Apart from the fully-laden 10-tonne Foden truck I drove to and from the wheat crops at my family’s grain-growing property to the silos as a teenager, the new 2021 Ram 1500 DT is by far the biggest vehicle I’ve ever driven on a public road.
Measuring nearly 6.0 metres in length, almost 2.5 metres across (including the door mirrors), close to 2.0 metres tall, and boasting one of the most imposing blacked-out grilles since the feature truck in the 1971 Spielberg thriller Duel, the latest Ram 1500 (codenamed DT) is truly a monster bit of pick-up hardware.
Interestingly, the new DT series, will be sold alongside the older DS model – as is the case in its home market of the United States.
As a first-time driver of a Ram you really notice its size, especially when you factor in the small-car infrastructure we live with here in Australia – extra-tight car spaces, lanes that seem half the size of those in the States, and multi-level carparks with narrow entries seemingly designed for MG 3s and panel beater profits.
Let’s not forget the 1500 Crew Cab is the small-fry in the new Ram line-up, which also includes the larger 2500 Heavy Duty and massive 3500 variants.
Even the iconic Mercedes-Benz S-Class in long wheelbase form pales into insignificance alongside our 1500 Limited.
While some might think the new Ram is out of place, ridiculous, or offensive given its sheer enormity, get ready to look up at even more of these super-size trucks as their popularity soars.
Local distributor Ateco and its local manufacturing partner Walkinshaw (they do the right-hand drive conversion of the truck) are aiming to build around 6000 of these behemoths this year, with final production goals as high as 10,000 units per annum over the next few years, with a good percentage of those expected to be the top-spec Limited Crew Cab sampled here.
There’s also the Chevrolet Silverado finding its share of love here in Australia through a network of GM Specialty Vehicles dealers. There’s always rumours that Toyota is looking at its Tundra for a play in this market, but don’t hold your breath.
As big as this thing is, it hasn’t actually compromised my lifestyle in any dramatic fashion. I’ve still hit my favourite French patisserie in the salubrious suburb of Mosman, parked in Manly for a few waves, and popped into our local beachside café where on-street parking can be in short supply in the morning.
It’s at the top of the pile, so be prepared to shell out no less than $139,950 before on-road costs. The only option available is metallic/pearlescent paint for $950. It comes with the absolute lot as standard.
If you want to save a few dollars, there’s a Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab from $114,950, or the more desirable Laramie Crew Cab RamBox priced from $119,900 – which in fairness gets a similarly generous equipment spec to the Limited bar a few key options, while gaining the easy-to-use RamBox cargo management system with 230V power outlet and LED tray lighting.
For 2021 Laramie buyers there’s the Driver Assistance Level 2 Package ($4950), which includes a full-suite of active safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, surround-view cameras, and semi-autonomous parking assist.
If your truck is going to double as the family chariot on weekends, you’ll want to add the power-retractable side steps, which are a $1950 extra on the Laramie.
For price-conscious truck fans, you can still get the older DS 1500, with prices starting from $79,950 for the entry-level 1500 Express Quad Cab and topping out at $108,950 for the 1500 Warlock Crew Cab RamBox.
By way of comparison, the Chevy Silverado range is priced between $106,990 for the LT Trail Boss and $114,990 for the LTZ Premium, both of which are powered by a 6.2-litre V8 making 313kW of power and 624Nm of torque.
Everything and the kitchen sink, if you choose the 2021 RAM 1500 Limited Crew Cab RamBox as tested here. Premium paint is the one-and-only option listed.
Standard kit includes:
- Air suspension
- Power-sliding rear cab window
- 12.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (wired)
- Satellite navigation
- 19-speaker 900W Harman Kardon audio
- 22-inch black-finish alloy wheels
- Black partial leather upholstery
- Power-retractable side steps
- 10-way power driver’s seat with memory
- 10-way power passenger seat
- Heated and cooled front seats
- Heated and cooled outboard rear seats
- Heated leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Power tailgate
- Keyless entry/start
- Remote start via key fob
- Dual-zone climate control
- Automatic LED headlights
- Automatic wipers
- Power-adjustable pedals
- Tub liner
- Heavy-duty tow bar
- Wireless charging pad
- 5 x USB-A and 4 x USB-C outlets
- Rubber floor mats with carpet inserts
- Active noise cancellation
While the Ram 1500 is yet to be crash tested by ANCAP, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (the equivalent safety body in the United States) gave the truck a five-star overall safety rating.
In the frontal crash, it scored five stars for the front driver’s side and four stars for the front passenger side, while in the combined side barrier and pole ratings it scored five stars all round. In the rollover resistance testing, which measures the risk of rollover in a single vehicle incident, it scored four stars out of five.
The 1500 Limited is armed with a full suite of active safety systems as standard, including:
- Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Surround-view camera
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert and trailer detection
- Lane departure warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
- Reversing camera
- Front/rear parking sensors
As tough as the new Ram 1500 looks on the outside, the moment you climb up into the cabin, your perceptions about big trucks from the good ol’ USA instantly changes.
This is the Rolls-Royce of utes, boasting without doubt the most luxurious crew cab in the business with limo-like passenger space and comfort thanks to extra-wide-berth leather seats similar to those auto recliners found in top-shelf movie theatres these days.
There’s just enough bolster to stop you rolling around if you choose to exercise the big V8 through a few bends, but we’ll get to that later.
There’s a bit of a cowboy influence, too, with a lovely hand-stitched pattern throughout the cabin, similar to that on my Western-style Lucchese boots. Beautiful.
Everywhere you look there’s storage bins of all shapes and sizes. You’ll get lost in the centre console box, but it doesn’t seem to a be a cooled unit from what I could gather.
