These days, it's not uncommon to see dual-cab utes towing all manner of large trailers. Horse floats, cars and boats are common as flies in some parts of this great land of ours. This is their bread and butter, but with all that weight, you have to wonder how the engine copes long term and that's precisely where the American tank-like 2017 Ram Laramie 2500 comes into its own.
This is a massive car with impressive towing credentials, more than double the torque of most dual-cab utes and a massive 6.7-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine under its long, long bonnet.
How this truck copes with weight is most impressive. We elected to place a close-to-3000kg Malibu 22MXZ on the back (the maximum weight for a 50mm tow ball is 3500kg) for a genuine tow test around the Penrith area in Sydney's west and came away surprised by the experience. Bigger is better right? In this case, most definitely.
I picked up the Ram Laramie 2500 a week ahead of our test and immediately found it to be a comfortable ride with no weight in the tray or on the ball. When wet, the light, tray-end of the vehicle can struggle for traction on slippery uphill grades such as my driveway, but a simple twist of the 4WD dial solved that pretty quickly.
It wasn't difficult to keep within my lane either but make no mistake though, this is not a car you would take down the road to grab the milk and bread, not unless you need a few tonnes of it anyway. Yet it will fit in most normal car spots and is relatively easy to reverse park in busy suburban centres. I spent the week doing my usual rounds: checking the surf early in the morning, driving around the local area and during peak hour traffic to the office.
Upon collecting a mate one morning for a pre-work surf, his first question was, "are you embarrassed?".
Truth be told, I felt like a boss and after a short time it became evident I wanted to keep the Ram long term. It's a great looking vehicle, purposeful, and commanding with a high driving position offering complete control and a fantastic level of awareness which is crucial when towing.
Given the size of the vehicle, the turning circle is large and I would have had no chance of bringing a boat home, down the end of the cul-de-sac, through a roundabout at the end and then reverse it into the driveway. It's relatively easy to manoeuvre from a steering point of view but if you live in a small, tight suburban street with a few twists and turns to park your trailer, forget it. There are other cars that will do a better job at that.
Hitching the trailer to the back of the car is easy using the rear-view camera and a task that can be done alone if needed. If that's not enough, there is also a tray camera to get another perspective. The rear-view camera can also be turned on while driving should you feel something isn't quite right at the back which reduces the need to stop and check everything unnecessarily.
Once attached, the electric or digital brake will come on and can be adjusted to suit the trailer you are carrying. The bias can be turned up for a particularly heavy trailer or down for a light one or, for example, once the boat is in the water. This stops the trailer brakes from either not doing enough or too much and locking the wheels.
Once the Malibu was securely on the back, I stood back a moment to take it all in. They look like they naturally fit together and I'm not alone, given the amount of large American pick-ups I see towing these sports boats around.
All up the entire package is probably close to 15 or 16 metres long including trailer and rear platform on the boat, so it's important to be aware of it. I also like to perform a walk-around so I know where the trailer may be wider than the car. With the Ram though, it is that wide that wherever it goes, the trailer fits as well. Together, it's an expensive combination and I was loathe to damage either.
As far as tow vehicles go the Ram Laramie is right up there in terms of ability – 3500 kilograms with a 50mm tow ball, 4500 with a 70mm tow ball and a ridiculous 6942 kilograms with a pintile hitch. That's some serious weight at both ends of the spectrum.
There is also a tow/haul mode engaged via a small button on the dash. You have to engage it each time you start the car but it works to minimise gear changes, reducing stress and overheating on the gearbox. It also steps down gears on declines so the engine is working to slow down the pick-up rather than relying solely on the brakes.
Combined with a 6.7-litre turbo diesel Cummins with 1084Nm of torque, the whole rig eases off remarkably smoothly. In fact, once underway I was surprised at how effortlessly the car towed on both freeway at 100km/h and around suburban roads at 50 and 60 km/h. If I wasn't so acutely aware of the lofty price tag of the car I was driving and the toy I was towing, I could have been excused for forgetting it was even there. You can hardly feel the weight on the back at all.
The height of the vehicle is advantageous when you consider the questionable driving you see these days and given the stopping length required when towing this type of weight. I adjusted the electric brakes right down to test the Ram's slowing ability and found that with a low setting it still pulled up relatively easily.
The mirrors are large enough to keep tabs on the trailer when going around a corner but remember to stay wide. On one occasion, we accidently entered a shopping mall, thankfully with a large roundabout at the entry and navigated it with ease.
In fact, in the course of filming the video I performed at least 20 U-turns or turnarounds. I'd estimate you need at least four lanes to perform a 'Uey' so best not to forget anything. It does have cruise control too, but I generally prefer not to use it at all when towing. I found it to be intuitive enough when I tested it without the trailer.
Inside the cabin this is a mighty fine conversion, although, there are a few small quirks resulting from a left-hand to right-hand drive switch.
For example, the passenger climate control, very effective I might add, is actually controlling the driver's side and the driver's, the passenger. I guess they couldn't re-programme the infotainment display to read the right way round. It is easy enough once you get used to it.
The column shift is also on the right-hand side and that means rapid three point turns are an excercise in extreme concentration for I continually grabbed the windscreen wiper on the left.
The parking brake is the only issue as far as towing and you have to be aware of it lest you forget to apply it on the ramp. It is located against the right hand side of the cabin and is a push-pedal type. To engage it means swapping your left foot to the brake and using the right to depress the pedal against the right-hand sidewall. It's a little cumbersome but effective and a small issue, but one you need to be aware of.
The seats though, vented and heated, are supremely comfortable and are more upright in their positioning than the slouched versions you find in more sporty vehicles. The leather looks classy and the seating is well styled with a front bench seat and rear seat for three. The middle bench lap sash is however something of a concern and would mean this is a space to be used only occasionally.
The rear seats also fold up out of the way revealing a fold out pseudo floor making transporting valuable items safe and damage free for the leather upholstery.
There's also an inbuilt inverter, heated steering wheel and large infotainment display. Externally we had the new Ram Boxes fitted which reduce the tray size. You can still fit a four-wheeler in there apparently, by adding built on lock boxes either side. We didn't use them but I can see how they would be useful for the small bits and pieces we all carry in our cars, although in this case, they'd be large bits and pieces, naturally.
Realistically, it's not the cheapest tow vehicle going around. The price as tested was $142,900. But it is the one most suited to a boat like the Malibu 22MXZ. It just oozes coolness and complements the radicalness of wakeboarding in general. Plus, it's a beast of a tow vehicle that effortlessly pulls most things and that can only be good for your long term engine maintenance and the strain you place upon it when towing.