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Mountain Wheels: Ram’s pickup family offers a widening range of high-dollar, high-power machines

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels
The Ram Rebel 1500 adds a 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel and gets remarkable mileage, plus lots of extra off-road torque.
Photo from Dodge

Any oldtimer is going to tell you that the modern idea of paying $70,000 for a pickup truck, which was about the sticker price of a Lamborghini Countach in the late ’70s, seems more than heretical. But here we are — at least for a while — in the carefree world where trucks are more popular than ever, and tall price tags are the norm.

Over the past year, I’ve had three different Ram pickups that have all magically come to just over $70,000 apiece, including two plush Ram 1500 crew cab 4x4s in high-end Longhorn or special Rebel trim, and then a heavy-duty, Laramie-level Ram 2500, also a crew cab 4×4. All three of them were literally within $300 of the same price. All three were also big. They required three or four different hand-hold positions to get into the cabin.

The massive 2500, I sorta understand. It starts at a base price of $52,250 and comes with a 410-horsepower, 6.4-liter heavy-duty Hemi V-8, astounding towing power and a big posh cab. As is the popular look nowadays, you pay more to get the chrome removed, with a Night Edition package that subbed in darkened bumpers, mirror caps and 20-inch black-painted alloy wheels. If that’s not dark enough for you, there’s a full-blown Limited Black Edition, which might be hard to see in the dark.

Sheer capacity is the underlying value statement here: The diesel variants of the 2500 platform can haul as much as 19,680 pounds and carry a 4,380-pound payload. With 4×4 and engine choice, mine was sitting at 16,610 and 2,980 pounds, respectively, though we saw a friend from Wyoming tow an entire enclosed car carrier trailer packed to the gills, and it did not flinch for a second. Unladen, it very loudly roars away from traffic very easily.

And of course the Laramie 2500 had the full complement of Ram/Chrysler/Jeep’s newest onboard technology, including the ability to lower the rear end for easier access, a full complement of trailer controls and monitors, and a massive, double-tall navigation and entertainment screen. That all borders on overload in a vehicle so big it gets air on freeway divots; I would frankly let a passenger mess with the radio buttons while you keep it in lane, though it’s remarkably easy and almost instinctual to drive.

It’s also got what is basically the largest rear seat in the business, this one featuring an underseat cargo cover system that folds out to make a flat deck.

The puny 1500 models were not so insignificant by comparison, each loaded with equally thick conglomerations of high-end cabin amenities and loads of capability. The super-plus Longhorn edition starts at a base price higher than the 2500 and creeps toward the stratosphere, with an optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, panoramic sunroof and four-corner air suspension system taking the price to truckly heights. Yep, still so tall you will be looking into the front seats of Chevy Tahoes as you pass them, with painted steel rims and gigantic Nitto TerraGrappler G2 off-road tires to downplay any giant family vehicle civility you had hoped to achieve.

You can, if you want to, tootle along and eke maybe 19 mpg out of your combined travels, or try your luck simply maneuvering it with the trailering mirrors and its own monstrosity. I preferred to make a lot of noise with the exhaust and roll along like a locomotive.

The vehicle is equipped with what seem like 700 cupholders, a locking compartment under the already massive console box and a full rear floormat system that looks like it could contain a 10-gallon spill.

Even more off-road oriented, the Ram Rebel takes that huge 1500 platform and adds a “light duty” 3.0-liter, V-6 turbodiesel engine for $5,000 extra, the results being up to 30 highway mpg — or maybe closer to the 25 all-around mpg I got, though that’s a far cry from the barely 16 mpg I got in the 2500. It was curiously also the most sedate of the bunch on the highway, with Goodyear Wranglers that did not make things unpleasant.

I would caution long-term users about the real utility of the RamBox bed rails. They’re great if you want to cool about six cases of Budweiser or lock up your tools, but the much shorter width meant it was a real challenge to tote full-sized cargo.   

Andy Stonehouse, Summit Daily News
Andy Stonehouse

Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at rossandrewstonehouse@gmail.com.


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