Everyone outside of America, I am sure, will know someone who desperately, yearningly wants to be an American. You know the sort – they’ll watch the Super Bowl and actually know what’s going on, own a Stetson instead of an Akubra, put barbecue sauce on absolutely everything, drink Budweiser, and when some country music starts playing they’ll be the only ones who don’t scream “turn that rubbish off!”
You might think, then, that the 2021 Ram 1500 DT would be the sort of vehicle these types would adore and dream of having – and you’d be right, although in my mind, something as good as this would be wasted on these try-hard wannabe ranchers, because, not to make too bold a statement right out of the gate, this is the most luxurious pickup truck out there.
Given this top-spec Limited model is priced from $139,950 before on-road costs, you’d certainly hope so, as it’s a substantial jump in price not just over the average fifty-grand-or-so ute Aussies buy, but over the old Ram 1500 as well.
Somewhat strangely, that’s still a vehicle you can buy, though, as both the fourth-generation ‘DS’ and fifth-generation ‘DT’ models are being sold alongside each other. The former retails from $79,950 for a base Express that’ll be right at home on worksites, while this DT model can be had for a bit less – $114,950 for the Laramie model.
Keep in mind also that these things get deep into six figure territory here as all Ram models are locally reengineered from left to right-hand drive by Walkinshaw in Melbourne, in cooperation with the factory-backed Ram Trucks Australia operation headed by importer and distributor Ateco. The famed Holden tuners have been doing these conversions since even before the collapse of the Aussie brand, also converting models such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Silverado – the Ram’s chief rival.
What’s a real wonder, though, is that this conversion job is no backyard hack job or third-world plastic surgery – ascend the automatically-deployed side steps and plonk yourself behind the wheel, and there are no signs I could find that indicate this was ever anything but a right-hook vehicle to begin with, thanks to 400 new, locally-produced parts that were specifically designed for this conversion.
Having driven the old Ram 2500 back when it was first brought here in 2016, there were telltale signs of the conversion everywhere back then, but in the five years since, things have come a long way. Not only are the graphics on the absolutely massive 12.0-inch Uconnect infotainment display altered so controls such as the seat heating have the labels on the correct sides, but even the bonnet (that’s “hood” in American) release has been switched to the driver’s side, showing true attention to detail.
Regardless of whether you’re here in the land Down Under with one of these converted units or back in Freedomland with the steering wheel remaining on the wrong side, this interior is on a level you’d likely have never thought possible in a pickup – Mercedes-AMG G63 6×6 notwithstanding. Practically every surface you look at has been wrapped in soft, smooth leather, including even the entire dashboard.
For the Stetson-wearing crowd, there’s even plenty of fancy embroidered patterns that will no doubt match that on the cowboy boots I’m sure you own as well. All jokes aside, it looks absolutely fantastic, and feels like an incredibly fitting piece of Americana. Truly, this is an astoundingly well-adorned interior – especially so considering a lot of it has been reproduced locally.
Most striking about this interior, though, is just how roomy it is. Calling it cavernous doesn’t do it enough justice – you could practically play a football match in here, and this is only the small Ram. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of storage as well, with big door pockets and a massive centre console with sliding configurable compartments.
The big comfortable seats will easily sit three across in the back, while there’s enough space between the front seats to adhere to social distancing requirements. As far as legroom and headroom goes, five seven-foot NBA players would likely be able to sit in here comfortably.
The tech is great as well – the Uconnect infotainment system is probably the best in any ute, the 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system is great, and it’s got most of the driver assistance tech you’d expect as well – and there are plenty of comfort features such as front and rear heated and ventilated seats and active noise cancelling, so it really does feel incredibly well-rounded in this cabin. Forget other utes – this really does have a spec list to rival luxury SUVs.
Under the bonnet, though, it’s all-American muscle. Sporting a big 5.7-litre Hemi V8 mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic and selectable four-wheel drive, it makes an impressive 291kW at 5600rpm and 556Nm at 3950rpm.
Despite the big engine, though, efficiency is a surprising part of the picture with the Ram 1500. This behemoth of a vehicle has actually been fitted with a 48V mild hybrid system, along with cylinder deactivation tech to allow it to run in low-load situations on just four cylinders. Nice thinking, although it didn’t stop it guzzling 15.3L/100km during my 375km with it, up from the 12.2L/100km official claim. Good thing the ‘eTorque’ system adds a bit of extra zest when you pin the throttle, making it actually worth its while.
