Our governments tell us to use less gasoline. Overwhelming, we want big trucks. Who votes for those people anyway?
The solution – diesel engines.
Modern oil-burners are cleaner than the proverbial whistle. Great low-end torque, particularly important for trucks. Better fuel consumption and longevity, to counter their added initial cost.
Case in point – the Ram 1500 Rebel Quad Cab 4×4 EcoDiesel. (Geez; the truck needs to be this big to get all that name on it.) My tester started at $60,345, and ended at $78,740, the EcoDiesel accounting for $3,900 of that.
“Deals” are the lifeblood of truck sales, so haggle away. This third-generation of the 3.0-litre V6 from VM Motori, like Chrysler, part of the Fiat group, delivers on all counts. You’ll hardly know it’s a Diesel; there’s a lot less of the typical clattering at idle.
Once rolling, the truck’s good sound insulation from all noises – wind; tire rumbling, etc. – more than masks it.
Tall gearing helps too and it turns just 1,650 r.p.m. at 100 km/h. Fuel efficient naturally, as a combined EnerGuide rating of 9.7 l/100 km attests.
I actually beat that, recording 9.0 during my test. At one point, it showed 883 km of range, on three-quarters of a tank. Impressive. Diesel owners will not be surprised.
Via a simple knob on the dash, it can run in 4×2 mode for optimum economy, 4×4 high range for trickier conditions, or 4×4 low range when things get really dicey.
It’s a “light-duty” truck, but can tow up to 5,509 kg when properly equipped. There’s a “Tow Haul” driving mode, and a built-in trailer braking system. No surprise that Rams are popular with horse people.
The Ram rides extremely well, probably thanks to the coil-sprung rear axle. I had to check to make sure mine didn’t have the optional air suspension.
Subjectively, it felt smaller than the Ford F-Series King Ranch I drove recently, although it isn’t. Good handling makes a vehicle “shrink” around you. Inside, the influence of Montreal-raised Ralph Gilles is evident. Chrysler’s head of design raised the bar for interior quality in all its products. It now ranks with the best in the game.
The dash is clear, bright, well-organized, well-executed, and functional, while the cup holders and electronic connectivity outlets all over the place. Yes, it will take you some time to figure out what all the buttons and levers do, but it’s more logical than most.
Two downsides: the wiper switch seems left over from when Chrysler was owned by Mercedes-Benz. You twist the left side steering column stalk, which was wrong then, and remains wrong now. C’mon Ralph – right side steering column stalk, please. Second, it fails the ignition off/lights off test, meaning an extra sensor and buzzer when neither is required.
On the plus side: Ford made a big deal about the “disappearing shift lever’’ on their up-coming 2021 F-Series pickup, which frees up centre console space. Ram has just got rid of the shift lever entirely. There’s no reason for one any more; Ram’s rotating knob on the dash is both handier and less in the way.
My unit was a “Quad Cab”, with two small-ish rear doors and a three-seat rear bench, but limited rear legroom. If your “crew” has long legs, opt for the aptly-named “Crew Cab”, which has 25 more cm back there.
The rear seat cushions flip up to give you floor-to-ceiling lockable carrying capacity. Perhaps Ram’s most clever party trick is the optional “multi-function tailgate”.
Lift up the conventional release handle, and let it glide down. It’s damped, y’see. But if you push down on a bar below that handle, the tailgate opens like an asymmetrical pair of side-hinged barn doors, with a 60/40 split.
This gives you easier access to the farthest reaches of the box. A pull-out step allows you to climb right up into the box.
These doors are a $1,095 hit, but also require you to opt for the $650 spray-in bed liner, which you’d probably want anyway. One trick with this option – close the smaller right barn door first.
Otherwise, you’ll bang the left bit into the right bit. Don’t ask…Pickup trucks are among the most complex vehicles in the business. Pages of options allow you to configure the truck exactly how you want it. I’ve barely scratched the surface here.
Pickups are also among the most brand-loyal segments. However, during this COVID-19 pandemic, Ram has worked its way into second place in Canadian pickup sales (also overall vehicle sales) next only to F-Series.
After my time in the Ram 1500 Rebel, I’m not the least bit surprised.