2017 Ram 2500 Laramie Review
Robert Pepper’s 2017 Ram 2500 Laramie Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: A big ute for big jobs.
2017 Ram 2500 Laramie
Pricing$139,500+ onroad costsWarranty3 years, 100,000kmEngine6.7-litre 6-cyl turbocharged dieselPower/Torque276kW at 2800rpm; 1084Nm at 1600rpmBody6030mm (L); 1974mm (W); 2009mm (H)Wheelbase3797mmTare weight3577kgSparefull-sized alloyBrakesdisc front/rearTowing750kgunbraked; 6989kg braked (detail below)Transmission6 speed automatic with tow mode and exhaust brake; Drive: part-time 4WD with low range, rear LSD and traction controlTurning circle13.38mSeats6Wading depth700mmApproach/Ramp/Departure angles21.8/18.2/22.3 degreesSuspensionlive front axle with coils, live rear axle with coilsGround clearance218mmCrawl ratio29:1Fuel tank: 117LFuel: dieselFuel consumptionnot stated, refer test below
THE RAM 2500 IS a big American uteconverted by RAM Trucks Australia to become a right-hand drive ute. We’re all familiar withthe Navara/Ranger/Triton/HiLux class vehicles, so we’ll call those the “small utes” and relate how the Ram compares. Here’s some comparative stats:
|Spec \ vehicle||Ford Ranger PX2 Wildtrak dualcab||Toyota LC200 Sahara diesel||Ram 2500|
|Body||Dualcab ute||Wagon||Dualcab ute|
|Price (excl onroads)||$60,090||$118,216||$139,500|
|Engine||3.2L 5cyl diesel||4.5L V8 diesel||6.7L 6cyl diesel|
|Ground clearance (mm)||230||225||218|
|Approach/ramp/dept angle (deg)||29 / 21 / 25||32 / 21 / 34||21.8 / 18.2 / 22.3|
|Turning circle (m)||12.7||11.8||13.38|
|Tare weight (kg)||2250||2740||3577|
|Max braked tow||3500||3500||6989|
What is it?
RAM Trucks Australia is a joint venture betweenWalkinshaw Engineering – of HSV and other performance car fame – and Ateco, with support from the original manufacturers, Dodge. However, the Dodge branding is not used in Australia, or even the USA for that matter.
There are several RAMvehiclesin the USA, but over here we have a choice of one with two different suspension and GVM levels. The 2500 is coil/live axle front and rear with a GVM of 4495kg so it can be driven on a car license and has a payload of 913kg. The 3500 is identical except it has a 5309kg GVM so you need a light truck license, and it has rear leaf springs with a payload of 1713kg.
Our tester is the 2500, and we had it for two weeks during which we did some offroad work, around town driving, long-distance driving and a lot of towing.
What about the design?
I picked up the RAM and ran a few errands in it before arriving at a favourite cafe for a Fat Mick burger. The guy behind the counter had noticed me arrive and asked if I was on Blackburn Road earlier. Yes, was the answer – and that shows how much of a statement the Ram makes. It’s unmissable, not just because of the sheer size but also the styling which is typical USA-style in-yo-face chrome.
Some will dig into their tired old bag of cliches and say people only own these trucks for the looks or compensation for deficiency in a certain bodily area, but I don’t agree with that at all. I think the looks thing was true of the Hummer H3 a few years back, but from what I can see the owners of trucks like the RAM 2500 and 3500 buy them because they need morecapabilitythan a small ute.
The trucks are shipped direct from the Ram factory to Australia where they are converted to right-hand drive over the course of a week. Several custom-built parts are required, and the process is supported by RAM in the USA. The conversion itself is a quality job and there’s no significant misplacements as a result – in fact, there are factory RHD vehicles that have bigger issues. The RAMsto be converted are made especially for Australia, and all the conversion parts have OEM part numbers so can be obtained anywhere in the world.
The RAM is a part-time 4WD vehicle with low range, just like the smaller utes, but there are several design differences to the norm; the 2500 is coil-sprung in the rear, has rear disc brakes and a front live axle.
