Like the landscapes, the fast food and the waistline, the pickup trucks of the USA are of an epic scale.
To us Brits, with our narrow ribbons of hedge-lined tarmac and quaint street parking spaces, a Ford Ranger or VW Amarok may seem like a lump of a vehicle.
But this is just a toy compared to what’s ripping around the other side of the pond.
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Take the 1500 from Ram – this all-American juggernaut is over half a meter longer than an Isuzu D-Max, 200mm wider and 400kg heavier. And it’s one of the little ones.
This bulk is the main reason why trucks of this size are rarely offered in the UK, apart from a handful of gray imports that have bypassed official channels.
However, European importer KW Automotive has bucked that trend by making it possible to buy a left-hand drive Ram through an authorized dealer, complete with a full warranty.
To find out if that’s a wise proposition, we got behind the wheel of a mid-spec 1500 Laramie; one of the bestsellers in the UK.
Ram 1500 Laramie specs
- Engine 5.7 liter Hemi V8
- Current 395hp/556Nm
- Fuel Gasoline or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
- Fuel economy About 24 mpg
- Transfer 8-speed ZF automatic transmission
- delay Front and rear air system
- Four-wheel drive system Part-time with automatic mode
- Towing capacity 3.5 tons
- Motor vehicle tax £295/year
- Dimensions (L/W/H) 5,916mm/2,084mm/1,971mm
- Weight 2,404 kilograms
- Price as tested £56,500
Like all regular 1500s, the Laramie is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that produces 395 horsepower.
This kind of firepower is unheard of in regular European diesel pickups, where the bravest models top out at less than 250 horsepower.
As a result, it can propel its 2.4-tonne weight from 0 to 100 km/h in a snappy 6 seconds and keep racing until it reaches a limited top speed of just over 170 km/h.
As tempting as it is to blast it off target and let the engine sing, the unassuming exhaust and healthy dose of sound deadening allow the V8 roar to come through more like a pleasant buzz.
That’s fine, because the V8 in the 1500 is there for effortless cruising and pulling power, rather than making low-pitched noises – there’s a 702bhp supercharged TRX version if that’s more your thing.
Given the Ram’s gargantuan proportions and huge engine, its gas appetite isn’t as voracious as one might expect, returning up to 24 mpg on a highway cruising and about 18 mpg with mixed driving.
This is thanks to the multi-displacement system (MDS) that shuts down the engine to four cylinders when full V8 power is not required.
These running costs are still hard to bear for UK buyers, so many trucks are fitted with a Prins LPG conversion, complete with a 100, 200 or 320 liter tank bolted under the cargo box.
At current prices, KW Automotive says this makes running costs for the Ram comparable to a vehicle running 40 mpg on gasoline alone.
Transmission and chassis
Americans don’t do manual controls, so the only gearbox available in the 1500 is an eight-speed automatic.
This is a smooth shifter, allowing the driver to accelerate almost seamlessly unless the throttle is kicked hard to initiate kickdown.
Driving modes are selected using a dial on the dashboard, meaning no manual lever on the center console is required.
The part-time four-wheel drive is also electrically operated, with the option of high and low ranges, plus an automatic setting that sends drive to the front wheels when the rear wheels begin to slip.
This not only provides extra security on oily roads, but is also useful for more stability when towing a trailer.
Speaking of which, the Ram can tow the maximum UK limit of 3.5 tonnes with a braked trailer, or 3.7 tonnes when using a rear-mounted semi-trailer plate.
Both figures belie its true capabilities as it has a bollard pull of 5.78 tons in the US.
Interior and finish
Inside, the cavernous cabin comfortably seats five passengers, or six if the buyer opts for a third front seat instead of a center console.
The rear occupants are particularly well looked after, thanks to the limousine’s legroom, reclining seats and cup holders large enough for a supersized Slurpee.
Up front, it’s clear that the 1500 is ready for miles of road trips, with a pair of doughy recliners and a pair of well-placed armrests encouraging you to sink in and enjoy the ride.
There’s no shortage of tech either, with a huge 12-inch vertical display offering all the usual entertainment, standard or adaptive cruise control and a smattering of driver aids such as Lane Departure Warning and Park Assist.
A cavernous center console separates the driver and passenger and provides ample storage for guns and donuts, a few cup holders and several charging points, including an inverter for mains-powered equipment.
Fit and finish are decent, especially for a pickup, but it doesn’t have the style or sophistication of a fancy German SUV.
However, there is an elephant in the room, namely the left driving position.
You soon get used to whizzing along the berm, but there’s no denying it’s hard to see when backing out around parked vehicles and overtaking on single-lane roads.
It will be a deal breaker for many.
An Australian company offers right-hand drive conversions, which could end up here. However, these will add around £25,000 to the price, making the trucks very expensive indeed.
One of the characteristics of the Aries is its ability to lug around massive amounts of stuff. The main area for this is a roomy murphy bed large enough to lay flat 8×4 plywood layers in the back.
It can also be equipped with a host of new storage options, such as tool boxes that swing out from the sides and lockable compartments integrated into the rear fenders that are accessible from the outside.
In addition, buyers have a choice of different bed liners, covers and canopies so that it can be adapted to different tasks.
Most Ram 1500s share the same engine, transmission and running gear combination, with variations limited primarily to exterior and interior trim.
At the bottom of the pecking order is the Bighorn, complete with cloth seats, a smaller screen in the dash and coil springs.
The Rebel and Laramie come next, adding air springs and leather, while top-of-the-range models like the Limited and Longhorn get a higher level of trim.
The latter offers the full rancher vibe with filigree embossed leather, saddlebags on the seatbacks and Willy Nelson’s greatest hits hardwired into the entertainment system.
Prices start at around £54,000 for the Bighorn, £56,000 for the Laramie and a nudge over £60,000 for the top-spec editions.
In a class of its own is the snappy TRX. This is Ram’s answer to the Ford F-150 Raptor, with a 6.2-litre supercharged Hemi V8 pumping out 702 horsepower and a price tag of over £100,000.
The Ram 1500 looks massive from the outside and feels equally massive from the driver’s seat.
Add to that the fact that the handlebars are mounted on the wrong side, and it’s a tricky beast to pilot on narrow roads.
But the enormous power of the V8 engine, the silky-smooth driving behavior and the enormous storage space soon start to convince you.
The fact that it can run surprisingly economically on LPG is another bonus, helping to win both the head and the heart.
Most buyers will be those who would rather than need a large American truck, but it could be a sensible option if you regularly tow heavy loads over long distances.
The only downside is UK regulations prevent it from reaching its full potential.