The driving position is excellent, too, with a truly commanding view of the road ahead – above and beyond the usual SUV set. You get used to this high-riding POV very quickly, with the added benefit of an early warning for those otherwise sudden braking moments that happen when cars you’re following aren’t paying attention.
And for those shorter frames like myself, our Ram 1500 Limited is equipped with a powered pedal set – meaning you can move the brake and throttle as one entity for perfect ergonomics.
The new Ram is also big on tech, highlighted by its 12.0-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen running the excellent Uconnect system. Folks, this is hands-down the best infotainment unit in any ute – and by some margin.
Not just for its clarity and colour, but for the speed and simplicity of the interface. It’s a split-screen set-up, so you can have Apple CarPlay up top and climate control below, or any number of other combinations.
Better still, there’s a row of shortcut buttons at the bottom of the screen that can get you out of trouble if you get into the weeds. There aren’t many dials, either. I count three including the two for audio and tuning, and the rotary drive selector, which is surprisingly intuitive.
However, given the overall tech play, the new Ram is missing a fully-digital instrument display. The standard digital/analogue unit looks oddly out of place.
Not so with the 900W, 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, the quality and performance of which is well beyond what you normally find in a luxury car costing many thousands more.
There’s plenty of charging points around the cabin, and that’s both USB-A and USB-Cs, as well as 12V ports.
Both seat rows are heated and cooled – outboard on the rear – and this has to be the quietest ute on the planet. You can’t hear the traffic outside, there’s active noise cancelling and acoustic glass in this cockpit. There’s even a frame vibration-cancelling system.
That said, the 360-degree camera is a godsend on something this big. You’ve also a forward-facing cam as well as the usual reversing cameras and parking sensors all round.
There’s a huge panoramic roof, and that rear-screen centre window slides open, at the touch of a button. I tended to have this open all the time rather than the windows and sunroof, as it provided fresh air without the cold breeze.
Out back the tray bed stretches 1711mm and a width of 1687mm, providing far more everyday carrying capacity and practicality than your average dual-cab ute.
Even the tailgate is powered, so it’s as light as a feather and damped. And the moveable divider can be quickly and easily moved – inch-by-inch anywhere in the tray. Same story with the tonneau cover. It’s not powered, but it’s easily deployed in seconds. Oh, and there’s full LED lighting in here.
You’ve got to love the RamBox feature, too – lockable side bins you can fill up with ice, cans and bottles, or whatever you want because they’ve also got a drainage plug. The other day I loaded one of them up with my monthly haul from my butcher, given the lower temperature outside. It’s also got a power outlet and is illuminated.
It’s not quite as massive as the Ram 1500 itself, but the tried and tested 5.7-litre Hemi V8 now gets a mild-hybrid system with fuel-saving benefits and better all-round drivability from the 48V battery pack and belt-drive motor generator unit.
Power and torque outputs are 291kW of power at 5600rpm and 556Nm of torque from 3950rpm through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a two-speed transfer case offering a range of drive modes, including 2WD High, 4WD Auto, 4WD High and 4WD Low.
The claims are a 12kW boost short-term boost of supplementary power, brake energy regeneration, and what is surely the best start/stop system of any vehicle I’ve driven in the last two years, regardless of price. It’s the one and only car I’ve tested which you don’t bother manually disabling it, because it’s just so seamless.
With a big V8 under the bonnet, I suppose I was expecting a tad more excitement at the wheel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means slow out of the gate, but only if you give it a proper boot full. Then it can get a bit noisy.
Mostly, it’s a sweet match to the truck itself, offering strong and unencumbered throttle response from its naturally-aspirated powertrain with very smooth power delivery from the get-go. All the controls are progressive and make the 1500 a very easy vehicle to pilot.
Highway cruising is effortless at Australia’s maximum legal speeds, as are high-speed overtakes. Around town, at low speeds, you can barely hear the V8 ticking over, such is the refinement of this engine.
Interestingly, new Ram is also one of the most aerodynamic trucks in the segment, boasting active aero like active grille shutters and active air dams for a Cd of just 0.357. That’s exceptional for a vehicle of these dimensions.
It’s also the best-riding Ute I’ve driven, thanks to Ram’s active four-corner air suspension, with the added benefits of progressive-rate rear springs and frequency response dampers.
You simply float over the bigger speed bumps and broken roads, even on the Limited’s massive 22-inch wheels.
Body roll is very well contained, with the big Ram able to be hustled along through bends at a sporty clip if conditions permit. But mostly, you just cruise around and enjoy the effortless nature of this big beast.
There’s plenty of stopping power, as there needs to be for something this big that tips the scales at nearly 2800kg for the Limited we have here.
Towing capacity for the Ram 1500 Limited tested here is 4500kg using a 70mm ball, while the maximum payload is 701kg. We did end up using the Ram for a run to the Sydney markets but the eight-or-so box haul of fruit and veg took up only a fraction of the overall load space. Hardly a test, I know.
All Ram trucks are sold with a three-year, 100,000km factory warranty, together with three years/100,000km roadside assist.
Service intervals are 12 months or 12,000kms, with no capped-price servicing offered.
The 2021 Ram 1500 DT uses a claimed 12.2L/100km on a combined cycle, but we were seeing closer to 18L/100km, on a mostly urban cycle.
The new Ram 1500 Limited DT series isn’t so much a ‘truck’, as a luxury workhorse with all the modern tech and safety systems you’d expect from Germany’s luxury carmakers.
Importantly, there’s no need to be intimidated by the size of the Ram, it’s easy to climb aboard, easy to drive and if you can’t find a park, stick it in a loading zone.
But, if you want to really make a statement with your truck, you might want to put your hand up for the Ram 1500 TRX, with its monster-powered supercharged V8 with an insane 523kW and 881Nm on tap.
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MORE: Everything Ram 1500