setup it’ll go up to nearly 7 tonnes.
The extra benefits of towing with the RAM is it the has an exhaust brake, and a tow/haul mode for the engine and transmission. An electric brake controller is standard. The sensitivity is set via buttons not the touchscreen, and it can be manually controlled.
How does it tow?
We did a fair bit of towing with the RAM. The first load was a 2400kg single-axle Elite Goulburn which I also towed behind my Ranger PX 3.2L, both on and offroad, then a Cat 303 excavator on a trailer which totaled 4 tonnes, and that was also towed both on and offroad.
The RAM performed as you’d expect from the figures above; impressive and easily. With more than double the Ranger’s torque but only about a tonne more car weight, power and torque were never an issue. The long wheelbase, heavy weight and relatively short rear overhang meant the trailers were kept under control around corners and when braking.
Braking was easy; the exhaust brake helped a great deal, and the tow/haul mode does a beautiful job of changing down as you lose speed, so all the brakes ever need is a light touch. You’re also up high so you can see well ahead.
However, the RAM is not perfect and the biggest criticism is the mirrors. RAM need to take a leaf out of Ford’s book and equip the vehicle with proper towing mirrors that incorporate dual mirrors like you find on the F-250, and preferably ones that convert to/from tow mirrors electrically by moving in and out.
The second criticism is the fuel tank which is only 117L. Now while RAM don’t publish fuel consumption figures because there’s no law that says they must either in the USA or here, I can tell you that unloaded you’re looking at around 12-15L/100km and once you tow something reasonably heavy you’re easily heading towards 20 and beyond so your range will be in the order of a paltry 500km.
You also need to be aware the RAM is 2WD. It does a good job of putting power to the ground most of the time, as any wheelspin is quickly quelled, and the lovely throttle response makes it easy to pull away. That said, there was a little wheelspin with the Cat on the back pulling away in a straight line on hot, dry bitumen so it’d be nice to have an all-wheel-drive system.
What about safety features?
As you’d expect, there’s no safety rating but you are in a 3500kg plus vehicle that’s nearly 2m tall. You do get the usual airbags; both front, side and supplementary. Stability control and trailer stability control is standard, as is a TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system). There is no advanced safety tech such as blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist or autonomous braking. There are three child restraint points in the second row.
The reversing camera is quite good, with moveable guidelines, a large, high-quality screen and visibility of the towball.
Pricing and range
- Ram 2500 – $139,500+ORC
- Ram 3500 – $146,500+ORC
Why would you buy one?
There are several reasons to own a truck this big. First, if you intend to tow trailers above about 2500kg in conditions such as country roads, dirt roads.
Then there’s the sheer space; fit a service body on the back and you couldn’t want for more space if you intend to tour, and you can do so in luxury. Australia has seen enough small utes with broken chassis through overloading; buy one of these and use a truck designed for the job, it’ll be safer and cheaper in the long run.
There are other American big-truck options too, notably the Ford F-250 and Chevy Silverado. Out of those two and the RAM there’s no perfect option; the Ford has the best tech, mirrors, gearing and hook setup, but it’s on-road handling was below par, particularly the very ordinary steering although I’m told that will be fixed in the next model year. The Silverado handled well but didn’t control the bigger trailers quite as nicely.
If on the other hand your needs don’t require something the size of a RAM then the disadvantages and cost should see you remain in a smaller ute. But it’s always nice to have extra capacity, just in case.
The Ram is much bigger and more expensive than the Ranger/Navara/Hilux sized utes, but it is value for money as it offers capability and luxury features far beyond its smaller competitors. It is surprisingly capable on and offroad, so should be on your shortlist if you've got jobs to do that start to tax the smaller utes.
- Heated and cooled seats;
- Heated steering wheel;
- 220v socket;
- 6 seats;
- Towbar (50 and 70mm) hitch with adaptor and 7-flat pin;
- Rear LSD;
- Climate control;
- Exhaust brake;
- Tow/haul mode;
- Electric brake controller;
- Keyless entry;
- Rear view camera;
- Front and rear parking sensors;
- Tyre pressure monitoring system;
- Trailer stability control;
- Remote engine start; and
- 3-year Australia-wide warranty.
2017 Ram 2500 Laramie
Pricing: $139,500 plus on-road costs
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km
Engine: 6.7-litre 6-cyl turbocharged diesel
Power/Torque: 276kW at 2800rpm; 1084Nm at 1600rpm
Body: 6030mm (L); 1974mm (W); 2009mm (H) Wheelbase 3797mm
Tare weight: 3577kg
Spare: full-sized alloy
Brakes: disc front/rear
Towing: 750kg unbraked; 6989kg braked (detail below)
Transmission: 6 speed automatic with tow mode and exhaust brake;
Drive: part-time 4WD with low range, rear LSD and traction control
Turning circle: 13.38m Seats 6
Wading depth: 700mm Approach/Ramp/Departure angles 21.8/18.2/22.3 degrees Suspension live front axle with coils, live rear axle with coils
Ground clearance: 218mm Crawl ratio 29:1
Fuel tank: 117L