Here’s a look at the rear running gear:
What’s it like inside?
You don’t want for space or features, and indeed the luxuries are up there with the likes of the Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series Sahara.
The steering wheel is tilt adjustable only, but like many American trucks, the pedals can be adjusted fore/aft. Both front seats are electric with several adjustment options, and two memory positions on the driver’s seat, although those buttons are inconveniently hidden from view like other Fiat-Chrysler products.
There’s several nice little features, such as a light on the underside of the bonnet, and the vehicle is a six-seater, although the first row centre seat is for smaller people. The gearshift is a stalk mount so it doesn’t get in the way. There’s a split glovebox, three padded drinks holders in the centre, a pull-out tray under the dash, two levels of door pockets, and a big centre storage system too. You don’t hurt for cubbyholes in this truck. And there’s plenty of electrical points too; USB and 12v in the dash, 220v in the dash, more USB and 12v in the centre console.
The rear seatback is fixed, but the seatbase is a 33/66 split and folds up, so you can create a nice flat load area.
On the passenger side there’s a storage compartment under the seat. Both front seats have storage pockets at the back, and there’s plenty of interior lighting.
The Ram is also pretty luxurious. The front seats are both heated and cooled, and even the steering wheel can be heated. Split climate control is actually useful given the size of the cab too. Both front windows are auto one touch up and down, but not therear. All controls are easy to use except for the parking brake which is foot-to-engage and hand-to-release. Given the size and weight of the truck a more substantial parkbrake should be fitted, and the unit on our test truck didn’t engage well.
However, the luxury has its limits. Unsurprisingly, there’s no sense of style like you’d get in the likes of a European sedan, but there’s no sense of disjointed design like you tend to see in Japanese vehicles either, so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts.Overall, the RAM has an unpretentious, spacious, practical and comfortable interior which is generally a nice place to be and I’d suggest more comfortable and feature-rich than any of the small utes.
The tub is huge for a dualcab ute, and the tailgate can be locked.There’s a tub camera and a tub light, unusual but welcome features, and the window on the back of the cab can be opened.
There’s just four tie-down points, none floor-level, but the tub is nicely coated with anti-slip. No bar to protect the back of the cab though.
WHAT’S THE COMMUNICATIONS AND INFOTAINMENT SYSTEM LIKE?
The RAM has a good infotainment unit that will be familiar to Chrysler/Jeep owners. It’s big, clear, easy to use and feature-rich.
Voice recognition works well, there’s satnav, music options, and easy to find setup. Some controls are duplicated as buttons, and that’s good as touchscreens can be hard to use.
There’s a huge range of information on the driver’s display, more than any other vehicle I’ve ever tested. Even better, the display always displays basics such as the temperature, range, heading and fuel consumption regardless of which of the many information sub-displays you have on screen. It’s easy to flick between displays, and there’s a big digital speedo for people that like those things.
Performance, ride and handling
Under the bonnetwe have a 6.7-litre Cummins turbodiesel developing 276kW of power and 1084Nm of torque connected to a six-speed automatic gearbox and a part-time 4WD system with low range. Suspension on our 2500 tester is coils and live axles front and rear. The suspension tune is slightly different for Australia; as steering components had to be relocated from left to right the front swaybar (anti-roll bar) also had to be redesigned and it is a little less stiff as a result. Local engineers claim it is an improvement over stock.
The RAM, like most American trucks, has a few little features we don’t find on normal utes and an automatic transfer case with neutral for towing is one of them. There are also a variety of towing systems which are explained in the towing section below.
The RAM has the usual brake traction control, engine traction control and stability control (explanation here). When 4WD is engaged you can disable stability and engine traction control, but brake traction control happily remains active in both high and low range, so you’ve got the traction assists you need but not the ones that get in the way. The transfer case ratio is 2.64:1 and the crawl ratio is 29:1.
