Horse Wheels

Where we get to test the best SUV's for equestrian use in the Middle East

It is fair to say I’m coming into this review a little biased. I have a soft spot for the pick-up truck, and over the years I’ve struggled to keep a lid on it (the soft spot, that is).

I hanker for the pick-up in a way that makes me need to lock up my chequebook. As a card-carrying Englishwoman, the pick-up was not really part of the vehicular landscape that I grew up with – too expensive to run, too large to park, too exposed to carry anything of value in the back. Its natural habitat was more likely the wide-open roads of the US than the narrow hedge-lined single-track lanes with which I was familiar. But moving to the Middle East really turned me on to what these behemoths are actually about – power, precision, and in many cases, luxury. Which brings me neatly to the all-new RAM 1500 – possibly one of the finest looking specimens you will ever have seen on the pick-up market, but still very much a truck.

Ram has often – unfairly in my opinion – played third fiddle to market-leaders Ford and GM, who are constantly battling it out for market supremacy in what has been called the “truck wars”. But while the main contenders have been duking it out, RAM has come up with its own idea of pick-up perfection, and let me first say it’s a damn fine offering – and one that signals that the truck wars are heating up nicely.

Looking at the front end, it is curvaceous without being cartoonish, towering without feeling overblown or overinflated – all in a way that is unlike other trucks on the market.

So many large pick-ups in recent years look more like chest freezers on wheels, yet the 1500 does not fall into this trap.

The overall stance feels absolutely correct – as do the proportions. So much so that it is easy to forget just how big it is. Only when parking (or trying to wash it!) did I really appreciate its size. Thankfully, its running boards make getting on and off surprisingly easy – perhaps even elegant. And it’s flash too, with an abundance of bright work across the body but most notably up front. Metallic finishes dominate the front end with its gigantic grill/front bumper/logo combination. This could arguably be called a little conspicuous, but much like a cowboy’s rhinestone belt buckle, it draws the eye towards the main event – the engine bay.

The overall stance feels absolutely correct – as do the proportions. So much so that it is easy to forget just how big it is. Only when parking (or trying to wash it!) did I really appreciate its size. Thankfully, its running boards make getting on and off surprisingly easy – perhaps even elegant. And it’s flash too, with an abundance of bright work across the body but most notably up front. Metallic finishes dominate the front end with its gigantic grill/front bumper/logo combination. This could arguably be called a little conspicuous, but much like a cowboy’s rhinestone belt buckle, it draws the eye towards the main event – the engine bay.

ENGINE SPECS AND DRIVABILITY

 

Engines have long been one of the calling cards of vehicles that fall under the FCA banner. From Jeep to Chrysler, Dodge to Ram, the quality and durability of the engines has been extraordinarily good – and this one is no different. The legendary 5.7-litre HEMI V8 shines yet again and only gets better with each incarnation. Its application here strikes a pitch-perfect balance between out-and-out grunt and a subtlety, efficiency, and performance that never stopped surprising. With 395 hp at 5,600 rpm, and 410 lb-ft of torque, the engine is linked to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission that makes the truck positively genteel when it needs to be, or an animal when unleashed – a bear in sheep’s clothing. When turned out to the wide-open spaces, it is effortlessly powerful and perhaps most important, at least to me, it is loud. True, the engine noise has had the roughness taken off the edges, but Ram have done so without completely squashing its timbre. It still had an appreciably throaty quality that a vehicle of that size demands. But when you are sat inside, you hardly notice it. Acoustic glass and a highly advanced active noise cancellation system reduce ambient sounds to a mere 67.1 decibels, making it the quietest Ram 1500 ever.

