Big, brash and brutish. But can the Ram 1500 survive a weekend bashing around in the bush?
While smaller conversion houses have been bubbling away for some time supplying a small but steady stream of converted yank tanks of varying quality, Ram Trucks Australia has set the tone for a more official, factory-backed operation.
And even with a 24-hour conversion facility in Melbourne running flat-stick, they’re having trouble keeping up with demand.
Why do people love these things? Three big reasons come to mind for me when compared to other 4×4 utes: They are big, they are comfortable, and they have a powerful V8.
However, put all of that aside for a minute. This 4×4 ute is, indeed, a 4×4 ute. And part of that pentathlon of abilities that such vehicles need to be competent at is off-road ability.
Because of its size and price, the Ram 1500 might not seem like a natural choice for somebody planning on going off-road. However, it’s not dissimilar to a LandCruiser 200 or Patrol in terms of both girth and price. And plenty of those spend bulk time off-road.
So, it seems pertinent to test out this 2020 Ram 1500 Warlock away from trailers and bitumen to see if it truly stacks up as a 4×4 ute. And with a quick look on some maps, we soon found Mount Warlock nearby, begging to be explored and within one day’s drive. Perfect, right?
Without giving the whole story away, we piled in our camping gear and a KTM motorcycle in the back to make our way to the mountain. To see the full story, check out the video here.
Warlock specification is a new addition to the range, sitting in between Express and Laramie. Although, it’s priced more like a Laramie overall. In front, the biggest change comes with the so-called ‘Rebel’ grille, which is reminiscent of the new ‘DT’ Ram and makes the Warlock look noticeably different to the rest of the Ram range in Australia.
Lots of the bright chrome work around the grille and wheels on other specifications gets traded in for trendy black for the Warlock, which can also be had in five other colours on top of our Flame Red: Patriot Blue, Bright White, Hydro Blue, Granite Crystal and Diamond Black.
While leather interior trimming and electric seat adjustments are nice, the Warlock misses out on front seat heating and venting, leather wrapping on the steering wheel, push-button start and an electric rear window.
The asking price is at the top of the range, however: $104,450. So while it doesn’t carry the same value as an Express, it doesn’t hold the same spec sheet as the Laramie.
Underneath the sheet metal, there’s a one-inch suspension lift for the Warlock and heavy-duty shock absorbers to suit.
RamBoxes, an otherwise $5000 option, are standard fitment for the Warlock and help the value equation substantially. With sealed 105L storage tubs in each rear fender, which operate off central locking, the RamBox is a unique and useful feature for those who want a bit of additional sealed and secure storage space.
For our usage, the boxes filled up nicely with recovery gear and a chainsaw on one side, and a bag of ice with cold drinks and food on the other. The RamBox leaves the tub with flat sides (no wheel arches), and also includes a smart load separator and extender.
There’s no change to the driveline for the Warlock, it’s the same 5.7-litre petrol Hemi V8 that we all know, and many love. It makes 291kW at 5600rpm and 556Nm at 3950rpm running through an eight-speed automatic transmission to a part-time four-wheel-drive system.
After that gearbox is a low-range transfer case with a 2.64:1 reduction gear. Combine that with a 4.71:1 first gear and 3.21:1 axle ratio, and you’re looking at a 39.91:1 crawl ratio. It’s not super deep, and similar to most other 4×4 utes.
The Hankook highway-terrain tyres aren’t designed particularly for off-roading, but they’re big: 275/60R20 equates to 33 inches of diameter, and they’re plenty wide to boot. Keen off-roaders will swap these wheels and tyres out for something more aggressive, and would also opt for less wheel diameter.
However, we found these tyres to be surprisingly grippy in some slippery conditions. One climb in particular had us worried about sliding around, especially because the big car on a narrow track meant our line choice (and margin for error) was limited.
However, the 2630kg of Ram was able to clamber up the track with little wheel spin, only squirming from side to side a few times as it eked out traction.
Articulation is another surprise, although perhaps it shouldn’t be. The Ram has a five-link live axle at the rear with coil springs, along with a more familiar independent front suspension set-up. Perhaps it’s more because of the general size of the Ram, but it has a great sense of stability and sure-footedness off-road.
While there’s plenty of fun and theatrics to be had from that Hemi engine under load and with plenty of revs, there’s a smooth and sedate confidence to it as a low-rev crawler off-road. The gearbox is sedate and sensible, allowing the engine to flex its brawn and tick along at an easy idle.
Side steps are a handy addition around town, but I appreciated not having to worry about damaging them off-road. The modest suspension lift (one inch) improves ground clearance, but the size of the Ram will likely be a limiting factor for those going off-road.
The extra width means you’re at risk of scratches and pinstripes on narrow tracks, and the long-wheelbase yields a considerable ramp over angle and turning circle (12.2m) to contend with. In places like the Victorian High Country, there are situations where the Ram would feel like a handful.
And although the Ram looks and feels big in many ways, the payload might surprise you. An 820kg payload for the Ram Warlock isn’t massive and puts it on a similar playing field to smaller 4×4 utes.
The Ram is far from being any kind of leader or game-changer off-road, and won’t shake the status quo as it has amongst tow vehicles. It is, however, much better than many may think, and offers a genuine alternative to build up into something capable and enjoyable off-road.
For those who own one, or are thinking about it as an alternative to something like a LandCruiser, the Ram 1500 is certainly able to walk the walk off-road.