The other interesting claim Ram makes is that this is one of the most aerodynamic pickups in the world, with a drag coefficient of 0.357 thanks to its modern design and range of active aerodynamics. Again, the fuel consumption improvements it may make are somewhat negligible, but it’s certainly pretty quiet in the cabin of this thing compared to most commercial vehicles.
But then, much like its interior putting you in mind of a luxury SUV, the driving experience does as well. Thanks to the Limited model’s standard five-position air suspension, the ride is far more plush than you’d expect from a truck, with it soaking up any bump you can throw it at even with its massive 22-inch rims and relatively low profile tyres.
Those slimmer tyres certainly seem to help in the handling department, though – it’s certainly no corner carver, but it wallows far less than you’d think, and remains fairly level and hangs on decently through the bends in the dry, with it naturally tending towards oversteer if you get overeager in the wet.
The engine is the real star of the show, though. It might not scream like a muscle car, but it does make a deep, muscular bellow when you stand on the throttle, and despite being naturally aspirated and an old-school pushrod engine, it really does get this thing going with impressive pace.
It’s an incredibly smooth engine above all else, and the transmission it’s paired to is equally smooth – and, even though there’s no true manual mode but rather the ability to limit it to go no higher than a certain gear, the shift logic is right on the money as well, meaning it’s best left to its own devices anyway. Really, it’s a great thing to drive.
It’s not without its impracticalities, however, chief among which is, unsurprisingly, its size. At 5916mm long and 2474mm wide including the side mirrors (2057mm without), it had absolutely no chance of fitting in my garage, and likely won’t fit in yours either. Good luck parking it anywhere you go out in it either – when centred in a standard Australian parallel parking spot, it was noticeably hanging out over both ends. The 3672mm wheelbase makes it a bit too long to do any serious off-roading with as well, although it certainly feels incredibly planted on dirt tracks.
Then, there’s the limited payload. Factor in its mass of an otherworldly 2749kg and the fact it’s riding on air suspension, and there’s only enough room in its GVM to allow for a payload of 701kg – just under 300kg short of the one-tonne benchmark expected of the utes Aussies typically buy. The Laramie, which rides on passive coil springs, allows for as much as 833kg, but that number, again, is still down.
I quite like the RamBox storage cubbies (standard on the Limited; optional on the Laramie) that it has on both sides of the tray in theory, which add a lockable 210-litre storage cubby on each side, but it does eat into the tray width quite a bit.
Its towing capacity is no joke, however, at 4500kg braked. Hitch up a boat or caravan behind this – like it’s safe to assume many Aussie buyers will do – and I doubt you’ll know that it was there, especially with the torque that big V8 produces to pull it along effortlessly with.
Really, though, the majority of these imperfections simply come down to the fact that the the Ram 1500 was never designed for Australian roads – or, to look at it another way, our roads and carparks weren’t designed for vehicles like this. In its native America, this would look small in comparison to the Heavy Duty rigs that many drive around, so it’s all contextual.
Additionally, the limited payload really doesn’t matter given most tradies aren’t buying $139,950 work vehicles that are adorned like a luxury car – if yours is, you’re probably getting ripped off. Really, this is for caravaners and boat owners who don’t want to hold everyone up when the holidays come around, but instead be the ones doing the overtaking.
It’s a niche offering here, then, but for that target demographic it makes so much sense it’s hard to think of anything better for the job. And even if you aren’t a caravaner or a boat owner – I’m certainly not either at this point in time – there’s still so much to love about a massive V8 pickup truck with cowboy boot upholstery beyond its abilities.
It might be expensive, hilariously oversized by Aussie standards, and have a payload a HiLux, D-Max, or Ranger would laugh at, but this is a tremendously brilliant and loveable beast. It certainly speaks to my inner American – and while we might all know that someone who desperately wishes they were, isn’t there a little bit of that inside all of us?
2021 RAM 1500 DT Limited 5.7 List Price: $139,950 | As Tested: $140,900
- Performance - 8/108/10
- Ride & Handling - 8.5/108.5/10
- Tech & Features - 9/109/10
- Practicality - 7.5/107.5/10
- Value for Money - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Surprisingly luxurious and refined cabin, plenty of grunt from that big Hemi V8, plush ride and great ground clearance thanks to the air suspension, impressive 4500kg braked towing rating
Cons: Limited payload, RamBox system compromises on bed width, undoubtedly thirsty even with the mild-hybrid system, you won’t be able to park it anywhere
In a nutshell: It might be hilariously oversized on Aussie roads and have a minuscule payload, but with how luxurious, powerful, and surprisingly charming the Ram 1500 is, I doubt you’ll really care too much about that at all.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Ateco Group for three days with a full tank of fuel.