I fancy myself a truck guy, but have no real need for one… but that’s beside the point. At one moment or another in our lives, we will need one whether to move from the old abode to the new casa or to tow a recent old acquisition or boat.
Unlike any other class of vehicle currently on offer, no other attempts to cater to so many varying needs as do pickups. With that in mind, GM, Ford, and Chrysler are stopping at nothing to make sure their trucks are equal parts capable, comfortable and can perform. The latest generation of the F-150 packs a wallop, and although I consider myself a Blue Oval fan when it comes to light duty, the current RAM is all kinds of spectacular thanks to a number of smart upgrades and options.
My Ford bubble burst when I drove both the Ford and the RAM back-to-back at Test Fest this past October. The RAM was smoother, quieter, better controlled off-road, and all in all a better truck. Ouch, for me, and for Ford…
What is a RAM 1500?
The 1500 is the light-duty fullsize pickup in Chrysler’s RAM line-up. Made very popular almost 20 years ago in the movie Twister, the RAM 1500 is popular for a number of reasons including its rugged good looks, well appointed interior, and available powertrains.
2015 RAM 1500 Price and Specs
A base 1500 ST retails for $26,995. Astoundingly, the base engine is the legendary 5.7L HEMI V8, good for 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. It can be mated to either a 6- or 8-speed automatic transmission depending on specifications.
A 305-horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque 3.6L V6 is also on offer. It is exclusively delivered with the 8-speed autobox.
The kicker, a segment-first and most interesting powerplant is the EcoDiesel 3.0L V6. This turbocharged diesel engine puts out 240 horsepower and 420 stump-wrenching lb-ft of torque. It is also equipped with a TorqueFlight 8-speed automatic transmission.
All RAM 1500s can be specified in either a 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrain. Depending on options and equipment, the 1500 has a towing capacity of up to 10,450lbs and payload up to 1,930lbs.
A top-line Laramie Limited with options will fetch over $70,000. At this price, the best of the pickup world is at your fingertips.
Driving the RAM 1500
The key factor behind the 2015 RAM 1500’s drive is its five-link coil spring suspension. Unlike all other fullsize light-duty pickups shod with leaf springs in the rear, the RAM’s coils endow the 1500 with a near car-like ride. Let’s not compare it to a Chrysler 300, but this truck’s on-road behaviour is impressively poised.
The same can be said off-road where sharp suspension articulations are smartly controlled. The sensation from behind the RAM’s wheel at Test Fest’s off-road course was far less harsh than in the F-150. Lateral movements were well regulated; I wasn’t shaking from side to side in my seat.
There is an optionally available air suspension that is a must in my opinion. My tester was equipped as such, and I put it to the test with a cord and a quarter of wood (about 450kg or 1,000lbs). The suspension self-levelled as we loaded up the bed, and the drive back home was uneventful and smooth.
Another key factor with the entire RAM experience was the new EcoDiesel engine. As the first in this segment to offer a diesel, RAM has cornered a niche need. So popular, in fact, is the EcoDiesel that Chrysler has increased the production output to 20% diesel. Keep in mind that the diesel requires an extra $3,500+ when selected.
The 3.0L’s torque is the kicker. All 420lbs are delivered as of 2,000 rpm and thanks to the smart operating 8-speed auto, the engine is always in its ideal powerband.
The two remaining elements of the drive, steering and brakes, are good and well suited to the RAM 1500; however, they are more precise and responsive in the Ford. (Thought I’d slightly defend the F-150 for a moment…)
Inside and Out of the RAM 1500
The RAM has the boldest of front fasciae, even in the face of the arrival of the new F-150, which is far subtler. Colour, wheel and trim combinations take the 1500 from good looking to downright handsome. My $68,295 Laramie is a perfect example.
The cabin is also a winner. Beautifully crafted and assembled, I could find only one flaw with the interior. It doesn’t really qualify as a flaw, but the rotary wheel that acts as a shifter is anti-manly. I want a column-shifter to rest my wrist and chill at the wheel of my truck.
The huge seats are comfortable. Actually, everything about the cabin is large and well thought out, including storage areas.
Comparing the RAM 1500
The RAM only truly competes with the Ford and the GMs. Nissan may have a chance early next year with the revamped Titan (complete with a Cummins-supplied diesel engine). Toyota’s not quite there yet.
As an amateur pro, compare the RAM with the Ford and pick your poison. Both will serve you well.