Few vehicles spawn such vitriolic response as the Ram 1500 in Australia. On one hand, there are fans of this big American that’s now available through more mainstream means, with its big engine, big comfort and big towing capacity. On the other hand, others cannot fathom why such a thing exists on the roads, with its big consumption, big footprint and big asking price.
Regardless of one’s personal opinion, the Ram 1500 has found a welcome home in Australia by carving out a solid niche at the top of the 4x4 ute segment. Exactly 286 Ram 1500s found a home in September alone, with a waiting list growing to three months. Even though the local conversion facility is operating around the clock, it is struggling to sate demand.
Now, buyers who want to go big have another option to ponder with the 2020 Ram 1500 Warlock added to the range.
It’s a limited-edition offer, with a Rebel-inspired front end and more aggressive bonnet design setting it apart from the rest of the Ram range, along with a one-inch suspension lift.
The specification is unique, carrying a bit of cheaper Express in places, while also doing a little bit of Laramie at the same time. The asking price is at the top of the range, however: $104,450. It’s something of a trend these days; a combination of some up-spec interior specs (but not all) with a bit of a black-pack exterior treatment.
On the outside, you’ve got side steps, halogen projector headlights, fender flares and some garish Warlock decals. The 20-inch wheels take on a black hue instead of the garishly bright chrome on other models. Helping the on-road performance of the Ram are highway-terrain Hankook Dynapro tyres in a 275/60R20.
Although the tyres equate to 33 inches of diameter, they do look somewhat small thanks to the modest suspension lift and fender flares. If it were me, I’d be throwing in some bigger tyres on smaller wheels with more negative offset before you could say ‘hemispherical combustion chamber’ three times. It’s actually quite a mouthful.
On the inside, there is leather interior trimming and a 10-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat. Although, this specification misses out on an electric opening rear windscreen, front seat heating and venting, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and push-button start of the Laramie.
RamBoxes, an otherwise $5000 option, are standard with the Warlock and add a sealed 105L toolbox in each rear fender. These work in concert with central locking and include lights and drain bungs. So, along with being handy for your gear and shopping, you could use them as an esky. Even a live bait tank.
There is also a soft tonneau cover, which can be mostly stowed away in a couple of minutes when needed by folding and securing.
This set-up effectively eats into a little of your tub space, squaring off the area around your wheel arches. It also includes a handy adjustable partition in the tub that can do two things: stop things from sliding around, or extend your bed area with the tailgate in the dropped position. Handy if you’ve got a big dirt squirter or two to cart around.
There’s a full-sized spare wheel underneath that tub, although it’s a basic steel wheel. So, you might not want to include it in your five-tyre rotation.
The tub measures in at 1712mm long, which is a couple of hundred millimetres better than your average-sized dual-cab ute. It’s 1295mm wide and 509mm deep.
That’s not a whole lot bigger than your typical 4x4 ute; however, the Ram does include significantly more space in the second row. It’s huge, with space to burn for kids and adults alike. The transmission tunnel is less hump and more mesa – low and wide in the voluminous footwell. Because the Ram is so wide, there is plenty of room for three abreast in the back.
The added benefit here is that you can easily fit big and bulky rearward-facing baby seats with two ISOFIX points and the requisite top tether points.
Those who have been to the land of the free and the home of the brave will notice that these big rigs often operate as family cars as much as utility vehicles. Something like the Australian dual-cab, over three million trucks like this one were sold in America in 2019 amongst a market total of 17 million.
Along with illustrating how relatively puny our own domestic car scene is in Australia, there are similar trends between the two. Should be no surprise, then, that the Ram has taken to Australia like a duck to water.
With the second row unoccupied, the seat base can flip up to unveil a significant amount of storage space thanks to the massive footwell. An additional folding base also makes a flat loadspace, which improves the versatility of the Ram.
Up front, the sheer acreage of space available yields plenty of practicality, storage and comfort. The centre console is massive, with additional storage space and cupholders available.
