Versatility, thy name is Ram.
- Montreal, Quebec
The 2016 Ram 1500 slides in just behind the Ford F-150 as Canada's second-favourite full-size pickup, and it's not difficult to understand why. Big trucks have traditionally been available in a dazzling array of trims, body styles, and drivetrain configurations, but the Ram 1500 is one of the most versatile pickups on the market and remains the only light-duty model to offer a frugal diesel option - a big plus in a country where fuel prices are rarely stable, or cheap.
With 11 models of the Ram 1500 available on the brand's website, combined with three different sized cabs and another trio of boxes, it's easy to feel overwhelmed before you even figure out what engine you want under the hood. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to break things down along the lines of exactly what you hope to get done with the pickup, and how much you're willing to spend.
Keep in mind that not all order sheet options play nice with every body style.
Thrifty shoppers who are looking for a basic truck that will work for a living can restrict their search to the barebones Ram 1500 ST or the nicer, and only slightly more expensive Ram 1500 SXT, each of which checks in at under $33,000. It's worth noting that this places the base Ram roughly $5,000 above the entry-level F-150, but aggressive cash discounts at signing time across the Ram line-up largely make up for that gap.
The next price bracket - versions of the pickup ranging from $41k to $46k - offers a mix of better-equipped and more task-focused fare, with fuel economy-oriented choices like the HFE standing alongside the volume-selling SLT, while specialized (Sport), off-road (Rebel) and luxury (Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Laramie Limited) round out the top-tier trims.
Four-wheel drive is available with both engines, and includes the availability of low-range gearing.
Keep in mind that not all order sheet options play nice with every body style, and you might have to mix-and-match in the Ram configuration tool before landing upon the right number of doors (you can get up to four) and the proper-sized cargo bed (with lengths ranging from 5-feet 7-inches up to 8-feet) for your specific needs. If you don't mind sacrificing the ability to mount a cap (an a few centimetres of bed width) you can even install the lockable RamBox storage cubbies on either side of the cargo area, which offer deep and protected storage.
Then there's the question of what fits under the hood. The Ram's 305 horsepower, 3.6-litre V6 (which also generates 269 lb-ft of torque) is a decent performer, but the most buyers will stick with the truck's (mostly) standard 5.7-litre V8 with its stout 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Both of these units are yoked to an excellent 8-speed automatic transmission, with the exception of base models like the ST which makes use of a 6-speed. Four-wheel drive is available with both engines, and includes the availability of low-range gearing.
If you're looking to combine efficiency and power in the same pickup package then it makes sense to consider the EcoDiesel model.
Cylinder deactivation technology allows the 8-cylinder Ram to cruise to a highway rating of 10.9 L/100 km (comparable to the V6's 9.3 L/100 km in the HFE), but if you're looking to combine efficiency and power in the same pickup package then it makes sense to consider the EcoDiesel model. Boasting a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 that churns out a healthy 240 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque, this version of the Ram 1500 also delivers 8.0 L/100 km on the highway and an exceptional 11.3 L/100 km in city driving, making it far and away the least-thirsty full-size truck on the market.
There's a price to pay for EcoDiesel bragging rights of course - and indeed, the same can be said for any one of the Ram 1500's snazzier editions. At the low end, you're looking at nearly $6,400 to drop the diesel into the engine bay of an ST model, a figure that is reduced by roughly $3k for trucks that already feature an eight-speed auto-box (a requirement for the EcoDiesel). It'll take more than a few years of driving to make up for that extra cash outlay. Go crazy on the options sheet with a Laramie Limited, and you can blast past $62,000 - expensive, to be sure, but relatively modest in the world of big money luxo-trucks when compared to rivals like the Ford F-150 Limited and the GMC Sierra Denali.
Coils improve control in addition to comfort, and have a negligible impact on towing capacity or hauling.
It's also worth noting that aside from diesel, the Ram 1500 brings a number of other innovations to the table that you simply won't find from other pickup brands. In addition to the class-leading Uconnect infotainment system, gorgeous interior layouts that feature extensive use of leather and soft-touch materials, and an enormous centre console made possible by replacing the shifter stalk with a handy dial on the dashboard, Ram trucks offer a far smoother ride than any other vehicle in the segment. This is thanks to the use of coil springs at the rear of the truck instead of the traditional leaf springs still lurking under the full frames of Bowtie and Blue Oval-wearing vehicles. Coils improve control in addition to comfort, and have a negligible impact on towing capacity or hauling - and if you want to go even further, a full air ride suspension is also available with the vehicle.
It's clear that Ram has taken its number two status very seriously. The Ram 1500 is a truck that doesn't merely follow in the footsteps of the F-150 and content with itself by snagging whatever customers are left over once that sales juggernaut has passed through town. Instead, the engineering team behind this full-size pickup has worked hard to integrate technologies and features that simply aren't available anywhere else, and delivered arguably the best interior (and without a doubt, the most efficient drivetrain) in its class. Ford may sell the more popular truck, but it would be difficult to convince us that it's necessarily the better one, too.
Photos: Benjamin Hunting