It’s never made a great deal of sense to me. We’re a big nation, literally thousands of kilometres between some major cities. We’re a country of explorers, spending our weekends on backroads and country towns just to see something different. And we’re a people not shy of hard work, with a dual cab ute and box trailer being the Aussie version of a white-picket fence. Yet for some reason when it comes time to pick a workhorse for serious hard-yakka the market is lined with small-capacity Asian-built utes that are about as tough as a 4yo girl in a tiara. Actually, probably not that tough. So, what’s a bloke (or blokette) to do if you’re lining up to do some serious work on and off-road? If you’ve got a spare $140k laying around in the couch, Sydney based Ateco reckons a RAM 2500 might be the slice of hairy-chested salvation you’ve been looking for, just don’t call it a Dodge.
HOW DOES IT TOW?
What good is a tow-tug if it can’t tow, right? I thought so too. In that regards the RAM 2500 is hands down THE tow-tug, the bench mark to which all else will be compared. The gold standard if you will. Rumbling under the long-bonnet is a mammoth 6.7L turbo-diesel donk, that’s around 408ci in the land of freedom and cheese-fries induced heart disease. The monster six-cylinder weighs in at a huge 520kg without oil, is over a metre long, just under a metre high, more than half a metre wide and requires nearly 12L of oil to keep it lubricated. For all that hassle you net yourself 276kW @2800rpm and a simply unfathomable 1084Nm of torque from just 1600rpm. Put simply, it pulls harder than a teenage boy with his first dirty magazine and will laugh at anything you put behind it, and I mean anything. To put that into comparison the closest competitor in the ute market is the V6 VW Amarok which makes around half the power at 550Nm. To muscle in those cubic inches of freedom a 6-speed auto 68RFE transmission is mated to the back with a shift-on-the-fly BorgWarner transfer case.
What does all that mean when it comes to towing power? With a 50mm towball slotted into the rear hitch you’re able to tow a full 3,500kg. Swap that out for a 70mm towball and that bumps up to 4,500kg. Swap that out for a pintle and you can tow 6,942kg. If you’re struggling with that number it’s because it’s simply ridiculous. They’re that far beyond anything normally available they might as well be made up. You could get a Ford Ranger, put a 3,500kg caravan on the back, load the Ranger till it’s at GCM, then put the Ranger and ‘van onto a 900kg car trailer and still be able to legally tow it with the RAM. The worst part is you’d still have a better power to weight ratio in the RAM with the Ranger and trailer behind it than the Ranger would have with just the ‘van.
ON THE PICKS
If you hadn’t picked up by now that the RAM is built for serious hauling, there’s a few things yet that might tip your powers of recognition over the line, and most of them are within arm’s reach of the driver. The first, is a factory-included trailer brake controller. Rather than mucking around with an aftermarket unit, the RAM uses its own integrated brake controller that modulates trailer brake pressure proportionally to how hard you’re on the picks. A digital display on the dash is able to confirm the trailer brakes are activated and just how hard they’re being applied. You can dial in the gain to suit the trailer weight you’re carrying, and when it all turns pear-shaped you can apply the trailer brakes without engaging the tow-tugs, something potentially life-saving if you get the dreaded trailer sway. Of course, the RAMs brakes are no-joke either, with huge disc brakes on each corner slowing things down even without the aid of the trailers brakes.
It doesn’t stop there. That 6-speed auto I mentioned before? It doesn’t have any laughable sports-mode, instead there’s a dedicated tow/haul mode. Toggling the button engages a second map on the transmission that’ll hold gears longer on the upshift, giving you more grunt to get up and running, and when your foot is off the loud pedal, it’ll work its way down through the gears to maximise engine braking too. If that doesn’t whet your whistle, the last secret in the RAMs arsenal is an exhaust brake. Yep, just like the big-rigs use. Engaging the exhaust brake in manual mode will restrict the exhaust every time you take your foot off the accelerator. As the brake closes the engine struggles to push compressed air past the restriction causing the engine to slow-down far quicker than typical engine braking will do, it also emits a throaty bark from the drain-pipe sized exhaust to let people know you mean business. Tipping the scales at 6.5T down the steep Mt Victoria Pass ,the exhaust brake was slowing the RAM to the point we had to accelerate through it to maintain a reasonable speed. Automatic Exhaust Brake mode is also available , and that’ll shuffle through the gears and engage/disengage the exhaust brake to maintain a desired speed, but you don’t get the aural assault every time you back off the loud pedal.