There is a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) that insists that the tyres be inflated to 4.4 and 5.5 bar, which is 64 and 80 psi. That is far too high especially as the max-inflate on the tyres, the never-exceed pressure, is 80psi for 1600kg load.Tyres are 265/70/18 which equate to an overall diameter of 32.6 inches, and the wheels are 8-stud.
The RAM runs 20L of AdBlue for diesel emissions purposes, and on the dash there’s even a gauge marked DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid).
The first thing you need to fix is those crazy tyre pressures. I dropped them to 52psi front and 60 rear, and the vehicle rode much better unloaded, but I didn’t see a way to stop the TPMS whinging about it. As you’d expect from a vehicle that’s over half a metre longer and around 140mm wider than a Ranger, the RAM is not exactly your first choice for a run to the local shops. The turning circle at 13.38m is 0.7m more than the Ranger.
So the vehicle is big, but it does as well as it can in tight spaces thanks to front and rear parking sensors, plus a good reversing camera. You need the front sensors as when parallel parking (yes, it is possible) most cars can entirely disappear from sight under the huge bonnet. So it’s also good that the throttle is easy to control at low speeds, delivering the engine’s tremendous grunt smoothly, and the steering is always easy. The one criticism at low speeds is the smallish mirrors which have too narrow a viewpoint.
Despite the fact you have nearly 1100Nm of torque, delivery is progressively smooth, and any errant wheelspin is briskly controlled by the electronics with no loss of momentum. But the size of the vehicle means that it’s easy not to see cyclists, motorbikes and cars like MX-5s on your left side; again, bigger, better mirrors would help.
One surprise to many drivers will be that the Ram is surprisingly nimble, thanks to fairly direct and fast steering and a responsive throttle. It’s not car-like, but the handling is a lot closer to the better small utes than you’d expect. The ride is a long way off a roadcar, but it’s not harsh by ute standards.
A neat trick is the remote start, fire up the engine as you’re walking towards the vehicle. I’m not sure why you’d want to do this in Australia, but you can, so while the RAM was parked next to a cafe I lurked in the shadows and started the engine whenever people began to inspect the truck. The vehicle has a keyless entry system too.
And the RAM is the only vehicle I’ve ever driven that I’ve actually used the sidestep on, although it would definitely need to be pulled off for any serious offroad work. The RAM is actually taller, stock standard, than my PX Ranger with a 2-inch lift and slightly taller tyres.
The RAM is an easy cruiser. You’ve got the height to see anywhere, more torque than you’d ever want, and more luxo features than average. The steering is more direct than you’d think, better than some smaller utes, so you’re not making constant, small corrections. The 2500 has a coil-sprung rear so itdoesn’t suffer from the handling issues associated with leaf springs such as spring twist leading to a dancing back end once the pressures are under control. You can hustle the big RAM along nicely indeed, and it’s even fun to do so. The exhaust brake can be engaged even though you’re not towing, as can the tow/haul mode although the latter makes no useful difference without a load. The luxury features start to be appreciated too. Cooled seats on a 40-plus degree day are a bonus.
You need to engage the part-time 4WD system to effectively drive the RAM on dirt roads. Once that’s done, the truck can put its considerable power to the ground and you’re away.Several points help the RAM cruise comfortably on dirt; tall tyres, heavy weight, long wheelbase so you’re not bounced around as much as a smaller vehicle. The stability control is not particularly intrusive in 4WD mode. You could definitely cruise long distances on dirt in comfort.
With a vehicle the size of the RAM we need to separate its actual offroad capability from its real-world capability. For example, a Unimog is great offroad but doesn’t fit down many 4WD tracks unless you feel like widening them as you go, so it’s real-world effectiveness as a tourer is limited. To a lesser degree the same is true of the RAM.
My assessment is that once modified with tyres and suspension the RAM would go almost everywhere a normal ute would go, but you’ll be hampered in tight tracks by the length, width and turning circle so best not be too precious about the paintwork. Progress will sometimes be slower as a result. I’d be putting brush guards on it if I owned one, and also a good quality clear vinyl wrap.
