Ram launches Hemi-powered 1500 in Australia

By: Barry Park

Priced from $80K, range to include heavy-duty tow rig, diesel power and Ford Ranger Raptor-fighting looks

Ram launches Hemi-powered 1500 in Australia
The Ram 1500 Express


US brand Ram will launch its Hemi-powered 1500 light truck in Australia next month, priced from $79,950 driveaway and featuring two bed lengths and a choice of diffs.

The brand, brought to Australia via American Special Vehicles, the offshoot of Walkinshaw Performance that swaps the steering wheel from the left to right-hand side of the vehicle, will initially launch as the long-bed Express, arriving in July, and the short-bed Laramie, arriving first in June and priced from $99,950 before adding on-road costs.

According to its official importer, the 1500 – the only V8-equipped light truck in its class – "eats utes for breakfast". That’s likely to include a diet of the Ford Ranger XLT and Wildtrack, the Toyota Hilux SR5 and Rogue, the Holden Colorado

Under the bonnet of both of these is the 5.7-litre Hemi V8, in this tune producing 291kW and 556Nm. But it’s not the old iron lump of a Hemi we’ve been used to in the past; it now features variable valve control technology and cylinder decativation – it will run as a four-cylinder engine under light loads – to help with fuel economy, as well as introducing active shutters that push air around the shovelnose-fronted grille when it doesn’t need to gulp in air for cooling.

Fuel use is an official – and potentially optimistic – 9.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

Drive is sent to all four wheels via a Torqflight eight-speed automatic transmission.

Joining them in about August will be a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 wrapped inside the more expensive Laramie, and carrying a slight pricing premium to the  Hemi-equipped version.

After that comes the Black Pack, a Ford Ranger Raptor-chasing version featuring menacing blacked-out trim, a pair of wide nostrils featuring prominently on the bonnet, and a sports exhaust that gives more voice to the 5.7-litre mill beneath it. It arrives in about October.

The 1500 is smaller than the HD series already launched under the Ram brand in Australia. It is 200mm shorter at 5,816mm, sits 50mm lower to the ground at 1924mm, and weighs in a whopping 1,157kg lighter at 2,418kg.

To give all that scale, it is roughly half a metre longer than a Toyota Hilux and a couple of 50-cent coins placed edge to edge wider.

The cheaper Express will come with a 3.5-tonne towing capacity and what Ram says is a "quad cab", a cabin that’s full-sized up the front, but with legroom in the rear that’s not exactly tight, bit also not exactly generous.

It features a colour-matched grille and bumpers, but black mirror caps, cloth seats with a leather-trimmed dash, 20-inch alloys, cab-wide side steps, and a sprayed-on liner in the 1.9-metre-long bed yielding a 912kg payload. It also misses out on a few trimmings, using a smaller screen for the Uconnet multimedia interface, lacking sat-nav and remote keyless entry.

The leather-clad Laramie, though, gets this and more. Most noticeable is the much more generous use of chrome-look trim around the grille and bumpers, and the side steps stretch from wheel to wheel rather than confining themselves to the cabin in the Express.

Inside, there’s heated and cooled front seats, heated rears, a bigger digital display in front of the driver and running the multimedia interface, sat-nav, better smartphone integration, 10-speaker audio instead of just six speakers, heated steering wheel, a power-adjusting pedal box height, climate control airconditioning including rear air vents and keyless unlocking and remote starting.

The cabin’s rear also features more legroom, cutting the load space out back to 1.7 metres in length and payload back to 855kg.

Both versions of the 1500 have a 3,300kg GVM.

The Laramie’s big-ticket benefit to buyers, though, is a choice of final ratios offered as a no-cost option. They can choose between a higher 3.21 ratio yielding a 3.5-tonne towing capacity for lighter duties, or if they’re pulling the excavator around or the biggest boat at the loading ramp, a lower 3.92 ratio yielding a 4.5-tonne towing capacity.

The Rambox, an option giving owners a pair of lockable tubs down each side of the tray bed and offered on the Heavy Duty series, will extend to the 1500. Buyers here love it; take-up is around 37 percent here compared with just 15 percent in the truck’s home market.

Ram dealers will be keen to sell you one, too. The company’s Australian general manager, Alex Stewart, said the brand aimed to make 1500 sales this year, stepping up to 4500 within three years – lofty plans that will see it snare a 10 percent market share for utes priced from more than $57,000. That’s ambitious.

It should have a sense of refinement, too. Lenn Ketch, the company’s national product and service manager, claimed the 1500  "drives like a passenger car" – an assertion we’re yet to test. It uses double A arms up front, and a multilink with coils down the rear, which lends promise.

We should know soon enough.


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