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RAM Laramie 2500 2017 review


Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5

The RAM 2500 from RAM Trucks Australia, which is rated to tow nearly 7.0 tonnes, is designed primarily as a heavy duty towing platform with a huge Cummins turbo-diesel engine, long wheelbase, high kerb weight, exhaust brake and lots of room inside a luxurious cabin.

These 'Australianised' RAM trucks are shipped in a unique export specification direct from Fiat Chrysler Automobile's heavy duty RAM Trucks Saltillo assembly plant in Mexico, re-manufactured in RHD on a bespoke production line in Melbourne and distributed throughout Australia and New Zealand by American Special Vehicles.

ASV is a joint venture between Ateco Automotive and the Walkinshaw Automotive Group (WAG) which also owns Holden Special Vehicles. It is the only RAM Trucks importer in Australia officially sanctioned by FCA, resulting in a unique factory-approved vehicle that meets the company's strict OEM standards and is backed by a full factory warranty and national dealer network.

Put simply, it's as close as you can get to driving a brand new RHD version of this legendary American pick-up off FCA's Mexico assembly line, and offers a compelling solution for those with something really big to tow.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

With a granite-crushing 3577kg kerb weight (by comparison Ford's top-shelf Ranger Wildtrak dual cab ute is 'only' 2250kg) the RAM 2500's architecture is tailor-made for heavy towing with a massive ladder frame chassis and expansive 3797mm wheelbase (Ranger 3220mm) providing rock-solid towing stability.

Front and rear suspension is via multi-link coil-sprung live axles (LSD rear), with four wheel disc brakes inside 18 x 8.0-inch polished alloy wheels and Michelin LT265/70R18E all-purpose tyres. Plus there's a full size spare.

ASV prefers to use the word 're-manufacture' rather than 'conversion' when describing its extensive body-off-frame RHD engineering process. We can vouch for that, having inspected the company's ISO quality-certified Melbourne production line, which turns out about 40 vehicles a month and employs 28 full-time staff in a dedicated factory right next door to HSV in Clayton. The end result is OEM standards in parts supply, engineering quality, standard of finish and driving performance.

  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler) 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler)
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler) 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler)
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler) 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler)
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler) 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler)
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler) 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 (image credit: Mark Oastler)
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 2017 RAM Laramie 2500
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 2017 RAM Laramie 2500
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 2017 RAM Laramie 2500
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 2017 RAM Laramie 2500
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 2017 RAM Laramie 2500
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 2017 RAM Laramie 2500
  • 2017 RAM Laramie 2500 2017 RAM Laramie 2500

How practical is the space inside?

The RAM 2500's payload capacity of 913kg might seem conservative compared to smaller dual cab utes with one-tonne payloads, but drill down further into its huge tow ratings and that 913kg (say 5-6 occupants and all their gear) looks mighty impressive.

Why? Because on a 50mm ball it can tow up to 3500kg with a full payload (7990kg gross combined mass), on a 70mm ball it can tow up to 4500kg with a full payload (8990kg GCM) and with a gooseneck and ring connection (aka pintle) it can tow up to 6989kg – and still with a full payload. That's a whopping 11,479kg GCM or just under 11.5 tonnes. Try doing that with a one-tonne ute!

The heart of this power giant is a Cummins 6.7 litre inline six cylinder turbo-diesel with 276kW at 2800rpm and a towering 1084Nm of torque at only 1600rpm.

The big cargo box, which is protected by a spray-in bedliner, is 511mm deep with a load floor that's 1939mm long and 1687mm wide with 1295mm between the wheel arches. That means it can take a standard 1160mm x 1160mm pallet, or a couple of dirt bikes with the tailgate up and heaps of room left for your gear and tools.

The cabin offers numerous storage options with bottle holders and twin storage pockets in the front doors, a huge centre console (which pivots into an upright position to serve as the centre seat backrest when required) with internal storage and three more cup/bottle holders, twin glove box compartments, rear door storage pockets, a central floor-mounted twin bottle holder and deep in-floor storage bins hidden under the carpet mats on either side. The rear seat can also be quickly reconfigured into a convenient flat-floored cargo area when required.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

ASV offers a choice of 2500 and 3500 (larger GVM) models, with the 2500 attracting the vast majority of local sales as it has a higher peak tow rating and can be driven with a standard driver's licence.

Our test vehicle was the RAM 2500 Laramie Dual Cab 4x4 which starts at $139,500. That's a lot of money but not unreasonable when compared to the $120,000-plus you'll pay for Toyota's local towing hero, the 200 Series Land Cruiser in premium Sahara spec, with 'only' a 3.5 tonne tow rating.

