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2018 Ram 1500 Review

Toby Hagon’s 2018 Ram 1500 Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In a nutshell: It’s a big American truck but with a smaller body than the Ram 2500s and 3500s that have been offered until now as part of factory-approved right-hand drive conversions. Priced from $79,950 drive-away it has the size and grunt to fill the gap between the top-end utes and the big bangers from America.

2018 Ram 1500 Specifications

Price From $79,950 drive away Warranty 3 years, 100,000km Service Intervals 12 months/12,000km Safety Not rated Engine 5.7-litre V8 petrol Power 291kW at 5600rpm Torque 556Nm at 3950rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive four-wheel drive Dimensions 5817mm (L); 2017mm (W); 1924mm (H, Express), 1917mm (H, Laramie) Ground Clearance 235mm Angles 15.2 degrees (approach), 23.7 degrees (departure), 17.1 degrees (ramp over) Towing 3500kg-4500kg Towball Download 350-450kg GVM 3450kg GCM 7237kg (with 4500kg tow capacity), 6261kg (with 3500kg tow capacity) Boot Space NA Spare Full-sized tyre with steel wheel Fuel Tank 121L (Express), 98L (Laramie) Thirst 9.9L/100km (tall axle ratio), 12.2L/100km (shorter axle ratio)

A local conversion the smaller, more affordable Ram 1500 provides more depth to the top end of the ute market.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost?

Ram has long been offering the 2500 and 3500 in Australia, converted locally by the Walkinshaw Group, which also looks after HSV. But the 1500 provides a lower price point and a (slightly) smaller body, giving it a significant point of difference for those who don’t need a full blown truck.

There are two main 1500 trim levels – Express and Laramie. The entry-level Express (from $79,950 drive-away) has a smaller cabin than the Laramie with shorter rear doors. It trades back seat space for a larger load area, the tray longer for larger items. Think of it as the Ram workhorse, made for those who want the ability with less of the luxury. That also shows in the list of equipment, which starts with a modest 5.0-inch touchscreen and basic cloth trim. The ventilation system is manually-operated, as is the adjustment of the front seats. There are rear parking sensors but no reversing camera, something that really should be standard on an $80K car of this heft.

2018 RAM 1500 Review

However, it does come with tyre pressure sensors, something that could save a slowly deflating tyre. Along with all 1500s, there’s also a 4500kg towing kit complete with seven-pin wiring harness.

Take the circa-$25K jump to the Laramie (from $99,950 plus on-road costs) and it’s a very different beast. The longer cabin eats into the load area, but it means more leg room for back seat passengers. The Laramie is the one aimed at families and those wanting more of a lifestyle machine.

As well as climate control settings for the air-conditioning there’s also an 8.4-inch touchscreen with more menus and features. Sat-nav is included, for example, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. Other extras include a sunroof, leather trim, electric front seats, smart key entry with push button start, rain-sensing wipers and parking sensors front and rear. Plus, it gets a reversing camera as well as a brake control system for the tow kit.

What’s the interior and practicality like?

Getting inside a Ram requires some basic climbing skills, because it’s a fair way up. The standard side skirts come in handy there.

There are also grab handles on the pillars, helping lever your way in. Curiously, though, there are no overhead grab handles, something of a frustration if your driver enjoys corners – or if you just want something to grab.

2018 RAM 1500 Review
RAM 1500 Express interior

Once there, everything is B-I-G, from the easily visible bonnet that houses a sizeable V8 to the broad dash that incorporates two gloveboxes. Even the digital speedo that can be dialled up in the instrument cluster is easily legible and the sunvisors do a terrific job of blocking unwanted glare from any direction.

That size translates to a spacious cabin that will easily accommodate five adults, the two up front split by a deep, broad centre console. The car’s broad shoulders make it easy to get three big bums across the rear.

And those in the rear of the Laramie get great legroom and comfortable seats (the Express compromises noticeably on legroom and doesn’t have the 60/40 split-fold back seat functionality of the Laramie).

2018 RAM 1500 Review
RAM 1500 Laramie interior

The 400-odd parts fitted as part of the conversion to right-hand drive generally blend beautifully with the original parts from the factory, albeit with some oversights.

