Ram 1500 Laramie: ramming speed

By: Dean Mellor, Photography by: Alastair Brook


For those who can live without the V8, the V6 EcoDiesel is more than worthy

Ram 1500 Laramie: ramming speed
As well as impressive fuel economy, it produces a meaty 569Nm at 2,000rpm

 

Eats utes for breakfast, drinks fuel like a sailor? Well, not quite, because when we tested the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 that exclusively powered the RAM 1500 pick-up until now, it proved surprisingly frugal … for a for a huge petrol donk, that is. But with the recent release of the RAM 1500 Laramie V6 EcoDiesel to the Australian market, you can now have your big slice of American pie and eat it too.

Sure, some of the charm of driving around in a Ram 1500 is the fact it has a stonking great V8 under the ‘hood’ that pumps out a more-than-handy 291kW (395hp in the old language). But for those who can live without that top-end poke and the sweet V8 soundtrack, the new 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine is a more-than-worthy Ram powerplant.

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

The EcoDiesel is essentially the same VM Motori 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine that powers other FCA products including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the obvious benefit in choosing the oiler over the petrol V8 is the former’s much better fuel economy, which brings much greater touring range, no doubt attractive to those who intend to tow a large ’van and the like over long distances.

This diesel is no one-trick pony; as well as impressive fuel economy, it packs a decent punch in the torque stakes, producing a meaty 569Nm at 2,000rpm. By contrast, the Hemi V8 only makes 556Nm at a considerably higher 3,950rpm. Yep, for those who intend to carry heavy loads and/or haul a trailer, the EcoDiesel suddenly starts to make a lot of sense.

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Like all Ram 1500s, the V6 EcoDiesel is an auto-only proposition, scoring the same eight-speed TorqueFlite transmission as the Hemi V8, with the same gear ratios.

The final-drive ratio is 3.92:1, which is the same as the optional shorter final drive available with the Hemi V8 for those who want a 4,500kg towing capacity; but in the case of the EcoDiesel, maximum braked towing capacity is limited to the class-average 3,500kg, which is the same as the Hemi V8 when mated to the taller 3.21:1 final drive ratio.

The Ram 1500 runs a selectable on-demand full-time 4x4 system operated via small buttons on the dash below the gear-selector dial, allowing the driver to choose between 2WD, 4WD Auto, 4WD Lock and 4WD Low.

At $109,950, the Ram 1500 Laramie 1500 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel doesn’t come cheap – that’s a full $10K more than the equivalent Hemi V8 Laramie – but like its petrol-powered stablemate it’s packed with creature comforts and standard equipment.


Our review of the big RAM V8, here


It’s also a lot of ute for the money, measuring 5,817mm-long and 2,017mm-wide, with a long 3,569mm wheelbase. While its relatively modest 735kg payload doesn’t match vehicles like the Ranger or Hilux, the Ram’s tub is enormous at 1,712mm-long and 1,687mm-wide (1,295mm between the wheel arches).

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING

Climb aboard the Ram 1500 and fire up the engine and one of the first things you notice is just how quiet it is. There’s no diesel clatter at idle and even a blip on the throttle results in a muffled response.

There’s no doubt about it: the V6 oiler is one of the smoothest turbo-diesel engines around, and the Ram adds to this feeling of refinement thanks to an abundance of sound-deadening material that ensures the cabin is whisper quiet, even at freeway speeds. Sure, there’s a hint of wind noise around the mirrors, but it’s nothing too intrusive, and road noise is also well suppressed.

Performance isn’t what you’d call scintillating, but the V6 EcoDiesel Ram ain’t no slouch either. Ask it the question and it answers with linear acceleration, pulling all the way from idle to the 4,500rpm redline, where the auto will smoothly grab another gear that sees the Ram continue on its way.

You need to keep an eye on the speedo on the open road because the unfussed and quiet way in which the Ram goes about its business could see you exceed the speed limit without realising it.

Like most of the dual-cab 4x4 utes on the market, the Ram 1500 has independent front suspension, but you won’t find leaf springs on its live-axle rear-end; instead there’s a live-axle with coil springs, which no doubt aids the impressive unladen ride quality. Even as road surfaces deteriorate, the Ram remains composed and predictable, with the electric power-assisted steering offering good feel and feedback.

You could be forgiven for thinking a vehicle this big wouldn’t be much chop on crook secondary backroads, but again it surprises with its impressive ride quality and assured handling. Push it through corners and it holds its line nicely with minimal body roll, and it doesn’t get unsettled by minor mid-corner steering corrections.

Those big 20-inch (50.8cm) rims wear 275/60R20 Hankook Dynapro HT tyres that offer a reasonable sidewall, which no doubt aids ride quality; on the road, the tyres provide plenty of grip and surefootedness when cornering, without generating too much noise. They also work well on gravel roads, and slipping the Ram into 4WD Auto ensures there’s plenty of traction on slippery road surfaces.

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If you’re used to driving a dual-cab ute, the Ram 1500 won’t feel all that big when driving around town … until you try to park it, that is. Yep, it’s certainly long, so you’ll need to choose your parking spaces wisely. However, a decent steering lock results in an acceptable 12.1m turning circle, and deep windows and big mirrors aid outward visibility.

Claimed fuel consumption is an impressive 11.9L/100km and (unusually) we bettered that on test, recording an impressive average of 9.6L/100km over 800km of commuting, highway, freeway and backroad touring, as well as a modicum of sand driving – when you consider the Ram 1500’s size and brick-outhouse aerodynamics, that’s some seriously impressive fuel economy. By comparison, when we tested a Ram 1500 Hemi V8 with the same 3.92:1 final drive ratio, it recorded 17.6L/100km. With a generous 98-litre fuel tank, the diesel Ram should do a shade over 1,000km between refills compared to just over 550km for the petrol model.