Infotainment is handled by an 8.4-inch infotainment display using the FCA Uconnect architecture and having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. While it might not have as much elegance in its design and operation as other systems, it’s easy to use and can yield loads of information.
Once driving, the Ram is less imposing and cumbersome than you might assume. You notice the height, width and big wheelbase, but once you acclimatise to the car, it proves to be easy to live with. This depends on your own driving and conditions, however. You’ll be pulling your hair out if you’re trying to park the thing in tight city streets, naturally. However, out in the outer suburbs and on the open road, the Ram is comfortable and, in its own way, enjoyable.
The turning circle, listed at 12.1m, isn’t as bad as you might expect. But, naturally, the Ram 1500 is still a bit of a handful in tight spaces.
Steering is predictably slow and truck-like, especially when you’re stepping up from a car or SUV. The 5.7-litre petrol V8 lazily burbling away under that big red bonnet is typically low-revving and muscularly understressed.
The eight-speed torque converter 'Torqueflite' gearbox is quite similar: smooth and lazy, and a good companion for the Hemi V8. It’s certainly geared for comfort and economy, shifting quickly to keep revs as low as possible when cruising.
Squeeze that throttle, whose height really prefers a big boot, and the engine slowly overcomes that sense of laziness to start getting angry in the higher RPM. The power and torque figures help tell the story: 556Nm only becomes available at 3950rpm, while 291kW comes on tap at 5600rpm.
There is a delightful V8 warble, although it’s mostly subdued through the exhaust system. Those wanting a bit more volume and bark can opt for another system, but this has a sense of American premium with its low, muted and deep burble.
In terms of fuel consumption, you might be surprised as to how efficient the big Ram is. Thanks to some tricks like cylinder deactivation and active grille shutters, the claimed combined usage figure sits at 12.2 litres per 100km. We didn’t match that, but were chuffed nonetheless by an average of 15.3L/100km. Not bad for such a big rig I reckon. In fact, our best numbers crept into the 13s after some longer stints of highway driving.
But, of course, put the boot on the other foot, and I’m sure you could get this thing into the 20s (and beyond) when driven with some abandon.
In terms of towing performance, you’re best off looking at the Ram in a league of its own. The ample power and torque, somewhat at the expense of fuel economy, combined with the sheer size and wheelbase on offer means it’s impressively stable and confident when towing.
Plus, when you opt for the right axle ratio, towing capacity grows to 4.5 tonnes. This is a unique proposition in Australia, but you need to pay attention to your gross combination mass at the same time. Like most 4x4 utes (and unlike the LandCruiser and Patrol), you cannot use all of your towing capacity and payload at the same time.
Rolling on coil springs at all four corners (rear is a live axle, front is independent), the Ram impresses with its ride and compliance around town. It's certainly got something to do with the wheelbase, weight and suspension travel, but if you were looking to spend bulk hours driving this rig, I doubt you'd be disappointed with the ride comfort.
Ram’s three-year and 100,000km warranty is certainly on the short side of things, and pales in comparison to the five and seven years' worth of warranty that other 4x4 utes offer, which includes five years for the HSV/GMSV-converted Chevrolet Silverado 1500.
There isn’t any capped-price servicing program, so service costs will vary from dealer to dealer, as well as according to what kind of conditions are being driven in.
While some might not understand the Ram 1500, and cannot think of a buyer that needs or wants this kind of vehicle, that doesn’t mean the buyer and desire aren’t out there. The growing success of this locally converted ute shows that for some (with pockets deep enough), the typical 4x4 just doesn’t cut the mustard.
And while the Silverado 1500 offers some competition away from the smaller, boutique and backyard conversion operations in Australia, the Ram 1500 is undoubtedly compelling.
The increased presence of the Warlock will appeal to some buyers, especially those keen on the practical but expensive RamBox option. For those keen for some extra luxury touches, the cheaper Laramie specification holds stronger appeal with its improved interior specification.