The aerial, for example, is on the driver’s side, and the mirrors poke put of their surrounds as part of tweaks to ensure they adjust to the right angle with the driver on the other side of the vehicle. Oh, and one exception to the neat conversion is the shroud around the base of the windscreen wipers; new plastic cutouts don’t quite match the colours of the original and there are some clumsy cuts.

With the exception of the dash top and some other finishes, many of the plastics have a hard, scratchy finish and there’s the occasional hiccup with how they match together (the centre speaker on the two cars we drove had some off gaps, for example). But the seats are otherwise welcoming and the plethora of space appreciated.

It’s also well endowed with storage areas, starting with the enormous binnacle ahead of the even larger centre console on the Laramie (the Express gets a more basic centre console and misses out on some of that storage). It includes a nifty rubber groove that holds two smartphones. Just about anywhere else you look there are small holes and notches to swallow any odds and ends. That thoughtfulness continues to the load area, which can accommodate a pallet.

2018 RAM 1500 Review

The base and sides of the load area have a hardy rubber finish. And for those chasing more storage one of the innovative options is called RamBox (a $4500 option). It includes new side panels with top-mounted lockable doors that allow storage in waterproof containers that flow around the wheel arches. They’re terrific for people wanting to keep things out of sight or those looking to contain items (be it beach gear or off-road recovery gear) to a separate area. They could even double as ice boxes, albeit without decent insulation.

Other options include load separators for the sizeable tray. One negative, though, is the relatively low payload. Despite its big tow capacity and massive tray, the Express is only rated to take 845kg, the Laramie just 800kg. By the time you’ve got people and their luggage on board the amount you could carry in the tray could easily drop below half a tonne.

What are the controls and infotainment like?

The main interaction with the Ram 1500 is through the infotainment screen on the dash; we only used the 8.4-inch unit in the Laramie, which has loads more functionality than the smaller screen in the Express. The UConnect system has a logical spread of main menu buttons along its bottom edge, allowing you to easily toggle between, say, navigation, radio and settings. Combined with a clear display it makes for easy use of the infotainment system.

2018 RAM 1500 Review
8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system

The 10-speaker Alpine sound system in the Laramie isn’t bad, either, with decent bass and lots of noise.

Ventilation controls include a mix of buttons and dials, making it easy to divert air where you want it. And the steering wheel will be familiar to Jeep owners, complete with audio buttons on the back. On its face are the cruise control buttons, including gearshift buttons to allow changes while cruising, something that could come in handy when towing.

The Express misses out on plenty of functionality and only gets a 5.0-inch screen, which looks tiny hidden in the vast dash.

What’s the performance like?

The Ram 1500 looks the business on paper courtesy of its 5.7-litre Hemi V8. Whereas utes are predominantly diesel-fed, for now the Ram 1500 is exclusively powered by petrol (late in 2018 a diesel variant will join the range but it will be more expensive than the petrol V8).

Its 291kW of power makes far more powerful than any of the traditional utes. It’s backed up by 556Nm. But it’s also tasked with shifting 2.6 tonnes worth of vehicle, around half a tonne more than the smaller diesel-fuelled utes.

2018 RAM 1500 Review

From a standstill, though, it’s relatively lively, dashing to 100km/h in about 7.8 seconds. While the engine revs out cleanly, it’s more at home in its middle engine revs, around 3000 or 4000rpm. At 100km/h on a country road it relies on even lower revs, the tallest of the eight gears allowing relaxed cruising at around 1700rpm.

No surprises it’s not particularly frugal, slurping a claimed average of 12.2 litres per 100km. If you start enjoying the burble of the V8 engine when it’s under load you can expect to use more. However, beneath the hulking grille there are some active aerodynamics working to reduce highway fuel use. Shutters ahead of the radiator open and close depending on the external temperature and how the car is being driven; much of the time they’ll be closed, diverting air around the car for a (slightly) more aerodynamic result.

For those buying the Laramie, though, there is another fuel-saving antidote: it’s available with a choice of final drive ratios. You can either go for the shorter 3.92:1 ratio, which relates to the car discussed above. Or you can opt for a 3.21:1 ratio, the taller ratio allowing lower revs in each gear. While that 3.21 axle ratio takes the edge off performance – it adds 0.3 seconds to the 0-100km/h dash – it comes with an associated fuel consumption benefit.