A TOUCH OF CLASS
You don’t buy a truck like this because you’re chasing bang-for-buck towing ability or a laser guided back massager, that said the top-tier Laramie Ateco is bringing in is no pauper’s palace. The interior is leather-wrapped from head to toe, with chrome trimmings and wood grain as far as the eye can see. It’s spacious, and plenty comfortable for the long haul without having to resort to aftermarket seats or gadgets. Think old-timey cattle ranch and you’re on the right path. There’s all the usual gear you’d expect like climate control, phone connectivity, 12v and 240v power outlets with heated and cooled seats topping off the list.
Feeling chilly in the morning? No worries. Hit the remote start button and the big RAM will lock itself up, warm up the engine, get the seats up to temp, the mirrors de-frosted and even knock the chill out of the steering wheel with a heater built in to that too. Our test-vehicle came fitted with a premium Alpine stereo, electric sun-roof and a trick storage system known as the RAM BOX that re-purposes the wasted space around each wheel arch into lockable boxes. Sure, it’s not exactly Mercedes quality on the inside, but it’ll hold its head high alongside top-spec Cruisers, Patrols, and well above any other ute on the market.
IT AIN'T ALL SUNSHINE AND AR15s
Every silver lining has a cloud, and the RAM 2500 is no different. Despite being hands down one of the most seamless conversions on the market it’s not without short comings. The most noticeable is the mirror-image parking brake. In the yank-spec offering it’s a foot-operated job high on the left-hand kick panel. Right foot on the brake, left foot up and push the park brake down. In the right-hook version it’s mirror imaged and high on the right hand kick panel. To engage it you need to shuffle your left foot onto the brake pedal, then push the park brake down with your right foot. It sounds minor, and it is, but when you’re laying down $140k on a new tow-tug the minor stuff matters.
Most of the other bits and pieces fall to hand easily, although RAM has missed a few no-brainers. That included trailer brake controller. It’s all the way over on the left side. It’s not an issue in set and forget situations, but if you crest a hill and find your camper flailing around like a freshly landed trout you might struggle to reach the controls in a panic.
The other down-side is a bit of a no-brainer, but also why you’re buying a RAM in the first place. It’s big, bloody big. On the road it’s no issue, but unless your better half wrestles crocs for fun, the RAM isn’t going to cut it as a family run-about. It’s tight on the lines in most parking spaces and just all-round too big for the daily grind.
The $140,000 question. Should you buy a RAM 2500. The answer is incredibly simple. Yes. Yes, you should. If you’re hitting the road and not looking back the RAM is hands down one of the best tow vehicles on the market. It’ll muscle around literally any camper or caravan you can legally tow in Australia. It’s surprisingly good on fuel too, drinking an average of 13.5L/100km with 3,000kg on the back. It’s incredibly spacious with plenty of mod-cons. And it packs enough grunt that despite having truck-like under pinnings you’ll never find yourself short of overtaking gumption. It’s not half bad off-road either, although if Ateco asks the bush pin-stripes were there when I picked it up.
So what’s the catch? Well, it’s not for everyone. If you’re a two-car family, the RAM makes a whole lot of sense. If you have to rely on it as your only means of transportation its limitations become apparent quickly. It’s no fun swinging the tiller around tight streets, the purchase price puts repayment figures in the mortgage range, and with a large camper or caravan on the back you’re essentially piloting a semi-trailer around. If a RAM isn’t what you need, it’s a bit gimmicky, but if it ticks all the boxes for you it’ll be the best tow-tug you’ll ever own.
HITS AND MISSES
- Toyota reliability
- A-grade fit and finish
- Plenty of room
- Perfect family tourer
- Is the size of a house
- The price of a house
- A few niggling conversion issues
- Tare: 3577kg
- GVM: 4490kg
- GCM: 11479kg
- Towing Capacity: 6989kg
- Engine: 6.7L 6-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Torque: 1084Nm @ 1600rpm
- 4x4 System: Part time
- Fuel Consumption: 13.5L/100Km as tested
- Suspension: F/ Live axle coil spring R/ Live axle coil spring
- Brakes: F/ Disc R/ Disc
- Seats: 6 3/3
- Wheel/tyre: 18in alloy 275/70R18
- Style: Ute
PRICE AS SHOWN
$140,000 + on roads