We tried a couple of tight tracks which in the Ranger just require care, but in the Ram it was out of the car, looking at clearances and snapping off branches.
So onto the actual offroad capability.The suspension isn’t particularly long-travel given the width of the vehicle and the live/coil design, but it’s enough and is supple over ruts, even unloaded – the length of the car helps too, and you find that where other cars have dug out diagonal ruts the Ram with its longer wheelbase – over half a metre longer than the Ranger – never hasdiagonalwheels in the holes at the same time.
There’s no factory-fit cross-axle locking differential, but there is a mechanical LSD in the rear and the brake traction control is highly effective,especiallyas both engine traction control and stability control are disabled in low range, as they should be. You can get the thing cross-axled – diagonal wheels in deep ruts – on a steepish, shaley slope and it’ll still pull forwards without too much drama. That’s the sort of capability you need. The low-speed throttle response is excellent, allowing inch-by-inch progress.
One improvement would be to the transmission selection system, which is a maximum-select system. When you select say third-gear the vehicle will use gears 1 to 3 inclusive, not lock in third. This is how Toyota design their vehicles, but they put in a button to force a second-gear start if needs be. Ram hasn’t done that, so a bit more control over the gears would be ideal as you don’t want the vehicle downshifting of its own accord, and it’d be good to start off in second or third low when needed.
Other improvements; there is no electronic hill descent control, something of an omission these days and the crawl ratio is only 29:1. Yes, there’s a big diesel for compression braking but given that the GVM is nearly 4500kg you’d want a bit lower than on offer, and the parkbrake really needs to be a heavier duty unit. The groundclearanceis also a bit low at 218mm due to the gigantic differential housing even though it has large 32.6-inch tyres. On the plus side, as the truck is designed with a GCM of over 11 tonnes (see towing below) even the most abusive driver shouldn’t be snapping driveline components.
Overall, the RAM has some real offroad capability, not as good as but comparable to the smaller utes,but it definitely needs even larger tyres and a lift to compensate for its very long wheelbase, and you need not to be shy in tighter tracks.
This section deals with a lot of towing facts and figures. If you’re not up on your GCM or GVM, then read Everything You Need to Know about Towing Heavy Trailers. As usual, let’s start off with the numbers.
The RAM2500 has a tare weight of about 3500kg, is rated to tow 6,989kg and has a GVM (gross vehicle mass) of 4490kg with a GCM (gross combination mass) of 11,479kg.
To put that inperspective, the Ranger PX2 has a tare of about 2250kg, is rated to tow 3500kg, and has a GCM of 6000kg which is about average for a small ute. So the RAM’snumbers are impressive, but we need to get into some detail to understand why that’s important.
First up, the GVM is 4490kg so you can drive the RAM 2500 on a car license; anything over 4500kg requires a light-truck license. The RAM 3500 has a 5309kg GVM, but it’s basically the same vehicle – the differences are explained below in Pricing and Range. Now because the 2500’s GVM is effectively de-rated, that means it’s nicely over-engineered. The maximum front axle load is 2609kg and rear axle is 3176kg which total 5785kg, well in excess of the 4490kg GVM. If we divide that GVM of 4490kg in two for a front/rear split we get a nominal front/rear split 2245kg, so the front axle maximum load of 2609kg is 364kg over what it is likely to be at GVM, and the rear 931kg over, assuming an equal front/rear split.
This means that you’re unlikely to overload either front or rear axle,whereas small utes are pretty much at front-axle load limit or beyond once you put a bullbar and winch on. Indeed, Toyota actually up-rated the front axle load limit in the latest HiLux and I suspect that was one of the reasons.
It’s also noticeable on the RAM how far back the rear axle is relative to the tub. Small utes have their rear axle too far forwards to properly distribute load, and the problem is worsened by service bodies and trays which extend well past the rear axle. Look at this:
And compare that to these two:
Then we come to the GCM. Happily, 4490kg GVM plus the 6989kg max tow weight equals 11479kg, which also happens to be the GCM. That means you can load the RAM to its maximum capacity of 4490kg, tow nearly 7 tonnes, and be within limits. Again, most small utes are misleading when it comes to max towing capacity. The Ranger PX2 for example, cannot tow 3500kg unless you reduce payload to a miserable 300kg or so as its GVM plus max braked tow is well below its GCM. More on that here.
