Guts, glory, the tang of diesel fumes, enough torque to tow medium-sized mountains, a step-in height that just about requires you to go on oxygen, a driver’s seat vista that makes you feel like you’re at the wheel of an open-pit mining truck, mass pushing four American-style tons and enough premium-grade leather to re-upholster a herd of Texas cattle – welcome to the Dodge Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4.
Oh, and a price tag on the unit driven of $74,310, the ante for a North American pickup truck, a vehicle most associate with scuffed work boots rather than glove-soft Gucci loafers and the high-falutin’ foreign luxury sedans that more often come to mind when you’re talking that kind of coin.
But this is no ordinary member of the triumvirate of ruling North American pickup truck families – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – which between them accounted for 244,822 of the 263,269 large pickups sold in Canada last year. The 2500 Laramie Longhorn is Ram royalty, only out-ranked by the even more massively steroidal 3500 in the heavy-hauling hierarchy.
And serious haulage is what it’s all about with 79 per cent of buyers citing towing as a major consideration in their purchase, and the test truck was equipped to drag around no less than 10,320 kilograms. Those buyers, incidentally, are 90 per cent male and 50 per cent of heavy-duty models are purchased for work, although the Ram folk claim 100 per cent of them do double duty as fun and family vehicles.
This – or one of its Ford or GM heavy-duty rivals – is the kind of truck you want to be at the wheel of when you’re towing an enclosed trailer full of race-car, tires, tools and gas to some distant track. Not, on the other hand, when you’re trying to squeeze into a mall-sized parking spot.
It’s all very well to talk about driving one of these things for fun, but in reality it isn’t, at least for someone used to manoeuvring something smaller. Real pickup-driving guys and gals probably don’t notice – they just drive – but I’ll admit to finding it a tad intimidating.
More confidence would naturally come with additional time behind the wheel, but initially driving in traffic your awareness of how much space you’re occupying and how that reduces the distance between you and other road users is definitely at a much heightened level.
The test truck topped a lineup that starts with the $31,395 2500 ST and moves up through SLT, Outdoorsman, Lone Star, Big Horn, Power Wagon and Laramie to the $58,845 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4.
From across a parking lot, the Ram 2500 doesn’t look much different from a mere Ram 1500 – although the 17-inch alloy wheels actually look a little undersized – but the scale seems to expand until it fills your visual horizon by the time you’re reaching up for the door handle.
Styling is mainly differentiated from Ram 1500s by a bigger grille and higher hood line, and a small-condo-sized four-door Crew Cab roofline that tops out at 1,973 mm, or about the same as a six-foot cowboy wearing a Stetson. Overall length is 6,030 mm or just a tad less than 20 feet, and width a just within the street legal width limit at 2,009 mm. A Texas-tall cowboy, without his hat, could stretch out lengthwise in the box out back.
But he’d be much happier and feel more at home in the leathery-luxury found inside where just about everything on the Ram family comfort and convenience feature list can be found, including Parkview camera and rear sensors, heated seats all round (ventilated and power adjustable up front), power sliding rear window, power pedals, remote start, touch screen display and navigation, plus a high-end audio system and optional rear-seat video system.
All the trappings of a luxury car or sport-ute, but swathed in home-on-the-range, high-grade cowhide. In fact, to quote the label, genuine full-grain Natura Plus leather, each hide bringing unique markings and assuring the owner he has purchased a vehicle that employs the same hand-crafted materials as a horseman’s saddle, and that will age to a one-of-a-kind appearance.
This interior must be the “glory” Ram commercials tout, but the “guts” are definitely found under the hood.
That’s where, for an extra $9,345, you can replace the standard 5.7-litre, 383-hp/400-lb-ft Hemi V-8 with 6.7 litres of Cummins inline-six-cylinder High Output Turbo Diesel. This was boosted to its current output of 350 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque for 2012 in response to a three-way pulling-power arms race with Ford and General Motors. Bragging rights are taken seriously in this segment.
This slogging monster makes its full power at just 3,000 rpm and all of that prodigious torque is available from 1,500 rpm to 2,800 rpm, fed to the wheels through an optional, $1,900 six-speed automatic and a rugged four-wheel-drive system.
This latest generation of Cummins diesels is said to be 50 per cent quieter as well as more emission-efficient and fuel-efficient, although the latter numbers are still likely rather daunting – no ratings are published for heavy-duty trucks. It’s also expected to be long-lived with (best case scenario, of course) an anticipated mileage of 560,000 km before a major overhaul is required.
It may not rev much, but this big six sure pulls, accelerating this massive vehicle with surprising rapidity. But the Hemi V-8 would likely make a better choice for those who drive a Ram 2500 because they want to, while the diesel would obviously be the powerplant for those who drive one because they need to.
2012 Dodge Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4
Type: Heavy-duty pickup truck
Base Price: $58,845; as tested, $74,310
Engine: 6.7-litre, OHV, inline-six-cylinder diesel
Horsepower/torque: 350 hp/800 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): Not available; diesel fuel
Alternatives: Heavy-duty versions of Ford and General Motors pickups