In today’s truck market, it is pretty safe to say that there is no such thing as a bad pickup truck. I suspect that for many buyers, the truck which best fits their sense of style is the one they buy. With fuel prices on the rise however, real world fuel economy has to be just as important for many.
Last Fall, in a Toronto Star special section, I named the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel as the best truck on the market for just that reason. With a full week of towing the DCS Appliances event trailer, the diesel Ram sipped just 11.1 L/100 km. That was a stark contrast to the little Ford Escape Ecoboost I had driven the week before, which chugged down 12.2 L/100 km and that was without a trailer.
Our 2017 catering season began with a bang last month, with 6 events in 5 days, and I was excited to see how the HEMI powered 2017 Ram 1500 Sport would perform when towing.
Our tester was outfitted with the 5.7L HEMI V8, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with four wheel drive. This engine generates 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of twistie goodness. The silky smooth shifting 8-speed is an effort to improve the fuel economy from what could conceivably be a rather thirsty powertrain. It is a HEMI after all!
As equipped, our Sport version of the Ram 1500 is configured to be capable of towing 10,140 lbs according to an FCA tool located at Ram Body Builder. Like some other truck manufacturers, Ram chooses to make it difficult to find actual tow ratings for a specific vehicle. While we were nowhere near that max number, we did tow the event trailer, weighing in at around 2,500 lbs, for more than 500 km. Not surprisingly, the trailer was barely noticeable from behind the wheel. We did however see quite a difference on the trip monitor.
Before we hitched up our little party on wheels, the Ram averaged 14.2 L/100 km. Not as miserly as the Ecodiesel, but we expected that. Once the trailer was hooked up, that number climbed to 15.8 L/100 during mostly highway driving. Still, this is not bad compared to some of the other trucks we have driven. The Toyota Tundra has shown us 16+ l/100 km on a couple of occasions.
As one might expect, the interior of the Ram Sport is more than up to the task of bolstering the masculinity of its owner. The challenge is that the days of cheap plastic interiors are long gone and just having a decent interior isn’t good enough to make a truck stand out. The Ram squad gets this and where their trucks shine is in the attention to detail. Quality surfaces, intricate stitching and cool contrasting trim are the norm. The lounge in an historic country club would be a good comparison.
As I get older, my assessment and appreciation of the comfort a vehicle provides has changed. I still love sports cars, that will never change, but at the end of a long day of grilling at an event, certain things are important to me. Ease of entry is a big one. While as an off road enthusiast, I abhor side step rails. In the interest of clean and sporty good looks, the Ram Sport does not have them. Normally, that would be a good thing, but when my back and legs are sore from standing all day, the climb up into the cab is a pain in the back. Of course, other models of the Ram 1500 have them, so this is a quibble. Once my aching back is inside, it is a different story.
It sounds lazy, and it totally is, but I don’t want to work too hard to do anything. Everything I might use should be one touch or simple. The Sport does all of this, with simple controls, auto down windows, auto climate control etc. The seats are perfectly comfortable for a big guy like me, better than several other models in the class.
Naturally, the back seat is spacious enough to seat 3 adults. For most of our time with the truck however, we had the back seats folded up and deployed the Ram’s cool flat floor which turns the back seat into a massive, secure, second cargo area. Coolers, storage bins and even propane tanks fit easily into the space. Just remember to never leave propane tanks inside a closed vehicle!
I have never been one to have a favourite vehicle. I tend to like conveyances that offer either total utility or outright performance. The cost of operation has never really factored into my desires. Fuel prices have risen so much these days though if I were shopping today I would have no choice but to be more picky about economy. I would have to choose a diesel variety over gas if I were choosing a Ram 1500, despite the awesomeness of the HEMI powerplant. The Sport is not available with the excellent 3.0 L Eco-Diesel, so I think my own choice today would be the similarly priced Outdoorsman model over the Sport. It has fewer sexy options, but more work oriented options.