We always knew the Ram 1500 would find a successful niche of buyers in Australia. While Australians have had the choice of smaller converters for many years now, there’s no doubt the new Ram Trucks Australia has pushed big American metal more into the mainstream.
Since launching in June 2018 with the 5.7-litre Hemi V8, the Ram has filled a void that the typical 4x4 ute simply cannot service. And now the 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie EcoDiesel offers an extra choice for Australian buyers.
Personally, I didn’t realise how big that plus-sized slice would turn out to be. Ateco Automotive, the company behind Ram Trucks Australia, now runs its conversion facility in Melbourne around the clock to meet demand, and is seeing numbers move upwards.
Don’t forget, many Australians spend significant money on chopping, extending and GVM-upgrading 200 Series LandCruisers and Nissan Patrols to suit their needs. Simply, a HiLux or Ranger isn’t big enough.
This diesel-powered Ram swaps out the petrol V8 for a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel – a VM Motori design that is on duty already in Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and Maserati’s Levante.
It’s a thoroughly modern turbo diesel, with a compacted graphite iron block, double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Because the engine we get is tuned according to American market requirements, outputs are 179kW at 3600rpm and 569Nm at 2000rpm. Good numbers, but not as wholesome as Volkswagen’s diesel V6 (190kW at 4500rpm and 580Nm at 1400–3000rpm).
With less flexibility of revs and available torque, the extra few hundred kilograms dull off any sense of raw performance that a V6 Amarok gives you. To clarify that, the Ram doesn’t feel slow, it just doesn’t feel quick.
While a Ram 1500 Laramie starts at $104,950 (before on-road costs) with a 5.7-litre petrol V8, opting for turbo diesel power brings a five-grand premium: our 2020 Ram 1500 Laramie EcoDiesel has an asking price of $109,950 before on-road costs.
Dominating the big interior, or perhaps competing with that huge, embossed centre console, is the 8.4-inch infotainment display. This is the latest iteration of tech from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and combines lots of features with general usability. Keeping up with the times, you have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, native navigation and digital radio. Boosted by a big subwoofer under the back seats, the Alpine-branded sound system cranks quite nicely.
Other cool features amongst the Texas-sized interior: heated and vented electric front seats, heated steering wheel, leather trimming, dual-zone climate control, adjustable pedals, keyless entry with push-button and remote start, as well as integrated electric trailer brakes. All we can see missing is a 360-degree camera system.
On the outside, it’s a festival of chrome with lashings of shiny materials from all angles. Whether it’s tasteful depends on personal opinion. I can tell you this Ram garners plenty of attention while cruising about.
Back inside, the comfortable interior is littered with storage nooks, compartments and crannies. The centre console itself is massive and double-decked. In there, you’ll find USB plugs for your phone, and a funny coin storing and dispensing thing. Last time I saw one of those was in a BF Falcon taxi back about 10 years ago.
There is stacks more storage: cupholders in the doors and centre console, twin gloveboxes where the steering wheel used to be, a handy slot for mobile phones, and plenty of extra nooks about the place.
Along with cupholders in the flip-down armrest and in the footwell, there’s a 12V plug in the second row and a couple of air vents. Along with heated outboard seats, your star attraction is the miles of leg room this big Ram affords. It’s a huge step up over smaller utes, and there is even lots of head room with the sunroof. Remember, this is a big rig: there is 5817mm of overall length, and 3569mm of wheelbase.
The Ram 1500’s turning circle isn’t as bad as you'd think, 12.1m, which isn’t too far off smaller 4x4 utes. The tub measures in at 1712mm long and 1687mm wide, with 1295mm between the wheel housings. And, you guessed it, the tub is a bit bigger and wider than your average 4x4 ute.
On-road, the Ram does miss out on the hearty theatrics that the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 does so effortlessly. Instead, it’s a more muted whirring from under the bonnet, smooth under idle and load alike. While lacking that raw revving acceleration, it’s plenty enough to punt the Ram around town and on the highway with comfort and composure.
On our towing test, we found the power plant to have enough mid-range punch to not feel underpowered pulling a 2.5-tonne caravan along highways and rural back roads. It settles down to a relaxed gait of around 2000rpm most of the time, jumping up to 2500 revs up hills or under acceleration.
The real benefit of the Ram towing comes through sheer size: the hefty weight and huge wheelbase mean the trailer doesn’t feel rowdy, and you’re left feeling much more relaxed in the driver’s seat.
In terms of economy, we logged 17.05 litres per 100km after towing said caravan a couple of hundred kilometres, which compared to around 12.0L/100km without the load. Worth noting is that we were holding 100km/h and 110km/h speed limits, and not driving for economy up highway hills. It’s decent economy, and likely to be on par with most other (smaller) dual-cab utes.
It’s more efficient when cross-referenced against the petrol-powered Ram as well, which previous testing showed to do 20 (or more) litres per hundred when towing. Unladen, it's a different story. Because the Hemi Ram is surprisingly efficient, this diesel iteration doesn't do much better and wears an official 11.9L/100km rating to the petrol V8's 12.2L/100km.
Off-road, the Ram is competent. Maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising, as there is a low-range transfer case, 33-inch tyres and decent ground clearance on offer, after all. Those tyres are road-biased highway terrains, and because the Ram is so big and heavy, it’s not as nimble or outright capable as something smaller. That being said, good gearing and reasonable rear-end articulation mean you can put the Ram into some tricky spots (and drive out again) without raising a sweat.
For those wanting to go harder off-road, you’d want to add in some better tyres and perhaps consider increasing ground clearance as well. Although the Ram isn’t completely commonplace in Australia, its overseas popularity means it is well serviced by the aftermarket industry.
The Ram’s warranty is unfortunately underdone these days, with an outdated three years and 100,000km on offer. And unlike many other vehicles, there isn’t a capped-price servicing schedule to reference. So, servicing costs will vary from workshop to workshop.
Because this diesel-powered Ram 1500 doesn't offer a huge economy bonus over the petrol powered variant, it's difficult to really recommend this more expensive option. Only if you were towing more often than not, and you were planning on putting big numbers on the odometer, would it start to make sense.
Regardless of which way you go, the Ram holds strong appeal to two buying groups: those who simply want a bigger-than-normal 4X4 ute, and as an alternative choice to those eyeing up a Nissan Patrol or Toyota LandCruiser 200. Alonh with size and comfort, this Laramie has plenty of tech and specs built in.