The third Ram 1500 Laramie option is the Hemi V8 with a taller 3.21:1 final drive ratio, and RAM Trucks Australia claims a combined fuel consumption figure of just 9.9L/100km. However, a real-world figure would likely be closer to 14.0L/100km unless most of your driving was on the freeway, so there’s no doubt the V6 EcoDiesel is the pick of the range for those who need to travel long distances between fuel stops.

OFF-ROAD

With limited approach and ramp-over angles, off-road performance is not the Ram 1500’s forte, but having said that, it has reasonable ground clearance and vital underbody components are tucked up and out of harm’s way, as well as protected by a series of crossmembers and bash plates.

Not wanting to damage the unprotected sills (there are no side steps fitted to this model) we took it pretty easy off-road, with a run along some soft river sand and a few rough bush tracks. Even with tyre pressures dropped to 15psi, the Ram wasn’t all that happy in the sand with the transmission left in Drive, as it wanted to upshift too early resulting in a loss of momentum.

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Manually shifting using the buttons on the steering wheel improves sand performance markedly, but there’s no getting away from the fact this is a big, heavy truck with 2,715kg kerb weight.

Despite the limited off-road angles, the Ram offers decent wheel travel up front and impressive axle articulation at the rear, and if you exceed that the electronic traction control works well at arresting wheel spin, despite the road-oriented highway-terrain tyres. Low-range gearing is excellent, with an overall reduction in first gear of 48.7:1.

CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION

There’s plenty of space inside the Ram 1500 for all occupants, but taller drivers might find head room a bit tight and the driver’s footwell is cramped due to an intrusive transmission hump.

Nevertheless, the driver’s seat offers a good range of power adjustment and nice lumbar support; there’s pedal adjustment and the steering wheel offers tilt (but no reach) adjustment. The front seats are heated and ventilated, while the rear seats offer heating only.

The generous cabin means there’s plenty of storage throughout, including a wide centre console with large bins and a double glovebox, and there are a number of 12V power outlets and USB ports.

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You’ll easily fit three adults across the wide rear seat, and they’ll all be pleasantly surprised by the leg room on offer, as well as the rear air-conditioning vents. The rear seat bases (it’s a 60:40 split) fold up and there are pull-out platforms that provide a flat load area, so if you haven’t filled the rear with occupants you’ll be able to stow large items behind the front seats.

The conversion from left-hand drive to right-hand drive by the Walkinshaw Group has been very well executed, with important controls such as the gear selector and 4WD selector shifted across to the driver’s side for ease of access. There’s plenty of black leather and trim throughout the cabin, but it’s contrasted by silver and faux woodgrain trim pieces and a light grey roof lining. Fit and finish isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good.

In addition to the massive centre console, other cabin highlights include the bright 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, the seven-inch multi-view instrument cluster and the awesome Alpine sound system. A power tilt/slide sunroof and opening rear window are also standard items.

PRACTICALITIES

While it only has a 735kg payload capacity, the Ram’s tub will appeal to those carrying large items. The tub comes with a spray-in bedliner and has four cargo tie-down points in the corners of the tub’s floor.

The big tailgate features assistance, so it’s not nearly as heavy to operate as you’d expect, and it locks with the remote key fob. Standard load-tray illumination is another handy feature, and a soft tonneau cover and heavy duty tow bar are offered as optional accessories.

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When it comes to vehicle recovery, there are two big recovery points up front and the usual variety of rated recovery receivers will fit in the standard 50mm tow hitch.

The Ram 1500 Laramie features most of the other stuff you’d expect to find on a high-end vehicle such as remote keyless entry, dual-zone climate control air, Bluetooth connect, fog lights, cruise control, heated door mirrors, parking sensors, reversing camera, TPMS, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights (and auto high beam) and more.

On the safety front, the Ram 1500 Laramie scores driver, front passenger, front seat, side and curtain airbags; traction, stability and trailer sway control; electronic brake force distribution; hill start assist; and three child seat anchors in the back.

SUMMARY

The 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel will be the Ram 1500 Laramie many buyers have been waiting for, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in either the economy or performance stakes; but, at $10K more than the petrol Hemi V8 equivalent, you probably wouldn’t buy it for the fuel economy advantage alone.

The V6 EcoDiesel’s trump cards are its far superior touring range, its abundance of low-rpm torque and its surprising refinement.

On the downside, the V6 EcoDiesel can’t match the Hemi V8’s optional 4,500kg towing capacity, and at 735kg its payload is 65kg less than its petrol-powered sibling; but if you’ve been hanging out for the oiler, you certainly won’t be disappointed.

If you’re after a full-size turbo-diesel American pick-up that’s backed by a three-year/100,000km warranty (with roadside assist), the Ram 1500 Laramie 3.0L V6 EcoDiesel is a worthy contender.

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SPECS

Engine: DOHC turbo-diesel V6 24-valve

Capacity: 2988cc

Max Power: 179kW at 3,600rpm

Max Torque: 569Nm at 2,000rpm

Gearbox: 8-speed automatic

Crawl Ratio: 48.74:1

4x4 System: On-demand 4WD with low range

Construction: 4-door cab and tub on ladder chassis

Front Suspension: IFS with wishbones, coil springs

Rear Suspension: Live axle with coil springs, 5-link

Wheel and Tyre Spec: 20-inch alloys with 275/60R20 HT tyres

Kerb Weight: 2,715kg

GVM: 3,450kg

Payload: 735kg

Towing Capacity: 3,500kg

Seating Capacity: 5

Fuel Tank Capacity: 98L

ADR Fuel Consumption: 11.9L/100km

On-Test Fuel Consumption: 9.6L/100km

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