Little known Bark M. fact: Although I have been most likely to be seen behind the wheel of a rear-wheel drive car with at least a mild sporting intent in the last ten years or so, I spent my youth sitting huddled in the folded-down, side-facing seats of a 1985 Nissan 4X4 King Cab pickup truck. My mom, in what was certainly one of the more selfless moves seen since Simon of Cyrene, traded in her Brown Car Appreciation Society approved Ford LTD on the Nissan so that she could more easily transport our BMX bikes back and forth to the tracks of the Midwest.
I am also the only resident of my street in God’s Country, Kentucky, to NOT own a truck. The assortment of F-150s, Silverados, and RAMs in my subdivision often strike a chord of envy within. When it’s time for the Boss to be permanently retired to Sunday Driver status, it will likely be replaced with a full-sized truck, mainly just so my neighbors don’t suspect me to be some sort of Communist.
Therefore, I was overjoyed like Stevie Wonder when a Reader Ride Review suggestion came in from the DFW Metroplex. Doug had just purchased a 2014 RAM 1500—and, most intriguingly to me, it was outfitted with Chyrsler’s excellent V6 Pentastar. This is the sort of thing that makes Reader Rides so much more compelling to me than OEM-approved junkets. They almost always bring the top trim levels with the biggest engines. And, of course, because Doug lives in Texas, he got the Lone Star edition (don’t tell anybody in Texas, but it’s exactly the same as the Big Horn edition), which includes a Class IV receiver hitch, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and (most importantly) a full-sized Uconnect screen.
I met Doug at the Hotel Palomar in North Dallas, where due to our limited mutual availability, I had to make the sacrifice of skipping wine hour to take a drive around the campus area of Southern Methodist University. Doug is an incredibly busy stay-at-home dad, with two kids aged 8 and 13, and also with several years of honorable military service behind him. As such, he was able to leverage his USAA member status to get a pre-negotiated deal under $30K on the much-needed Quad Cab version.
The RAM 1500 is, simply put, a masculine truck. Resplendent in True Blue, which is the one color in the CDJR palette that works on everything, Doug’s ride looked much more high-dollar than it actually was. Among the Maseratis and Benzes parked conspicuously in the Palomar’s valet area, the RAM fit in, secure in its role as Texas royalty.
“I came from the land of three-row SUVs, and I really wanted to get away from that,” said Doug as we pulled out of the parking lot onto Mockingbird Lane toward SMU. “I wanted a pickup next, but I wanted a newer design, which ruled out the F-150. It was really a toss-up between the RAM and the Silverado. The Silverado was probably the better truck, but the RAM was the better car. This is going to be a fifteen-year truck for me, with several coast-to-coast drives included, so I didn’t want to feel like I was cooped up in a Chevy Sonic or something.” Easy there, Caroline. He didn’t mean it.
I began to see what he meant about the drivability of the RAM as we cruised at low speeds along the tree-lined main drag of the campus. While certainly not as luxurious as the Laramie editions, the Lone Star cloth eight-way adjustable seats were supportive and comfortable. At 5’9″ on a good day, I sometimes find the seating in full-sized trucks to feel too…full-szed. This one didn’t, at all. Visibility, both forward and rear, was spectacularly good. Even in rush hour traffic, the RAM was surprisingly facile in its ability to make quick lane changes.
Bumpy roads were another issue altogether. If the RAM felt like a cruiser on smooth pavement, it quickly reclaimed its trucking identity over the broken stuff. As we moved slowly through a construction zone, every bump and crack in the road was communicated directly to the driver’s seat.
Another interesting feature of the RAM is the dial selector on the dash used in place of a standard column shifter. Seeing a knob with “PRND” on it was a real jamais vu mind screwer. While it freed up a significant amount of room around the hands for driving, Doug says that he often forgets to shift back to “P” when he goes to turn off the motor. I did, as well, when I was done with the test.
Although the natural beauty of the campus (both arboreal and human) made it tough to leave, I wanted to test the RAM’s abilities on the twisted arteries of Dallas’ highways. Having driven both Chargers and Challengers equipped with the Pentastar, I was expecting a bit more grunt from the RAM than I got when I put my foot down to enter the on ramp. The 8-speed transmission was nearly rippleless in its gear selection as I accelerated down the slope toward the merging point on 75 south, yet the delivery of power was lacking. There’s just no easy way to get around it—the V6 RAM is slower than you’d want it to be, and perhaps not as strong as it needs to be. While fine for most applications, I would be concerned about trying to merge when towing anything bigger than a jet ski.
Dallas traffic is no joke, and especially not at 5:30 PM on a Tuesday. The RAM had little trouble sliding around in it, though, and even with somebody like me who’s used to driving a much smaller vehicle, spots just seemed to appear for me when I wanted to change lanes. Undoubtedly, the chrome bumpers and the horns on the grill must have inspired fellow commuters to make way. We made our way downtown, then turned back around to head north to return to the Palomar where, unfortunately, our drive time had to end.
When I asked Doug why he chose the V6 over the Hemi, he replied that it really came down to two things: cost and fuel economy. While the four grand difference in sticker price is certainly significant, the observed fuel economy over the twelve hundred miles that the truck had experienced in its life was 16.7, according the truck’s computer. Doug said that he’s actually getting about 17 and a half. However, both are considerably lower than EPA estimates.
Doug’s RAM seems to fit his life perfectly. When I asked him if he had any regrets after a month of ownership, he said, “None.” While he hasn’t done any serious “truck work” with it, it has seen duty as a mulch hauler and as a household project assistant.
For my money, I’d have to consider—do I really want a truck? Doug did, which made this choice easy. He’s over the whole third-row CUV thing. Plus, it’s Texas, where owning a truck is essentially a birthright and owning a minivan is grounds for deportation.
If I did, I think that I’d have to step up to the Hemi, fuel economy be damned. After all, how much worse could it really get? If not, I’d get exactly what I did get in real life for the same money—a Ford Flex SE. Better fuel economy, bigger interior, and just as capable for the vehicle’s intended use. In fact, I just used it to haul some mulch and fill dirt today. Of course, now I have to vacuum it.
Thanks again to Doug for volunteering his gorgeous new truck for our Reader Ride Review. TTAC is coming to your town soon—don’t forget to let us know if you’d like us to review your ride!