At the annual Automotive Journalists Association of Canada bun-toss and test fest in 2009, the winner in the pickup truck category was the Dodge Ram. True, there were only two entrants in this category, but I voted for the Ram and thought it deserved the win.
Why? Not because of superior power or engineering; all full-size domestic trucks can be had with stump-pulling powerplants and drivetrains�.from turbocharged diesels to tire-spinning, high-horsepower gas engines. Nor was it because of creature comforts; today�s breed of pickup can be ordered with a dizzying array of convenience features and luxury goodies. Sometimes, the luxury quotient of these things is superior to that of a so-called prestige sedan, and again, no clear winner here.
No; what put me over the top with the Ram was its assembly quality and interior refinement level. Of the trucks I tested, it seemed to be the best built of the bunch, and felt tight and properly bolted together. In fact, I�d bet that the Ram is one of the quietest vehicles on the road. All car manufacturers like to trot out numbers and stats about interior decibel level, torsional rigidity and so on, but it�d be interesting to actually get your hands on a sound metre of some kind, stick it inside a bunch of cars and trucks, take �em out on the highway, and do a survey. I�m willing to bet the Ram 1500 (non-diesel) would emerge with among the lowest sound levels in the business. This is a sound-booth on wheels. Happily, things haven�t changed much on that score over the intervening years.
My tester this time around – a 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X4 – was equipped with Chrysler�s 5.7 litre Hemi engine, that in this configuration, develops 390 horsepower and 407 foot-pounds of torque. This latter number is probably more significant when it comes to actually carrying cargo, ploughing off-road or extricating yourself out of a snow-bank. It�s one of three engine choices in the Laramie line, and despite its healthy power output, is almost completely silent. When you think of Hemi engines, you tend to picture rambunctious temperamental powerplants usually found propelling a funny car or pro sports racer of some kind. Not any more; the engine in this truckt still has pushrods and just two valves per cylinder, but Chrysler has civilized things and it�s now as refined and smooth as any multi-cam, multi-valve equivalent coming out of Europe or anywhere else.
Anyway, it�s mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, with on-demand 4WD, an electronic stability control system, and an anti-spin rear differential�.among other things.
And before I go on, I really should mention some of those other things. On top of standard equipment such as four-wheel disc brakes, power adjustable pedals, dual zone air conditioning, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, Sirius satellite radio, and dual exhaust, my tester had leather interior ($1150), remote start ($375), spray-in bedliner ($450), and a �protection group� that includes skid plates front and back and tow hooks, and a comprehensive list of extras, all of which boosted the price up to just under $54,000, which, in the world of big trucks, is actually not that outrageous. You can easily spend more than this if you go whole-hog.
Hoist yourself up inside the 1500 and you�re in a realm of rough-hewn luxury. Everything is purposeful and workmanlike. A huge centre console separates front seat passenger and driver, and you could play cards on it. There are cup-holders and various storage nooks and crannies all over the place, and elbow room is generous. The centre console-located shifter is fist-sized, and you access the 4WD system via a dash-mounted rotary dial. It has auto and high and low range settings, and all is easy to get at and deal with. My truck also had a navi system and back-up camera. The former I couldn�t care less about, but the latter is really useful in a rig this size. Even the best driver among us can sometimes misjudge the distance behind the vehicle, and parallel parking is made easier with this camera. That said, it�s located on the rear tailgate, and if you�re carrying any cargo and it�s folded down, whoops, there it isn�t. Speaking of which, payload for the 5.7 litre V8 Crew Cab is 680 kilograms.
Maybe you can use it to haul cargo and make a few bucks on the side, because, with a capacity of 121 litres, it�ll cost you at least $150 to fill this puppy up with gas. In my neck of the woods, regular is going for about $1.40 a litre right now, so do the math and you can see that owning one of these rigs is not for the faint-hearted. Fortunately, it takes regular, but at just under 16 litres per 100 kilometres in town, you�ll be spending a lot of time at the pump.
AT A GLANCE
Type: Full-size pickup truck
Base Price: $46,415; as tested: $53,885
Engine: 5.7 litre V8
Horsepower: 390 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 407 ft. lb. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Drive: RWD w. 4WD
Fuel economy: 15.8 L/100 km (city); 10.8 L/100 km (hwy), regular gas.
Alternatives: Ford F-150, Chev Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra.