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Review: Ram 1500 Laramie.

There are plenty of words to describe the Ram 1500, but 'understated' isn't one of them. When it comes to looks, this truck is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

That's not to say that it's ugly; far from it. But its face more closely resembles that of a square-jawed lumberjack than an angular supermodel. This is an imposing pickup.

The 1500 is also big. Its dimensions are a little less generous than those of the Ford F-150, but you still get plenty of truck for your money.

It's wider than a Chevrolet Silverado, longer than a Hummer H2, and tips the scales at roughly the same weight as a white rhinoceros. Even on the roads of the Middle East, you won't find many four-wheeled vehicles capable of giving the 1500 an inferiority complex.

And of course, if you're looking for a site truck to run in the Gulf, heft is no bad thing. Let's face it, if you need a two-tonne pickup to lug around your kit, the chances are you don't spend your days at a tower build. Having said that, there's no point in bulk for bulk's sake, and the folks at Ram are clearly aware of this. They've made the most of the 1500's size.

The Laramie-spec unit that was offered up for review features a crew cab with full-sized rear doors. An abundance of legroom is provided for all, and the generous width of the truck - roughly 2m from door to door - means that even the burliest of workers won't have to squeeze together.

It seems that storage was also a priority for Ram, and not just in terms of the 1500's rear bed. The interior is awash with compartments, leaving absolutely no excuse for a cluttered passenger seat. In the front of the cab alone, there are two door pockets, two cup holders, two open trays, two narrow buckets that straddle the centre console, and a tiny cuboid space in the dash that serves no discernible purpose - but it's there.

There are also two glove boxes, although neither is particularly roomy. However, Ram more than makes up for this with a covered centre unit that sits between the driver and his or her co-pilot.

Lift the brown, leather-clad lid, and you'll uncover a shallow tray ideal for your keys, wallet, phone, and loose parking-meter change. Slide that tray back and you'll find a receptacle the size of a cool box.

Indeed, cool boxes appear to have provided significant inspiration during the 1500's design process, because when you step out of the cab and walk to the rear of the vehicle, there's yet more evidence to suggest that creating this truck was thirsty work.

On either side of the bed, there's a 'Ram Box', and at the bottom of these compartments lie drainage outlets. The idea is that by filling these boxes with ice, you can enjoy cool refreshments throughout the day without having to

mop up wastewater.

If, on the other hand, you prefer your libations at room (or desert) temperature, the Ram Boxes can be used for plain old storage. And these compartments are a lot more spacious than they appear on first inspection. They offer plenty of room to stow items that you may not wish to carry with you in the cab, such as rucksacks, work boots, overalls, and the like.

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Which brings us to the crux of the storage question. How big is the 1500's cargo area? With its crew cab taking up extra space, the 5.7-litre Laramie ($51,700) came with a 1.71m x 1.69m bed. For site work, we'd recommend you opt for the quad cab ($36,500), which at the cost of some rear legroom, maintains its five-person capacity whilst offering a 1.93m-long cargo area.

Even in its crew-cab format, the 1500's bed can be extended by dropping the rear flap and fitting Ram's handy plastic barrier, which is designed to prevent your loot from sliding into the windscreens of unsuspecting tailgaters. But here's the clever part; this is a dual-function barrier. Not only can it be used to extend the cargo area, but it can also be deployed to shrink it.

With the back flap locked upright, this attachment acts as a partition, demarcating the rearmost portion of the bed and securing smaller, loose items between itself and the walls. The Ford F-150 sports a similar contraption that can be used for either expansion or contraction, but its pivoting format means that positioning is non-negotiable.

Ram's version, meanwhile, is removable, and can be inserted into an array of slots to suit the proportions of the cargo being carried. The 1500 also features a rear tonneau cover that can be laid across the bed for protection, or folded back for extra storage height.

Now that we've covered the rear of the vehicle, let's discuss its front end. The Ram 1500 is powered by a 5.7-litre HEMI V8, which delivers a punchy 395hp and more than 550Nm of torque. At more than two tonnes, and with dimensions to rival a modestly-sized bungalow, you might expect this truck to feel a tad sluggish. Fortunately, if you need to move in a hurry, the HEMI has the legs to get you up to speed.

