Pick-up trucks are the latest vehicles to go full luxury.
They can come with all sorts of bells and whistles these days, from comfort and convenience features like ventilated leather seats and huge infotainment touchscreens to towing add-ons that make trailering far easier. As a result, increasingly often they can price out at $80,000 or more.
Given that the new 2019 Ram 1500 has a starting price of $45,340 (all prices are shown with freight charges) – and that’s for a front-wheel drive, quad-cab Tradesman model with the Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 since the regular cab has been dropped from the latest generation entirely – the hard-working folks who just need a basic, affordable pick-up would be forgiven for feeling left out in the cold.
Several other brands are bridging this gap by shoring up their mid-size truck line-ups, the most recent being Ford with its re-introduction of the Ranger to the North American market. It could be theorized that the Jeep Gladiator would occupy that space for FCA, Ram’s parent company, but any Gladiators that are sold won’t show up on Ram’s ledgers.
Still, even if Ram is thinking about reviving the Dakota any time soon, the brand’s not showing its hand.
“We’re looking at the mid-size program,” Jim Morrison, Head of Ram Brand for North America, told Wheels.ca before declining to elaborate further.
Instead, Ram is keeping the previous-generation 1500 in production for the foreseeable future and is selling it under the name Ram 1500 Classic, in much the same way as the Dodge Grand Caravan is still being built alongside the higher-priced Chrysler Pacifica. This allows the company to keep lower-priced trucks in its line-up such as the regular-cab, front-wheel drive 1500 Classic Tradesman, which comes with a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 with cylinder deactivation and a six-speed automatic transmission and starts at $36,115.
A special edition called the Ram 1500 Classic Warlock is also going on sale shortly, which pulls forward a nameplate the brand used in the late 1970s. Based on the Classic’s SLT trim, which itself starts at $46,715 with the quad cab and $49,315 with the crew cab, the Warlock adds on a whole host of features: a black RAM-lettered grille, 20-inch semi-gloss black aluminum wheels, front and rear powder-coated bumpers, a factory lift of 2.5 cm, black wheel flares and badging, LED fog lamps and rear taillights, projector headlamps with dark bezels, tow hooks, unique hood decals, bedside Warlock decals, heavy duty rear shocks, and an available sport hood.
Diesel grey cloth upholstery is standard, as is ParkSense rear park assist and the Classic Luxury Group, which includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a 7-inch gauge cluster display, LED bed lighting, and power foldaway mirrors. Heated bench or bucket seats, an 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen with navigation, black side steps, and a spray-in bedliner are extra-cost add-ons.
Pricing starts at $53,610 with the V6 (rated at 305 hp/269 lb.-ft.) and $55,510 with the Hemi (395 hp/410 lb.-ft.), both 4×4 and paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Sales will start by the end of March.
While Classic production was initially kept online to fill in inventory while the new truck ramped up, today its departure date is less determinate.
“We’re still feeling it out, to be honest,” Morrison said. “It’s continuing to be a good part of the market for us, and looking after that entry-level buyer I think is important.
“It’s recognizing the value equation is important to some of our customers and we don’t want to alienate that.”
Morrison says that the Ram 1500 Classic Warlock could be a good fit for a truck buyer who might be considering a mid-size truck due to feeling priced out of the half-ton market.
“Looking at the affordability of what a mid can deliver, we’re actually doing some of that with the Warlock,” he said. “That’s going to be right in the same wheelhouse as some of the mid-size trucks from a price point perspective.”
Meanwhile, the people to whom the new Ram 1500 was designed to appeal – those with the desire and the budget to buy luxury vehicles but who really just wanted a truck all along – are showing up for it, according to Morrison.
“With Laramie Longhorn and our new Limited trim, it’s really helping bring new customers to the brand and, I think, even to the segment,” he said. “We’re seeing some luxury car or luxury SUV buyers that are drawn to the technology with the new 12-inch (infotainment) screen, with the safety technology from the 360 (degree) cameras through to blind spot (monitoring) and adaptive cruise control.
“Safety technology that was once only available on luxury cars and SUVs, we’re making that available to truck customers. It’s really helping grow the customer base for Ram.”
Morrison adds that this is a combination that Canadians specifically may have been anticipating for a long time. And he should know: he’s Canadian himself, hailing originally from Fredericton, N.B.
“Where I grew up, a two-foot snow storm was normal,” he said. “To have a truck to get through that and to be safe and sound with your family is extra important.”
“Add to that the fuel prices that have come down dramatically and stabilized, I think we’re going to see this cost-of-ownership benefit lean in favour of trucks for a long time.”
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