You know, it’s amazing how a single idea can carry an otherwise pretty decent vehicle into the realm of brilliance. For the Ford F-150, it’s the addition of the twin-turbo EcoBoost engine. For the Land Rover brand, it’s their Terrain Response system. And for the Dodge Ram, it’s the Rambox storage system.
Not that the Ram 1500 isn’t a damn fine automobile in its own right; in fact the now re-legendary Hemi engine is still one of the strongest in the market. Sure, the twin-turbo EcoBoost has a healthy amount of modernity and technology on its side, but it’s hard to beat the sound of that 5.7 litre V8… in fact, it’s so hard to beat that I’d wager no one has, yet. Churning out 390 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque, it’s not exactly laggardly, and the acceleration it delivers is very good indeed. Although fuel misers will find fault with the five speed automatic gearbox, the truck’s performance doesn’t seem to be impacted in the least, and even pulling heavy loads is accomplished with about as much ease as you can expect from a half ton pickup truck.
Inside, the 2011 Ram is stupendously well designed; arguably even better designed than the perennial class leader from the Blue Oval folks. Although the F-150 will blow away pretty much everything in the luxury department (when fully equipped), the fully loaded Ram’s is a much more workable interior, with massive storage bins, hard-wearing and easily cleaned surfaces, and big, glove-friendly buttons and controls. Of course, that doesn’t preclude amenities, and the Ram can still be equipped with a variety of luxurious options like heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, a (very useful) 110 volt inverter, and a smorgasbord of off-road oriented powertrain options ranging from disconnecting sway bars to locking differentials to a factory-equipped winch.
As a result of this excellent interior and enviable powertrain, it’s a damn fine truck to drive. In fact, as the only half ton pickup truck to utilize coil springs in both the front and rear suspensions, the Ram unquestionably provides the most comfortable ride of all, with an almost car-like feel that gets better the faster you go. This, combined with the broad paces the Hemi engine seems to enjoy taking, makes it an excellent long haul cruiser; easily capable of eating entire provinces with little to no effort. High speed handling is about what you’d expect (it’s a pickup truck, not a backroad barnstormer), and the steering is a bit too vague, but the overall isolationist effect of the well tuned acoustics and perfectly damped suspension work wonders towards reducing driver fatigue. But, get it into a closed-off, tightly confined city environ and it starts to bear the brunt of its boxy, aggressive shape. You’ll find your jawline tightening, you hands clenching, and your calf muscle twitching as you proverbially ram (pun very much intended) your way through congestion with the required degree of arrogant aplomb. Lithe and agile it’s not.
However, that boxy body is undoubtedly what’s turning many would-be truck buyers onto the “new” Ram brand. As the single best looking truck on the market, it’s big broad shoulders look perfectly the part. And when those shoulders contain the optional Ramboxes, the body of this truck is even better. As a somewhat avid outdoorsman fond of such archaic and failing pursuits as fishing and shooting, the ability to have not one, but two seemingly perfectly shaped storage lockers in the bedsides was worth their weight in gold. Capable of swallowing a few fishing rods, a tackle box, four shotguns, 500 rounds of ammunition, and a change of clothes in just one side (the other being utilized to carry firewood, kindling, a saw, and an axe), it’s like having the security, safety, and elemental protection of car’s trunk, without sacrificing as much bed space as a bedbox demands. Sure, they do reduce the bed’s width by a small margin, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to carry a huge amount of stuff safely stowed out of the elements, beneath a locked lid. Just imagine, no more carrying muddy ATV or dirt bike gear in the back seat, no more worrying about stolen jerry cans or camp stoves, no more wet tents under the back seat or once-dry firewood rolling around the bed in the rain on the way to camp; now all that stuff can be nicely tucked away. And should you ever need to clean them out, they come equipped with handy drain plugs, so they can be hosed out and washed in a few minutes time.
Now, it may seem like I’m harping on these things a wee bit. They are, after all, just a pair of storage lockers. But if you’re an avid truck owner that has something in the bed more often than not, chances are you also have a bunch of junk that accompanies that something, and getting all that junk squared away can suck. So, to finally see an optional “accessory” that lets you stick all that junk somewhere that doesn’t required a dozen bungee cords and a couple of milk crates is a welcome change. Then again, in a pickup truck market dominated by blingy wheels, luxury sedan interiors, huge cabs and tiny beds, it’s nice to come across a truck that just feels ready to work. And from stem to stern, it’s apparent that the Ram’s designers had just that in mind: work. So if you need a truck that’s going to work with and for you, well, you might just find your salvation in Ram country.
|Test model||2011 RAM 1500|
|Trim level||Laramie 4x4 Crew Cab (5.6')|
|Price range||$20,495 - $38,765|
|Price as tested||$38,765|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Competitive models||Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra|
|Value for price|