Ram 1500 2014 Review
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I'm in Los Angeles and I'm driving an American pick-up truck - with a Maserati engine.
Don't go looking for a sweet-revving V8 under the vast bonnet of this Ram pickup. The engine is a diesel and it is made by Italy's VM Motori. It is also used, with a different software tune, in luxurious Maserati models such as the Quttroporte and Ghibli, as well as Jeep's Grand Cherokee.
In the Ram line-up in the US, the engine is fitted to a model called the Ecodiesel. These two words are not usually associated with pick-up trucks but the world is changing. Still, it is hard to get my head around the fact that this behemoth of a machine I'm driving through the Mojave Desert east of LA could be described as eco anything.
Even so, it has averaged just 7.8L/100km on a highway drive to Twentynine Palms and back - a 450km round trip. That is remarkable for such a big vehicle, especially one with the aerodynamics of a giant cruise ship.
A few days later, the consumption creeps up to 8.4L/100km after some stop-start driving around town, but remains an impressive number given the Ram weighs about 2100kg.
Buyers of pick-ups have proved to be more concerned about fuel consumption than anticipated, with almost half of Ford's F-150 customers now choosing a turbocharged EcoBoost V6 instead of the longstanding V8.
But customers still mostly opt for petrol engines, although some heavy-hauler utes are optioned with powerful but unrefined Cummins engines. Diesel really is still a dirty word in the US, but the Ram Ecodiesel could change some opinions.
It is extremely quiet, at idle as well as on the road. So much so that a friend I am visiting calls his wife over to the Ram to listen to this remarkably quiet diesel. "It's a diesel," he says, in wonder. "They're usually real noisy," he adds in order to explain his excitement.
It's not unusual to hear loud pick-up trucks here in the US. Over the next few days I hear several of them, but they are petrol V8s with big exhausts, heaps of chrome and, often, suspension lift-kits.
The basic Ram 1500 pickup starts at the equivalent of $27,700. Add the diesel, smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic, slick audio with Bluetooth, super-size mirrors and dealer delivery fee and we're up to $35,300 in Australian money.
Many of us can only dream of getting so much truck for that kind of outlay. Dream on, because Fiat Chrysler has no plan to bring the Ram here, at any price.