Claimed fuel use drops to 9.9L/100km, albeit with the same caveats as above – drive aggressively and you’ll easily surpass that. The taller ratio also drops the tow capacity by one tonne, from 4500kg to 3500kg. For everyday driving, though, the taller ratio doesn’t bring a big performance penalty, making the lower fuel use a tempting proposition for those who don’t need to lug (really) heavy things.

What’s it like on the road?

Under way, there’s no escaping the size of a Ram, something that means you’ll need more room for turning and manoeuvring. Looking out over the bonnet reinforces that. But its on-road manners are surprisingly tame, aided by sizeable 20-inch tyres that have respectable grip.

Push on and it behaves well enough, ultimately leaning on its front tyres if you wind the pace up too much. The steering is very light but it’s surprisingly accurate, helping with brisk responses.

2018 RAM 1500 Review

Whereas most utes employ a rugged leaf spring rear-end, the Ram 1500 uses coil springs, something that helps with those composed manners. There’s some mild jiggling over moderate bumps, but with big dips or potholes it disposes of them beautifully.

Nosie levels are also generally good, although through bends the driver’s door could occasionally flex, allowing extra wind noise.

What’s it like off the road?

Our off-road driving was limited to a muddy paddock with some moderate inclines. Not enough to give a definitive assessment of how the car will perform, but sufficient to realise its above-average ground clearance (there’s 249mm at the front axle and 235mm at the rear) will allow some decent adventuring.

It pays to be wary of the overhangs, though, particularly up front. The chunky lower bumper could easily get snagged if you’re in rocky or undulating terrain. Off-road performance will also vary depending on whether you’re in the Express or Laramie.

2018 RAM 1500 Review

The Express gets some different hardware underneath. There’s a larger fuel tank, for example, (at 121 litres it promises a near-1000km cruising range) and a part time four-wheel drive system. Despite sharing its basic structure with the Laramie, the Express also gets a larger turning circle (13.9m versus 12.1m), something that could reduce manoeuvrability in off-road situations. The Laramie, meanwhile, gets a dual-range four-wheel drive system that allows it to run in four-wheel drive on sealed surfaces. That’s handy for those times when you’re regularly transitioning between hard and loose terrain.

Does it have a spare?

Yes, there’s a full-sized spare tyre tucked underneath the tray. It doesn’t match the flashy alloy wheels fitted to the car, but at least gives you the peace of mind of knowing you’ll have the same rubber under foot if you do get a puncture.

Can you tow with it?

You bet. Towing is a big part of the Ram 1500 sales pitch. Whereas the utes Australians typically gravitate to top out at 3500kg, the 1500 can lug up to 4500kg. However, that can only be done in the Express or the Laramie with the shorter final drive ratio.

If you choose the taller axle ratio in a Laramie you’re limited to 3500kg. Either way, all 1500s come with a standard tow ball and seven-pin electrical plug. The Laramies also get an electronic brake controller, which is nicely integrated into the dash (it’s not ideal it’s on the passenger side, one of the few things not to be swapped in the conversion to right-hand drive).

What about ownership?

The Ram comes with a three-year, 100,000km warranty and there’s roadside assistance over the same period. However, there’s no capped price servicing – something commonplace across the industry – and service intervals of 12,000km (remember, it’s an American car, so set up for 7500-mile checks) means high usage owners will fall well short of the 12-month time limit between check-ups.

What safety features does it have?

Front and side airbag protection is standard in the front and rear seats of the Ram. There’s also the stability control and traction control systems that are mandatory for all new vehicles. However, it has not been independent crash tested by ANCAP, so no rating. And its lack of auto emergency braking – among other active safety systems – means it would not be eligible for the maximum five-star rating.

2018 RAM 1500 Review

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Practical Motoring Says A solid, sizeable middle ground between the better-equipped smaller utes and the hulking American big hitters. Size is a big part of its appeal, though, with the Express light-on for features and the Laramie stretching in to six figures.

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Toby Hagon

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.