Exploring the Ram 1500 Express Crew Cab: A Competitor in the Dual Cab Ute Scene
In the landscape of dual cab utes, a notable trend emerges—the steady climb in pricing among top-tier models. With prices edging towards the $90,000 mark, the anticipation of the new Ford Ranger’s release adds fuel to this upward trajectory. However, amidst this trend, a contender surfaces: the Ram 1500 Express Crew Cab. Priced at $90,000, this older DS generation model stands as the most affordable Ram available. The question looms: is it a worthy contender against the Hilux, Ranger, Amarok, or even the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series?
Imported to Australia and reengineered to right-hand drive in Melbourne by the Walkinshaw Automotive Group, the Ram 1500 Express Crew Cab represents an alternative to the impending six-figure newer DT generation. The strategy mirrors that of Ram Trucks in the US—retaining the older DS classic alongside the latest DT model for the foreseeable future.
Visually, the DS generation retains a commanding presence with its 20-inch wheels, robust guards, and darkened features, towering over conventional Hilux or Ranger models at approximately 5.8 meters in length and 1990 millimeters in roof height. Its ground clearance of 218 millimeters ensures practical maneuverability even in most underground parking spaces.
At the core of the Ram 1500 lies the proven 5.7-liter HEMI V8 petrol engine, boasting identical outputs across both DS and DT generations—delivering 291 kilowatts and 566 Newton meters. Paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the fuel efficiency is officially rated at 12.2 liters per 100 kilometers, equating to around 1000 kilometers between refuels, albeit at a cost of approximately $250 with current fuel prices hovering near $2 per liter.
Beyond straight-line speed, the Ram 1500’s full-time four-wheel-drive system offers both high and low range ratios, amplifying its off-road capabilities. Inside, the DS generation maintains a spacious interior with segment-leading storage, dual-zone climate control, and commendable comfort for extended journeys. While lacking some luxury features found in higher models, it compensates with generous interior space and practicality.
The Walkinshaw remanufacturing process seamlessly adapts the 1500 to right-hand drive, nearly masking its American left-hand drive origins. Abundant storage compartments, a configurable middle console, and an 8.4-inch center screen controlled by Uconnect software contribute to a user-friendly interface. However, the absence of steering wheel-mounted controls and a slightly subpar reversing camera detract from its otherwise efficient infotainment system.
Safety features include six airbags, tire pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors, stability control, and four-wheel disc brakes, marking a step ahead for utes in this domain. The rear seat, an unusual luxury in the dual cab ute realm, offers ample space and comfort, accompanied by practical amenities like air vents and cup holders, albeit missing charging points or a center armrest.
Where the Ram 1500 distinguishes itself is in its tray area—a 170-centimeter long bed that offers not just ample length but also width, enhanced by four fixed and movable tie-down points, a customizable divider, integrated lighting, and the optional Ram Box—adding versatility to its cargo management capabilities.
On-road performance reflects its size, offering a broad perspective from the driver’s seat. Despite its dimensions, the steering feels light, providing adequate visibility and a comfortable ride on coil springs. The 5.7-liter engine’s torque delivery ensures smooth navigation through various driving conditions, with the 8-speed gearbox offering versatility in power delivery.
Towing remains a forte for the 1500, excelling in stability and power delivery even when approaching its impressive four and a half ton towing capacity. However, some equipment omissions, such as halogen headlights and a lack of modern safety driver aids, might concern prospective buyers.
Efficiency-wise, averaging 13.4 liters per hundred kilometers across varied conditions and payload testing, the 1500 demonstrates reasonable consumption considering its performance advantage. Warranty and servicing differ from standard dual cabs, with a shorter three-year, 100,000-kilometer warranty and servicing costs estimated at $112 for the initial three years or 36,000 kilometers.
In conclusion, the Ram 1500 DS generation may seem overkill for many Australian roads and consumers, especially given its size and price. Yet, against the pricier top-tier dual cab utes, it offers superior power, comfort, and versatility. For those already considering high-end models, the Ram 1500 presents a compelling option worth exploring further.