By Larry Printz
In an era when car companies would spend money on something lavish like a hood ornament, a leaping Ram was Dodge's radiator mascot on both cars and trucks.
As you no doubt realise, that's no longer the case.
Yet hood ornaments are useful for showing the driver where the hood ends. This is far superior from hearing where the hood ends when the front bumper hits something. Given aerodynamics dictate hoods that slope out of sight, away from the driver, many motorists parallel park using this method, which is why modern vehicles are loaded up with any number of pricey sensors to parent that from happening when an old fashioned ram hood ornament would serve the same function. Besides, a sensor can fall victim to an electronic glitch and stop working, or become encrusted in muck while the hood ornament always works, as well as serving double duty by marketing the brand in a visually succinct way.
And having split from Dodge nearly a decade ago, it's a pity that Ram pickup trucks don't have ram hood mascots, which would prove useful when parking as well as telegraph the brand.
One could argue the truck's style and personality markets its intentions and that's certainly true. Just drink in its massive, assertive grille and lower air intakes. If you don't care for it, you could opt for the Rebel or Laramie Limited, which sport different grilles. All are aggressive. So you have to wonder if any hood ornament could clearly announce this truck's dominance. Of course not. With styling like this, it should be named Arnold and have its advertising pitched at 98-pound weaklings with a complexion coarsened by sand kicked in their face and a demeanour stricken by feelings of inadequacy.
Yet coloring the 2017 Ram 1500 as a vehicle for milquetoasts or the mouth breathers that bully them is to be as shallow as the customers you pretend to know. For this pickup's style is more than a fashion statement; the Ram is a highly capable truck that's empowering to drive. Of course, how much personality your Ram possesses depends on which one you choose. Like most pickups, this rig has more personas than Sybil.
To start with, there are 11 different models (Tradesman Express SLT, HFE, Big Horn, Lone Star, Sport. Rebel, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn Limited), 12 paint colors (Red Pearl, Flame RedLuxury Brown, Black Forest Green, Blue Streak, True Blue, Bright Silver Metallic, Granite Crystal Metallic, Maximum Steel Metallic, Brilliant Black, Pearl White, and Bright White), five bed configurations (Regular Cab long bed, Regular Cab short bed, Quad Cab long bed, Crew Cab short bed, and Crew Cab long bed), three engine options (305-horsepower 3.6-litre V6, 395-horsepower 5.7-litre Hemi V8 and a 240-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 Diesel engine), and two drivelines (rear-wheel- or all-wheel-drive). And that's before you start with options. Thankfully, there's only one transmission: an eight-speed automatic.
While certain choices are easy to make, others can take more time. Consider so, when it comes your engine choice, with the V6's towing capacity of 4,170-7,470 pounds depending on model. In contrast, the Hemi clocks in at 6,760-10,360 pounds. And the diesel? It's the tweener of the bunch at 7,750-8,890 pounds depending on model, with stellar fuel economy.
Still, it's surprising how satisfying the new V6 is for lighter applications. Unless you're hauling something truly heavy, the V6 should provide all of the power you need. The new eight-speed shifts promptly and helps the V6 easily return or exceed its EPA mileage ratings. As you'd expect, the Hemi has noticeably more power, while the diesel furnishes the punch of the V6, with better fuel economy and more towing ability. While it may not be worth giving up the V6's or diesel's fuel economy, the Hemi provides the most satisfying combination of power and towing ability, as long as you're willing to pay at the pump.
Handling is better than expected, with electric power steering that proves to be quick and nicely weighted, although somewhat lacking in feel. The suspension is well controlled on road, yet compliant enough to remain comfortable in off-road situations or on construction sites. The Ram feels as capable and comfortable off-road as on. And an air suspension is available to ensure a buttery smooth ride.
The eight-speed transmission is controlled through an easy-to-use rotary knob mounted in the center of the instrument panel to the right of the steering wheel, along with buttons for the transfer case.
Complimenting the Ram's civilized attitude is a spacious cabin that runs the gamut from satisfying to opulent. High-end models get stitched leather trim and real walnut veneer, while lower trim models have plenty of soft surfaces and nicely textured plastics.
The center stack's 8.4-inch monitor and the instrument cluster's smaller 7-inch information screen provide plenty of flexibility in displaying information. Better yet, the controls on the main screen have large on-screen buttons that are easy to use with gloves on. Large cup holders and large cargo bins allow you to transform this cabin into a mobile office.
If this sounds a bit too uptown for a truck, consider that it's stuffed with more than fancy trim. It's engineered with the little touches that make you appreciate the Ram even more. Like the stop-start feature, which shuts off the engine when idling at a traffic light, restarting it instantly when the driver's foot is removed from the brake. Or the electric door locks that also lock the tailgate and the optional Ram Boxes, the built-in storage boxes integrated into the side of the cargo bed. The Ram can even become a wireless hot spot.
And while subtlety hasn't been part of this truck's DNA for some time, the Ram turns out to be surprisingly refined as well as capable. It's not just a handsome face.
Perhaps it's hood ornament should be a Arnold -- in a tuxedo.
Larry H. Miller Dodge Ram Avondale