However, most people won’t want to tow over 6 tonnes. The good news is that if you tow around the 2500-3500kg mark then the Ram is laughing as it’s so far within its capabilities you get a very easy, comfortable and safe tow. As a real-world example, with a 3500kg trailer on the back, and the Ram fully loaded you’re looking at 4490kg + 3500kg = 7990kg, which is around 3500kg below the GCM. That’s a decent safety margin.
So the short story with the numbers is that if you’re looking at trailers around 3000kg the Ram is exactly what you want, and with the right setup it’ll go up to nearly 7 tonnes.
Now for some of its towing equipment. The RAM has an exhaust brake, and a tow/haul mode for the engine and transmission. An electric brake controller is standard. The sensitivity is set via buttons not the touchscreen, and it can be manually controlled.
There are three different types of hitch and two receivers. The standard tow hitch we’re all used to is a 50mm ball which is rated to 3500kg. A 70mm ball is the same concept but larger, and rated to 4500kg. A pintle is a closed-loop hook and rated up to whatever that particular pintle is rated for. You’ll see them on big trucks, military vehicles and bigger vehicles like the RAM.
The RAM’stow hitch takes a 70mm tongue, and an adapter is supplied to accept the smaller 50mm tongue.
Maximum towball masses are 350kg for a 50mm ball, 450kg for a 70mm ball and 690kg for the pintle. Even at 690kg the RAM is within limits; the payload is 913kg so 913-690 = 223kg, not much payload but still able to pull even that massive load. The rear axle load is 3176kg, so even allowing for half the vehicle’s tare mass (1750kg) there’s still capacity left over: 3176kg – 1750kg – 650kg = 776kg.
How it tows
We did a fair bit of towing with the RAM. The first load was a 2400kg single-axle Elite Goulburn which I also towed behind my Ranger PX 3.2L, both on and offroad, then a Cat 303 excavator on a trailer which totaled 4 tonnes, and that was also towed both on and offroad.
The RAM performed as you’d expect from the figures above; impressively easily. With more than double the Ranger’s torque but only about a tonne more car weight, power and torque were never an issue. The long wheelbase, heavy weight and relatively short rear overhang meant the trailers were kept under control around corners and when braking. Braking was easy; the exhaust brake helped a great deal, and the tow/haul mode does a beautiful job of changing down as you lose speed, so all the brakes ever need is a light touch.You’re also up high so you can see well ahead.
However, the RAM is not perfect and the biggest criticism is the mirrors. RAM need to take a leaf out of Ford’s book and equip the vehicle with proper towing mirrors that incorporate dual mirrors like you find on the F-250, and preferably ones that convert to/from tow mirrors electrically by moving in and out. The mirrors as fitted are too small for the RAM even without a trailer and with one they’re bordering on dangerous. For the money you pay decent mirrors should be fitted. At least there’s an easy aftermarket fix with a range of mirrors available.
The second criticism is the fuel tank which is only 117L. Now while RAM don’t publish fuel consumption figures because there’s no law that says they must either in the USA or here, I can tell you that unloaded you’re looking at around 12-15L/100km and once you tow something reasonably heavy you’re easily heading towards 20 and beyond so your range will be in the order of a paltry 500km. However, again you can fix that with an aftermarket replacement tank. This is a typical American vehicle problem.
A less important point is the brake controller which is not designed for offroad use. The gain is adjusted using buttons and that takes far too long to go from minimum to maximum, as you’d do when tackling a steep ascent followed by a steep descent. For onroad use it’s fine.
And while the reversing camera is not bad, competitor vehicles have a nice little guidance line showing where the towball will go, but the RAM doesn’t.
