2018 RAM 1500 Express review

Ram Trucks Australia remanufacture the vehicles on a purpose built assembly line in Melbourne. The brand new Ram is built at the Warren, Michigan  Assembly plant and arrives in Australia as a left hand drive and leaves the Melbourne Factory as a perfect right hand drive vehicle. You can find out more about this by visiting the Ram Truck website.

I have always admired the Ram trucks but never thought of owning one (I was a little apprehensive about their size) But seeing them advertised and being readily available now through a large dealer network, curiosity got the better of me and I went for a test drive. Although a large vehicle their size does not make them hard to drive, actually I think their size makes them easier. The wide track and long wheelbase I suppose is what makes them very stable. One drive and I wanted one!

The first thing that I notice is that there is nothing to suggest that this vehicle has been modified in any way. The dashboard hasn’t been modified, a completely new dash has been made. The dash is covered in leather with very nice white stitching, with no squeaks or rattles.  The windscreen wipers wipe to the full side as you would expect from a right hand drive vehicle.

I have owned 4WD utes and Wagons since the early 70’s. Landcruisers, Mitsubishi, Ford and they have all served me well. The Ram though is in a different class, it’s bigger, stronger, more powerful, more comfortable and can tow more.

I am not going to list all the features that are readily available in the brochure instead outline my experience with my RAM.

The 1500 Express is by no means a “poverty pack” it has been optioned up by Ram Trucks Australia to suit a large percentage of Australian buyers. Here is an example of the extras shown on the build sheet;

Heavy duty Engine cooling, Engine oil heat exchanger, Heavy duty transmission oil cooler, Anti spin differential, Trailer brake control, 8HP70 8 speed transmission and the lower than standard rear axle ratio.

The Ram is very comfortable, I feel far less fatigued and tired than I have done on the same trip in other vehicles. The cabin is spacious and quiet, the steering is effortless and the engine is made for country cruising. My wife who is no car enthusiast even commented on how comfortable and quiet the Ram is and how she doesn’t feel the bumps so much.

I think the main priority for most buyers would be the Ram’s towing ability and I can definitely say it does the job remarkably well. In fact the Ram is certainly the best vehicle I have ever towed with. The Ram is extremely stable even at high speeds it does not feel unsettled when rounding a bend and encountering undulations in the road surface. The OEM brake controller is by far the best I have ever used, it is so very smooth yet strong. Towing with the V8 Hemi means you can maintain a constant speed on the highways without being slowed down by hills.

When towing you simply select Tow / Haul mode. Not only does this select the correct gear for the load being pulled but it also selects the correct gear when descending a hill, that together with the V8 engine meant the Ram had far better engine braking than any of the diesels I have driven. The 8 speed automatic gearbox in the Ram really is seemless in its operation, where with other vehicles I often found I had to use manual mode with the Ram I simply just leave it in auto. You never feel the Ram “hunting” between gears as you do sometimes in other vehicles.

Now one of the most impressive things is that during this whole test no towing aids were used, no weight distribution hitch, no anti sway etc I just coupled the van to the ball, connected chains and trailer plug and off we went. This Ram is so stable it doesn’t need any of those aftermarket aids, this I think is a great testament to the Rams ability. Another good indicator of how the Ram handles the job of towing is that there is no noticeable difference in engine or transmission temperatures when either towing or not towing. The Tow test was carried out over 2000 kilometers while towing a caravan weighing 2500 kilograms.

Reversing with a caravan even seems easier, I don’t know exactly why, maybe the standard mirrors give me a better view and of course the V8 just idles along when parking the van (with a lot of other vehicles I had to use low range to slowly reverse a caravan)

When choosing a Ram naturally the priority is for a strong heavy duty vehicle but we don’t want to be penalised by excessive fuel usage. The Ram doesn’t disappoint here either, it is surprisingly fuel efficient. Fuel usage shown below under various driving conditions;

12 l/ 100 km, unloaded on an intermediate rural road at 110 k/h

16 l/100 km, towing  at 100 k/h.

21 l/100 km, towing at 120 k/h. Yass to Moss Vale when I accidentaly set cruise control to 120 k/h (felt like 100 k/h)

19 l/100 km, towing. average  for entire trip towing. this included going down the Macquarie Pass to Kiama, down to Bega then up the Snowy Mountains Highway cutting through Jindabyne, then home, total of 2000 kilometers.

I find that an average of 19 l/100 km towing a caravan while having all the power and comfort offered by my Ram is extremely good.

One other thing and that is to acknowledge the great service offered to me by Danny and Adam at Thomas Bros Wagga. Thomas Bros is a highly regarded dealer in the area and their dedication to customer satisfaction is second to none. I would highly recommend you contact Thomas Bros if you are thinking about a new vehicle.