I know a rancher in Saskatchewan who spends the last two years of every decade making plans for his next pickup. He digs into the order guide and makes dealer visits. He knows his need very well: tow horse trailers, pull actual stumps and drive a big spread in winter, tossing out Cattle feed in -20C sunshine. When he buys a truck, it’s not a plaything.
If you are like Dale, one of the actual working people who needs a pickup (not a poseur), your next pickup is a very big deal, one that will more than likely cost you $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 or more, and one you will rely on to make a living and a life. I suppose all the macho advertising that is the essence of pickup marketing has an impact on buyers searching for a way to compensate for the smallness of their existence, but not so for guys like Dale.
Here’s the thing: I do not believe that some 350,000 Canadians each year need a full-size pickup for work, or even play. Canada has about 1 million trades workers and you cannot convince me that all of them every three years must have a new Ram or Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, or even a Nissan Titan or Toyota Tundra.
I’d wager that perhaps 20 per cent of all the full-size rigs sold each year are snapped up by people who want to drive an imposing beast that could easily squash the likes of a Toyota Prius or Chevrolet Bolt. Like a bug. Some dream of this, I think.
Personally, I have increasingly aggravated by traffic-hogging Rams and the like clogging up city streets and consuming parking lots so completely, it’s nearly impossible to squeeze into a space beside one.
New research also suggests that the explosion of truck sales in Canada has been very bad for the environment. Yes, they guzzle gas, but they also throw up all sorts of other pollutants – particulates, brake dust and the like – at a fantastic rate, one far exceeding that of a, well, a Prius or something like it.
Here’s the rub/s: the Dales of the world really do need their trucks. And despite my irritation at wrestling with trucks and SUVs in city traffic, I must confess an admiration for the engineering and design creativity. I also concede that there is something emotionally satisfying about dominating the road in, say, the new Ram Big Horn 4×4 Crew Cab 4×4 ($68,540 as tested).
For what it is, the reinvented Ram is a triumph. It has all the most modern electronic add-ons and aids, delivers a very quiet and composed ride, can tow tiny house, and the cab is the size of the Commodore Ballroom is loaded with tidy features (e.g., the Rambox cargo system in the bed’s shoulders and the RamBins in the floor). The spectacularly easy to use Uconnect 4C infotainment system is a lesson for the German luxury car makers, with its 12-inch touchscreen and utter simplicity of operation. The Ram people say its split-screen capability is ground-breaking and they are truthful here.
True, you need a step ladder to climb aboard and short people fall out rather than take a step to the ground — even though there is an available auto-leveling air suspension. But once you’ve boarded this Titanic, the view is spectacular and totally plush.
The Ram 1500 will tow up to 5,783 kilograms (12,750 pounds) and payload is rated at 1,043 kilograms kg (2,300 lb.) of payload. The eTorque mild hybrid system delivers improved fuel efficiency in both V-6 (standard) and V-8 configurations and you can also get a half-ton diesel 480 lb.-ft. of torque. I was truly surprised by the fuel economy of my V-6 tester.
When I was a kid, pickups were crude. Now they come with leather upholstery, heated seats all around, and a host of active safety and security systems – from adaptive cruise control to blind-spot monitoring. Ram says the new 1500 has “twice the interior storage capacity versus the competition.” That’s useful for an increasingly burly population.
If you must, Ram lets you dress up a Ram in Night Edition trim or a Rebel Black Appearance Group. There’s the Big Horn, the Longhorn and god knows what else. Yes, there is even a Tradesman model, if you can believe it.
Want 22-inch two-tone wheels? Sure. Want one painted in Hydro Blue? No problem. Quad cabs, crew cabs, long beds, short beds, 4×2, 4×4…
My take on the Ram is this: Fiat Chrysler has the best full-size pickup. It looks the part of a work truck, rides like a gigantic car, can do all the things you’d expect of a real truck. The storage systems are clever and the electronics are user-friendly.
Yes, a full-size pickup is for most Canadians an expression of gluttony or insecurity, or both. The Dales of our country are the exception, of course. That said, let’s give credit where its due: this Ram is excellent.
Base price: $52,545. As tested: $68,540.
Engine: 3.6-litre V-6 (305 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.2 city/9.7 hwy using regular fuel.