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We recently had an opportunity to drop by Chrysler—we mean Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan and drive four RAM brand trucks back-to-back-to-back. As you know if you’re a regular reader of this magazine, we now have a long term RAM 3500 Cummins truck in our fleet working as a tow vehicle for the MoparMax Maulin’ Magnum race team. (Our review of this great truck is here) We have firsthand, long haul experience in how great RAM trucks are now. But on this trip in October we had a chance to drive the new ECO Diesel 1500, a Sport 1500 with 5.7L HEMI, a Power Wagon and a Promaster truck in the same afternoon.
We’re not going to go into detail on the specs and features of these trucks in this article. There’s a lot of information available via Google or Bing if you’re looking for that. This is about our impressions on a broad array of trucks, consumer and commercial.
First off, the RAM Power Wagon. We drove a 6.4L Crew Cab 4x4 Power Wagon and having worked on ranches we can tell you that this is a truck that you can drive off the showroom floor and do serious off-road driving in factory form. The power of the 6.4L HEMI, which is cammed and tuned for lower end torque than its street performance car siblings, is plentiful and always available. The interior is typically RAM upper trim level luxurious, fit and finish are superb. The truck is very responsive right off the line and pulls strongly through the mid-range and into the upper RPM.
What makes the Power Wagon special are its off-road features. Every off-road driver knows that for serious challenges you need all four wheels locked and working. But factory trucks need to work on the street and fully locked front and rear differentials aren’t so great on the street. The RAM Power Wagon has electronic locking front and rear differentials. At the turn of a knob you can lock the rear axle, lock both the front and rear axles, or unlock them both for the street. We’re not talking some weak form of limited slip; we’re talking lock ‘em up put the power to the ground at all of the wheels. Cool and super functional. Should you get into a spot even the locking diffs can’t get you out of, no worry. Just deploy the built-in 12,000 pound winch and pull yourself out of trouble.
On the street you want stiff sway bars to control body roll. But stiff sway bars reduce independent wheel articulation over rocks and obstacles. Not to worry, in the Power Wagon a push of a button unlocks the front sway bar, decoupling the right and left wheels. Lock the axles, unlock the sway bar and you’re ready to motor right on past the poor blue ovals and bowties stuck in the mud and rocks.
We’ve written about the ECO Diesel before, in fact we gave it the Special Award For Outstanding Achievement From An Automotive Manufacturer in our MoparMax Most Magnificent awards last December. After driving this machine around on freeways and streets we’re still blown away by it. The best way to put it is that this 3.0L RAM 1500 diesel drives just like a 5.7L gasoline version of the same truck, but delivers up to 30 mpg in the real world. We noticed that with the windows down, our 53,000+ mile fleet truck gave just a hint of diesel noise accelerating away from a stop light—and we’re fine with that. What was surprising was that with the windows up, your ears couldn’t tell it was a diesel, even after 53,000 miles. The engine starts instantly, idles smoothly and is responsive to your throttle inputs. Trust us, you make no compromises or sacrifices to enjoy the mileage and torque of a diesel in your half-ton 1500 class truck with the ECO Diesel RAM.
Alex Rogeo drives our MoparMax Maulin’ Magnum in drag race competition. She loves nothing more than to drop the hammer, lift the front wheels and drive this 800 horsepower supercharged machine to 10.4 second time slips. So it’s no surprise that her favorite RAM truck was the sporty 1500. This vivid red machine sports steep axle gears, 20 inch wheels, is the lightest of the V8 trucks in the RAM line, handles like a tall sports sedan rather than a truck and will light up the rear wheels on any whim you have (or so we’ve heard). Comfortable, fast, quick, and oh yeah, it’s a truck and can haul and tow your stuff around. We had to pry Alex out of it at the end of the day.