The 2019 Ram 1500 Express Crew Cab isn’t the cheapest Ram in the yard, that honour goes to the slightly smaller $79,950 drive-away Quad Cab. However, priced from $89,950 before on-road costs, when you consider what the Ram 1500 Crew Cab can do, and how easily it does it, there’s almost no argument as to the value-for-money equation.
A truck like the Ram won’t be for everyone, but if you want to use your dual-cab for work, and towing more specifically, nothing else is as effortless. And the value equation stacks up, too. It’s why you start to see more of the HSV-converted US pick-ups the further into rural areas you go. Trucks of this size are effortless when it comes to getting down to work.
The physical presence the Ram creates is an interesting one, too. It’s 5817mm long, 2017mm wide and 1983mm tall. The Ford Ranger Raptor is a bona-fide tough truck, so let’s use that as our measuring stick.
It’s 5398mm long, 2028mm wide and 1873mm high. That makes the Ram approximately 419mm longer than a Raptor, 11mm narrower give or take, and 110mm taller.
Aside from the size of these trucks, most people who stop to chat to you in the street about them want to talk about price.
If you think the Ram is expensive, consider this: the Mercedes-Benz X-Class X350d Power starts from $79,415 before on-road costs, the Volkswagen Amarok TDI580 Ultimate starts from $72,790 before on-road costs, and the fan favourite Ford Ranger Raptor starts from $76,490 before on-road costs.
You don’t even want to consider what a dual-cab 70 Series costs, and that’s manual-only, with a bunch of things you need to modify to get it where you want it. Yes, the Ram is more expensive, but when you’re leasing a work vehicle as a tool of trade, that price difference is amortised out quite some way.
The other question we get asked is how the conversion from LHD to RHD translates. I’ve stated before that the Ram 1500 – thanks to its gear selector dial rather than column-mounted shifter – is the best of the US bunch in my opinion.
With the other Ram trucks and the Chev product, you have to get used to the shifter being on the right side of the steering wheel. Not so with the Ram 1500, the dial is right where you expect it to be.
The one LHD to RHD factor you do have to get used to is the location of the foot-operated park brake. It’s on the right side of the kick panel, which means you need to put the Ram into park, move your left foot onto the brake, and then use your right foot to set the park brake.
It’s not the most intuitive thing in the world, but you get used to it, and it’s not something that grates when you’re on the move thankfully.
We like the Ram product at CarAdvice, and when you put a Ram through its paces, it’s hard not to be impressed with the effortless nature of the way it gets about its work.
Yes, it’s not designed for Sydney or Melbourne’s inner-city streets, and a quick three-point turn can be entertaining (you’ll need at least a metre more than a regular dual-cab), but hitch a trailer up or put some weight in the tray and the Ram barely raises a sweat. The other area it excels compared to the usual dual-cab brigade is ride quality, but more on that in a minute.
Under the bonnet, and it’s a high-set monster of a bonnet, too, there’s the venerable 5.7-litre Hemi petrol V8. The big V8 makes an easy 291kW and 556Nm, while using a claimed 12.2L/100km. Its tare weight is 2525kg, too, so it’s no lightweight by any means, which makes a big difference when you’re towing.
Our test Ram had just ticked over 2500km on the odometer, and during that time its average usage was 15.1L/100km. Press cars don’t always get driven gently either, so factor that in.
Roll onto the freeway and cover longer distances at a 100–110km/h cruise and you will see the live figure drop well into single digits. Impressive stuff for a vehicle of this size and capability. To be honest, I think if you were in the market for a Ram 1500, you’d be factoring in living with the mid-teens around town, too.
The Ram 1500 Express also gets a high- and low-range 4WD system, the 830kg payload isn’t as high as some but more than enough for work duties, and it has a braked towing capacity of 4500kg.
You’re not going to bomb across the Simpson in a 1500 – well, most of you won’t anyway – but the Ram is competent off-road if you take the wheelbase and ramp-over angle out of the equation. On this test, I only used 4WD to move a trailer out of a compromising position on a wet lawn that I didn’t want to tear up.
Whereas the top-spec Laramie, which starts from $99,950 before on-road costs, gets 21-inch chrome wheels, leather trim and some other niceties, the Express model isn’t completely underdone despite being more utilitarian.
