I’m driving a massive American pick-up through the campus of the Australian National University. Students are pointing, professors are parting the curtains in their office windows for a better look, and security guards are on their walkie-talkies chatting about it. Probably.
To my mind, all of them are just waiting for the inevitable moment I get wedged in one of the many tight corners so they can come up and give me a hearty handshake through the window to congratulate me on my choice of vehicle.
The Dodge Ram is more than 5.8 metres and 2,600 kilograms of pure … well, there’s no other word for it, truck. This is the updated DT Series which sits alongside the existing DS Series in the range, but with a new and gleaming face, upgraded interior, and more technology.
The same V8 HEMI heart still beats underneath, though, encased in the same chassis and attached to the same four-wheel-drive system.
The Ram was the first of its American ilk to be sold locally when it arrived in July 2018. The steering wheel was on the wrong side, but Walkinshaw Automotive, the company behind Holden Special Vehicles (HSV), was a bit light-on for work due to the closure of Holden and had agreed to convert the behemoths, crash test one, and then slap them with a three-year/100,000 km factory warranty for good measure.
It’s proven to be an incredibly lucrative business. One is converted to right-hand drive every 12 hours to feed the booming demand.
Sales Manager at Lennock Ram in Phillip, Stacey Nelson, says two main groups of buyers are walking through their doors: “construction workers and grey nomads”.
More often than not, they’re using them for towing boats or caravans. This Laramie model comes with ‘trailer sway control’ and is capable of dragging 4.5 tonnes along behind it, while Stacey points out an even more humongous 2500 model can cope with seven tonnes.
“They’re hoping to get to eight,” she says.
The tray at the back can easily swallow a standard pallet while also including a ‘Rambox’ on either side for extra storage. Maximum payload is only rated at 701 kg, however, or several hundred less than you’d be able to get into the back of a Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger.
But a time will come when Gary and Barbara are not towing their house behind them and are in the city for milk. Hence my little trip through the mini-city of ANU.
This Laramie model scores the optional driver’s assistance package, and boy, am I glad. It means there are cameras everywhere. That said, the turning circle is very impressive, and even for those times when it isn’t quite small enough, there’s always the comforting thought that there isn’t much on earth this thing can’t clamber over. Was that a speed hump or Mount Kosciusko?
It’s quite refined too. You’d expect the caravanning-friendly wing mirrors to create vortexes like those from a jumbo jet, but no. Noise, vibration and harshness are all minimal. There’s suede and tasteful stitching on the seats, an intuitive touchscreen and infotainment system, and classy switchgear.
However, you do get the feeling that the steel ladder frame underpinning it isn’t far removed from a medieval dray cart. And the suspension is plenty composed and plush enough but does still bang slightly over cracks in the tarmac.
A cruise ship like this is obviously better suited to the wide-open sea, so the ANU falls quiet as I head out to the Cotter. For something so heavy, performance is effortless and the steering accurate. The Americans have been building these things for so long now, they’re really quite good at it. Put the picture of the wallowing Cadillac out of your head.
I head back to the city where – only last week – Extinction Rebellion protestors had gathered to warn/annoy commuters about the earth’s dire straits. But again, I’m unfazed.
Because the thing about the new Ram 1500 is that it’s equipped with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, engine stop-start, and cylinder deactivation which turns the HEMI engine into a four-cylinder when cruising. Also, for better economy, it can go down to two-wheel drive.
It might be a beast, but its heart is in the right place.
2021 Dodge (DT Series) RAM 1500 Laramie Crew Cab
- $114,950 plus on-road costs.
- 5.7-litre V8 petrol mild-hybrid, 291 kW/556 Nm.
- 8-speed automatic, 2WD high, 4WD auto/high/low.
- 12.2 l/100 km fuel usage (combined), 98-litre fuel tank.
- 5-star safety rating.
This car was provided for testing by Lennock Ram in Phillip. Region Media has no commercial arrangement with Lennock.