The ASV RAM is supplied in top-shelf Laramie grade which includes a sumptuous six-seater leather interior with more features than you could ask for. These include all the usuals like multimedia interface, dual-zone climate control, sunroof, sliding rear window and power everything, plus some not-so-usuals like remote starting using the key-fob (great on cold mornings before you leave the house), a high-mount cargo camera to keep an eye on your payload, a heated steering wheel and power adjustable pedals to name a few on a very long list.

Further proof of its intended role in life is a seven-pin wiring harness, heavy duty receiver hitch and electric trailer brake control. In simple terms, it's fully loaded.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The heart of this power giant is a Cummins 6.7 litre inline six cylinder turbo-diesel with 276kW at 2800rpm and - most importantly in this context – a towering 1084Nm of torque at only 1600rpm. It's also equipped with a very effective exhaust brake with a choice of settings.

Chrysler's equally robust and well-proven (68RFE) six-speed automatic transmission with driver-adaptive shifting is purpose-built for extreme duty. The 4x4 drivetrain features a dual-range Borg Warner transfer case with electronic shift-on-the-fly control and a 2.64:1 low range reduction, which with the 3.42:1 final drive results in a 29.2:1 crawl ratio. Ideal for towing a heavy load out of a rugged worksite or a campground turned boggy by overnight rain.

How much fuel does it consume?

We conducted two tests based on fuel bowser and trip meter readings. The first, which mostly comprised heavy towing, resulted in 20.14L/100km compared to 16.6 on its instrument display. The second was a mix of city, suburban and highway driving with no towing which returned 15.08 litres/100km compared to 14.0 displayed.

What's it like to drive?

The strong whiff of leather is a nice way to start each journey. The full-length side steps and grab handles are required for every climb in and out of the elevated cabin which provides a commanding view of the world, even though the outer edges of its vast bonnet and front mudguards disappear from view.

The front seats are wide and comfortable with good lateral support and rear seat passengers have generous head, shoulder and legroom as you would expect. Although it feels huge when you first climb aboard, the RAM starts to shrink around you the more you drive it, aided by front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera for tight parking situations (which is most of the time).

Its height of 1974mm (Ranger 1848mm) will still clear most undercover car parks (usually 2100mm limit) and its 2009mm width is only 150mm wider than a Ranger, so it will also fit within most car parking spaces. The biggest parking handicap is its oil tanker-like 6030mm length which is 675mm longer than the Ranger, so you need plenty of room for reversing.

On the highway it has a remarkably quiet cabin environment thanks to substantial ASV-added sound insulation, low wind noise and minimal tyre roar.

Ride quality when empty is generally good, although you do notice the firmness of the heavy duty spring rates over larger bumps. Acceleration is spirited, too, with an unbridled 1084Nm shoving you in the back and the steering is nicely weighted and relatively direct for an old-school steering box set-up.

The quartet of disc brakes, though, do not have the bite relative to pedal effort one might expect. ASV engineers claim it's the result of pad compounds which have to withstand the heat of up to 7.0 tonne towing loads, so they tend to be relatively hard.

On the highway it has a remarkably quiet cabin environment thanks to substantial ASV-added sound insulation, low wind noise and minimal tyre roar. At 100km/h with no payload, the 6.7 litre Cummins barely ticked over at 1400rpm and that hardly changed when we hooked up a dual axle New Age Caravan with a 3270kg tare weight.

Given that was less than half of its peak towing capacity, the big RAM barely noticed it was there. The engine's massive 1084Nm of torque at only 1600rpm was most impressive on long gradual climbs, allowing the truck and caravan combo to squash each hill in top gear with minimal throttle.

Each time you ease off the accelerator, too, the exhaust brake provides more than enough retardation (and Kenworth sound effects) to ensure you rarely need to push the brake pedal. And when you do, the electric trailer brake control provides powerful and sure-footed stopping power. The door mirrors were also wide enough to see along each side of the van and approaching rear traffic.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Currently no ANCAP rating but ASV subjected one to a full frontal barrier crash under Australian Design Rule 69/00 which it passed, thereby becoming the first locally converted (oops, re-manufactured) vehicle to be crash tested.

It's loaded with passive and active safety features including driver and front passenger airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring display and reversing camera. The rear seat has three headrests and three lap-sash belts plus anchorage points to secure up to three child seats.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

RAM Trucks Australia provides a three year/100,000km warranty plus national Roadside Assistance for the duration of the warranty period.

Service intervals of six months/12,000km whichever comes first. ASV has a 30-strong Australian dealership network providing full sales and after-sales service.

The RAM 2500 Laramie 4x4 is designed primarily as an extreme duty tow vehicle, and in that role it excels. So if you've got something really big to tow like a multi-axle caravan, horse float, boat trailer or other type of trailer up to 7.0 tonnes, you'd be hard pressed to find a more effortless and luxurious way to move it than with one of these jiggers.

What do you make of Australia's most macho pick-up truck? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4/5