Ram trucks adds another variant to its 1500 range in the form of the Express Crew Cab. It’s a mid-spec truck, more utilitarian than the Laramie, but will it spark buyer interest here?
Ram trucks had a bumper 2019 down this neck of the Pacific woods, for the Australiasian outfit that remanufactures pick-ups for use in Antipodean markets sold 2868 units. That’s said to be a 290 per cent increase on sales in the previous year. The introduction of the (slightly) smaller 1500 range part of the way through 2018 would have helped the numbers in 2019, being less gargantuan than the 2500 trucks and cheaper too. Aussies bought most of these Rams in 2019, the numbers here much smaller, with just a handful of the 2500s sold, and around 140 1500s, 120 of those being the top Laramie. So far in 2020, another 50 Laramies are trucking around, but bugger all of the entry-level Express model. The Express is more of a work truck, with a basic fit-out lacking the baubles of the Laramie, and it comes with the quad cab, a shorter four-door body with stubby rear doors coupled to a longer 6’4’’ (1939mm) bed.
The Laramie, along with its luxuries, benefits from the larger crew cab while the bed length, at 5’7” (1712mm) we’d still deem big enough. The company reckons there is room to ram (sorry..) another model between them, which is what you see here, the Express Crew Cab. At $104,990, it splits the $94,990 Express Quad and the $119,990 Laramie. Buyers of six-figure vehicles here tend to gravitate to the top model, as seen in the sales numbers, so whether this will lure more remains to be seen, though will likely have the desired result in Australia.
Along with the larger cabin, the Express Crew gains spec over the Quad with its 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system, complete with CarPlay and Android Auto. It also has dual-zone air con and wears the sports hood and black accent package which are otherwise optional extras for the Quad.
Inside, there is an entry-level feel to the cabin with cloth trim and a lack of power adjustment for the seats and pedals. The dash is quite different from that of the Laramie too, lacking the latter’s full centre console. Despite the big price tag, it’s a utilitarian pick-up so the cabin is full of the usual hard plastic surfaces. There’s no leather wrap for the steering wheel either, which lacks remote volume control for the radio. And while there’s a button for a rear demister, there’s actually no demister on the rear screen.
The seat is big and comfy as you’d expect, and the crew cab configuration means acres of space in the rear. And if you’ve something to store, the seat base flips up, though the Express doesn’t get the fold-out flat floor system of the top model. And there’s nothing flash like smart key entry and starting, but the central locking does lock the tailgate as well. Like the Laramie, safety items are kept to the basics with no active helpers offered.
The fit and finish of the conversion work is top notch; it’s hard to tell this originally left a factory on the other side of the world with the wheel on the other side of the cabin. These trucks arrive in Melbourne as left hookers before they are stripped and then ‘remanufactured’ as right-hand drive vehicles. The only thing weird is that the foot-operated park brake hangs above the accelerator on the RHD truck, and there’s not quite the clearance for the release mechanism beside the door.
The 5.7-litre V8 Hemi still provides the motive force for the Express, with 291kW on tap and 556Nm of pull. It’s the only engine on offer, but as there’s plenty of urge everywhere with the Hemi, you won’t be missing a diesel option. Fuel use they rate at 12.2L/100km on average, though something around the 16L/100km mark is more likely. The Hemi’s cylinder deactivation does it’s darndest to help, regularly running the eight as a four. It’s surprising how often that just four cylinders will do the job, though the exhaust note suffers, turning the rumbling eight flat and farty. With a 121L fuel tank, you should get through the week without needing to refill.
The ride of the big rig is generally good, though the rear end can thump over some of the bumps, and at speed this can send a shimmy through the truck. As usual with a ute, it’s best to have something on the tray to settle the suspension. There’s always enough power on tap with the V8, the eight-speed quick to chop the gears when the gas is floored and the Hemi will rev to not quite 6000rpm before the auto smoothly selects another ratio. The wee gear selector buttons on the wheel are handy for locking out taller ratios; just tap the minus button a few times and the transmission won’t upshift beyond the selected gear. It’ll help with towing, and stops the trans hunting on a winding road.
It’s not a sports truck, so there aren’t any drive modes but the kickdown is forthcoming, the upshifts too and so this trucks along nicely for such a hulking rig. With wide tracks, it’s nicely planted, but being so long, it turns in a leisurely fashion, the steering a tad slow as you might imagine. The big tyres help the power stick but on greasy surfaces a degree of caution is required. The Express has switchable 4×4 but lacks the Laramie’s on-demand 4×4 auto setting. And these big trucks never stop quickly being overly heavy and underbraked.
Even though the 1500 is the ‘baby’ of the range it’s still huge. While not overly cumbersome in general city traffic, it’s difficult to park and a monster on the turnarounds. Just be prepared to dock a little further than desirable from your ultimate destination.
Although huge, the payload isn’t at only 830kg, but it’ll haul up to 4500kg with the 70mm tow ball fitted to the hitch, which comes as part of the deal, all inclusive. This 1500 was fitted with the optional Ram box storage lockers which are incorporated into the wellside. These are lockable (operating off the remote locking function) and waterproof to store whatever you may have, and easily accessible too. While not huge, there’s 210L of air space inside, and there’s also a drain plug should you decide to fill ‘em with ice to keep a few beverages cool for a worksite shout. The tray is a little narrower as a result, 1270mm wide vs 1295mm between the arches of a Ram sans the locker boxes. Part of the Ram box package is a trick cargo bed divider-cum-tray extender.
It fits into slots along the side of the tray to partition off the bed, and is easily snapped in and out of place. It can also be unfolded to function as a tray extender for when you flip the tailgate down to help secure a longer load. The tailgate itself is an easy lift job thanks to a helper spring. Its tri-fold tonneau cover we like too, easy to retract, folding back on itself, and to resecure in place. The bits aren’t cheap however, the Rambox and tonneau coming together as a $5000 package. But then nothing about these trucks is small, given rivals are scarce. Things are about to change there soon, however, with the imminent arrival of the ‘remanufactured’ Chevrolet Silverado 1500 to stir things up.
|Model||Ram 1500 Express Crew Cab||Price||$104,990|
|Engine||5654cc, V8, EFI, 291kW/556Nm||Drivetrain||8-speed auto, switchable 4×4|
|Fuel Use||12.2L/100km||C02 Output||283g/km|