Even so, Ram claims that the latest 1500 is its greenest V8 to date. It might not be in a position to challenge BMW's i3 for the global efficiency crown, but the truck's MDS fuel-saving cylinder shut-off and aerodynamic design help it to achieve a respectable 32.2 km/L, on highway.

The HEMI is also surprisingly quiet, which could be a plus or a minus depending on your preference - and whether or not you like your neighbours. This V8 chooses to project its voice during acceleration, rather than shout. Similarly, when you reach higher speeds, the 1500 doesn't make a song and dance about it. Its engine hums along nicely and road noise is minimal.

The gear stick has been replaced by a dash-mounted rotary e-shift dial, which is essentially a fancy knob that allows you to switch from drive to reverse with the flick of your wrist. This is the interface that sits between you and the Ram's TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission. It should only take two or three failed grasps at the phantom gear lever before reaching for the dial becomes second nature.

In terms of the ride, Ram has chosen to spruce up the 1500's air suspension. The manufacturer has succeeded in adding up to 0.1m of lift span, offering a step-in height of 0.53m and ground clearance of 0.27m. Four-corner air springs have been fitted to provide a cushioned ride, although there is sometimes the hint of a judder at around 100km/h on tarmac.

Ram has also endowed the 1500 with five height settings for optimised ride and aerodynamic performance. For the control freaks amongst you, these options can be selected manually. For those more comfortable with the prospect of our robot overlords' inevitable uprising, the truck has the ability to automatically pick the most appropriate height for you, depending on how and where it's being driven.

Away from the asphalt, the 1500 is formidable. We drove into the desert to test the truck against some of the Middle East's less tended terrain, and it passed with flying colours. Once you've gone off-piste and switched from 2WD to 4WD lock, you'll feel like no dune is too big to surmount, and no piece of camel grass too rugged to bounce over.

As you can see from the opening spread, we pitted the 1500 against some pretty unforgiving dunes, and not once did it come unstuck. The ride also remains stable over flatter stretches of sand, even when you put your foot down.

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If you're looking for a truck to transport you from one end of the work site to the other, the 1500 won't even break a sweat. It also represents a sensible choice for those with more demanding requirements. This vehicle has all of the tools necessary to take you to the back of beyond.

Moreover, the 1500 will get you there in style. Make no mistake; this is not a blunt instrument. The first thing you're likely to notice when you climb behind the wheel is the array of electrical bells and whistles that have been made available. Granted, we were driving the top-of-the-line Laramie model, but the gizmos on offer extended far beyond typical truck territory.

Say you're off to the work site on a chilly winter's morning. You can warm your bones by heating the seats, and even the steering wheel. Suppose it then dawns on you that you live in the Middle East, and you've turned your 1500 into a furnace. No problem; simply turn off the heat and engage the seats' air cooling option.

Perhaps you have a smartphone that refuses to hold its charge. Not to worry; the 1500 has you covered with its 115V AC socket, slotted neatly towards the bottom-right of the centre console. Then there's Ram's Uconnect system - complete with a 213mm touchscreen display - which offers a handy interface for all of your radio, MP3, climate control, navigational, and phone-related needs.

There are also little flourishes, like the ability to electrically adjust the positioning of the pedals and a rear-mounted camera to assist with parking. These are the types of feature that you might legitimately expect to find on a big rig or luxury sedan, but not necessarily on a pickup.

Such examples of gadgetry might not sound groundbreaking on an individual basis, but cumulatively, they give the feeling that you're driving something altogether more sophisticated than a truck. The 1500 seems capable of guarding you from the daily grind of the construction site. Ram has succeeded in offering some well-earned luxury to the region's workers.

So, is this a site truck worth your attention? Well, put simply, yes. At over $50,000, the 5.7-litre Laramie-spec model might be a step too far for the construction sector, but with 4x4 regular-cab units starting at around $34,000, you could do a lot worse for your money. The Ram 1500 boasts space, power, and refinement. And what's more, it looks like an absolute beast.

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Publication:Construction Week
Date:Feb 26, 2015
Words:1738
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