The general consensus was the black exterior trim and black 20-inch wheels looked tough, and you also get climate-control AC, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cloth upholstery, a six-speaker audio system, and the spray-in tub liner. The latter, in my opinion, should be standard for every dual-cab regardless of manufacturer.
The cabin is vast, as you’d expect, and it’s there that the size of the Ram compared to the dual-cab brigade is most noticeable. The front seats are split by a broad centre console storage area, which is also where you will connect your smartphone. In the States, this truck is actually a six-seater and that console section folds up and out of the way to create a backrest, but as per ADR guidelines, our 1500s are all five-seaters.
The 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment screen could probably be a bit bigger in such a huge dashboard, but it works well. The proprietary satellite navigation was sharp on test, Bluetooth worked well, as did Apple CarPlay. The rear-view camera isn’t the clearest we’ve ever tested, but it’s clear enough to make hitching up a trailer a cinch. You also get rear parking sensors, but none up front, so watch that long nose.
The cabin is quiet, as well. When you’re not working the engine too hard, the isolation between the chassis and the cabin is excellent. There’s almost no wind noise, even at highway speed, there’s no tyre noise, and it’s a comfortable place to be for longer drives.
Parking is really the only issue around town. That 419mm difference to a Raptor is noticeable when you’re trying to reverse-park into a conventional city space. You’ll obviously have to watch low-roofed shopping centre carparks, too.
We always find that there’s an initial period where you’re consciously aware that you’re driving a bigger vehicle, and then after that it becomes pretty intuitive. Some of the smaller city streets are a little tight for the Ram, but again, you quickly get used to that.
The payoff is the cabin space, storage, and the workhorse ability afforded by the long wheelbase. You can have the front seats adjusted as far back as they will go, and there’s still distance between a tall passenger’s knees and the seat backs in the second row.
The seats are comfortable, too, riding high with an expansive view forward and out the side windows. The second-row seat base folds up, and while you don’t get the clever platform found in the Laramie, you do get some storage space for valuables.
The engine is a cracker, bellowing up to redline, even without the optional sports exhaust, and it pulls like a train from standstill. You don’t really feel the need to drive the Ram like a sports car, rather it encourages a relaxed cruise, but it can get up and moving rapidly when you need it to.
You will be surprised by the braking ability and the steering. Neither one is scalpel-sharp, but the four-wheel disc brakes beg the question as to why anyone is still using drums, and the steering is precise enough, even on twisty sections of road.
It switches into and out of 4WD high- and low-range smartly, too, and the gearbox doesn’t do anything silly either. We only had the chance to tow approximately 1500kg on this test, and it’s almost offensive to ask the Ram to do such little work. However, we’ve towed plenty more than that with this engine before, and we know how capable the Ram 1500 is. Check out our video towing the CarAdvice Triton for more specific details.
For me, the thing that US trucks do so well is ride properly. Our dual-cabs are always a compromise of some sort, even the best of them. The Ranger Raptor is the best in the segment now, and the Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior also stands out, while the Amarok continues to make a point for the leaf spring brigade. None ride with the competence and insulation of the Ram 1500, though.
The long wheelbase is probably the biggest factor here, but the suspension is beautifully set up, as well. Even when you have a load hitched up to the towbar, the ride is hardly affected at all. It wafts along, irons out corrugations and pockmarked surfaces, and is basically unfussed at all times.
It’s easy to see the gains that have come from the fact that these trucks are the default family vehicles for owners in America. That has allowed the manufacturers to really iron out some of the gripes that might otherwise be there.
The Ram 1500 Express is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty and roadside assistance for the same period. A service is required every 12 months or 20,000km, and on that note, the dealer/service network is getting stronger and more widespread all the time.
So, as we’ve discovered before, the Ram 1500 isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you’re considering a high-end dual-cab, you should almost certainly be casting an eye over it. Especially if you need to tow or do any real work with your dual-cab. The RHD conversion is comprehensive and properly executed, and it’s a beautiful thing to drive.
If you’ve got the money, one thing’s for sure – you’ll also have the bragging rights. There’s nothing quite like a full-size American pick-up.