The Ram pick-up truck has always been known for its on-road smoothness, but has battled to be regarded as a true rugged vehicle – but the maker has stuck to its guns and delivered here: capability off- road but with comfort and appointment as a priority. This is a duel-purpose car – something that you can use to hitch your horsebox to, and something that you wouldn’t be ashamed to drop off at valet parking once it’s been hosed down. It is also light, with Ram engineers managing to cut just over 100 kg from its last ideation. And it’s extremely aerodynamic, thanks to extensive wind tunnel testing. The 1500 also uses active aerodynamics technology, including grille shutters, air dam, and air suspension. They all help make the new 1500 as streamlined as a sedan, which is really something special. I drove through a pretty hectic sandstorm and it cut through the wind as easily as a much smaller car. Although the truck was buffeted, I wasn’t fighting to keep it on the road.

 

HITCHING THE TOW

 

Now to the business end of the review: the usability of the truck for genuine towing and utility work. As we all know, towing trailers can be an utter headache – get them hitched up, manoeuvre into perfect position etc. If you were to attempt this without technology, the general visibility and lack of blind spots makes manoeuvring the truck relatively simple, but some clever cookie at Ram has made it so much easier. Available for the first time on the all-new 2019 Ram 1500, a 360-degree surround view camera gives a bird’s-eye perspective from four cameras positioned around the vehicle. The fully-stitched image helps the driver to perfectly align the hitch to the trailer. I engaged the cameras and set about lining it up.

I suspected it could take a couple of bites at the cherry to get it spot on – but nope. All good at the first go. It really could not be simpler to do – and I can confidently say, it is possible for even the most novice driver to position and set up the hitch single-handed. This is further simplified by the smart suspension settings (available in Laramie and Limited variants) meaning the truck can be lowered or raised as needed, lifting the tow hitch to the appropriate height to be connected.

 

And once it was, the torque and power available meant that the truck wafted about completely unperturbed. You’d forget it was even there if you didn’t look in the rear-view mirror.

INTERIOR

 

The styling throughout the interior is something to behold. You genuinely do get reservations about using the truck for the purposes it was built to perform. Even though the car did not belong to me, I hated the idea of getting sand near the beautifully-appointed luxury of ventilated leather seats (front and rear), or sticky fingers coming anywhere near the 12-inch reconfigurable touchscreen – which initially seems excessively large, until you come to understand how intuitive and well-proportioned it actually is: a product of the award winning fourth-generation U-connect system which is paired to a superb Harman Kardon speaker system.

 

The abundance of high-end interior fitment was really very classy with strips of satin and gloss, chrome and open-pore real-wood accents throughout. It’s also got business-class levels of legroom in the rear. RAM have some how found an additional 10 cm and given it to the cabin so that rear passengers have best-in-class legroom of 114.6 cm and seats that recline by up to eight degrees for added comfort. This doesn’t even include the more than 151 litres of additional storage volume that has been crammed into the cabin, including a reimagined centre console with 12 storage configurations that offer never-before-seen customisation.

This means there is enough room inside for kids, schoolbags, dogs, small goats, saddles, tack, and anything else you can think of. And the flatbed with automatic tailgate can accommodate whatever else you may need that you don’t have room or inclination to put in the cab. Additionally there is an enormous sunroof which lets light flood the cabin making it seem even larger.

 

Once I got over my dirt reservations and had twisted, pressed and lifted the relevant knobs dials and switches we were ready to get this bad boy dirty and put it to genuine work. And boy does it perform. Full disclosure, I had driven this car at its launch previously in its Rebel, Laramie and Limited incarnations, and I was aware of the potential of the vehicle for rocky terrain and softer sand,

but to take it out and put it through its paces in a more specific fashion while out shadowing a team of aspiring young jockeysit simply sailed alongside – its quiet engine purring quietly keeping the horses calm as it wafted past thanks to its unique link-coil rear suspension system Frequency Response Damping (FRD) shocks. It performs beautifully without the need to bellow and holler which was pretty extraordinary, but flatten your foot and you will find rewards in rooster tails and power slides.

 

Once out in the desert it took all of five minutes for a fellow RAM driver to sidle alongside and give me the thumbs up. “Can you make it donut – just a little?” I will not comment as to whether I relented to his request.

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