You also need to be aware the RAM is 2WD. It does a good job of putting power to the ground most of the time, as any wheelspin is quickly quelled, and the lovely throttle response makes it easy to pull away. That said, there was a little wheelspin with the Cat on the back pulling away in a straight line on hot, dry bitumen so it’d be nice to have an all-wheel-drive system like Ford has in its latest Raptor.
I’ve said before that despite ratings, the current crop of normal utes shouldn’t be used for towing more than around 2500-2800kg, regardless of the rating the numbers-obsessedmarketing people make the engineers slap on it. If that’s the sort of load you want to pull, then you owe it to yourself and anyone else in thevicinityto do the job properly and get yourself a truck like this which is just a whole new level of towing capability. This truck will tow 4000kg like a Ranger tows 2000kg, and you’ll be very glad of the difference come that rainy, dark night when you’ve got country miles to do on a winding road.
What about safety features?
As you’d expect, there’s no safety rating but you are in a 3500kg plus vehicle that’s nearly 2m tall. You do get the usual airbags; both front, side and supplementary. Stability control and trailer stability control is standard, as is a TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system). There is no advanced safety tech such as blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist orautonomousbraking. There are three child restraint points in the second row.
The reversing camera is quite good, with moveable guidelines, a large, high-quality screen and visibility of the towball.
Pricing and range
There are two RAM variants in Australia, the 2500 and 3500. The engine, drivetrain and trim are identical. We get only the Laramie trim here which is pretty much the top spec out of the five or so versions available in the USA. I would lean towards the 3500 as 913kg of payload is not a huge amount for a ute, particuarly a large one like this, and a light-truck license is very easy to obtain. If you’re going 4WD touring once you add tyres, bar, winch, snorkel and all the rest you’ll eat into that 913kg very quickly indeed. However, the leaf rear end is not going to handle as well as the coil version although exactly what the difference will be I cannot say as I’ve yet to drive a leaf version.
- Ram 2500 – $139,500+ORC
- Ram 3500 – $146,500+ORC
Key features, excluding bling:
- Heated and cooled seats;
- Heated steering wheel;
- 220v socket;
- 6 seats;
- Towbar (50 and 70mm) hitch with adaptor and 7-flat pin;
- Rear LSD;
- Climate control;
- Exhaust brake;
- Tow/haul mode;
- Electric brake controller;
- Keyless entry;
- Rear view camera;
- Front and rear parking sensors;
- Tyre pressure monitoring system;
- Trailer stability control;
- Remote engine start; and
- 3-year Australia-wide warranty.
Why would you buy one?
There are several reasons to own a truck this big. First, if you intend to tow trailers above about 2500kg in conditions such as country roads, dirt roads or for long distances then I strongly recommend you consider a big truck and not a normal ute.
Then there’s the sheer space; fit a service body on the back and you couldn’t want for more space if you intend to tour, and you can do so in some luxury. Australia has seen enough small utes with broken chassis through overloading; buy one of these and use a truck designed for the job, it’ll be safer and cheaper in the long run.
The Ram could work as a 4WD tourer, provided you put bigger tyres on it and a lift – I’d be looking at 34-inch tyres (50mm increase) and at least a 50mm lift which in most states is permitted. You would then have sufficient offroad capability to tackle any track in the Victorian High Country, but you would be hampered by size on many occasions – this truck is 150mm wider than a Ranger and over half a metre longer – so best not be precious about the paintwork or minor panel damage. You could even look at forgetting about buying a camper trailer or caravan and just fitting out a RAM instead.
There are other American big-truck options too, notably the Ford F-250 and Chevy Silverado which I’ve recently tested. Out of those two and the RAM there’s no perfect option; the Ford has the best tech, mirrors, gearing and hook setup, but it’s on-road handling was below par, particularly the very ordinary steering although I’m told that will be fixed in the next model year. The Silverado handled well but didn’t control the bigger trailers quite as nicely.
If on the other hand your needs don’t require something the size of a RAM then the disadavantages and cost should see you remain in a smaller ute. But it’s always nice to have extra capacity, just in case.
Click any image to start the Ram photo gallery: