Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Ram 1500 Sport

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If you’re the sort of person who loads heavy loads, tows heavy tows – if you’re a truck fiend, I want you to stop now. Stop reading. Click on this Ram 1500 review from Justin Pritchard instead. This review will only make you angry.

I want a truck. Not because my work requires it – it doesn’t. And not because I sometimes need it – I don’t. I just like them.

But if you’re the sort of person who loves trucks, and wants a truck, even though there is no valid reason for you to own a truck, keep reading. Because I’m like you. I like trucks. I liked utes when I lived in Australia, and I like trucks now that I live in Canada. I want a truck. Not because my work requires it – it doesn’t. And not because I sometimes need it – I don’t. I just like them. And yet I rarely review them, because I have nothing to tow, pick up, or drag about.

So this review is for those of us who know we’ll haul air 99 percent of the time and admit it freely. For those of us who live in cities and commute to work. This review is for a much, much higher percentage of truck owners than the truck company ad folks and truck owners themselves would like to admit.

The truck itself, a Ram 1500 Sport, openly works to embarrass my desk-jockey self every time I climb aboard. The cupholders are too many and too large for my morning Flat White. There are a number of them – seriously, who needs that much coffee?

The dashboard is set up to hold clipboards and notes and invoice pads and pens and tape measures – not my office parking tag. The console lid is flat, so you can write on it, or do woodwork on it, or rebuild a carburetor or a toilet cistern on it. The problem with this truck is that its slew of workman aids inside and out will shame you into doing actual work with it... I’m not joking: I seriously started hunting down scrap metal to cart away to the scrapyard just so I could be a real workman.

I begged my father-in-law to let me sledgehammer up his front porch so I could cart away the concrete. I hung out in Lowe’s parking lots until they asked me to leave, and then hung out at Home Depot until the police also asked me to leave.

And then I went home. To my downtown Toronto condominium, where I had to park the Ram 1500 in a tiny little condo parking lot in an underground garage. Now the door sill on the Ram is at least shoulder height to me, and in order to park successfully I had to get out of the car multiple times, checking each corner to make sure I had clearance at the back and front. I still managed to mess it up, and quickly learned that the best course of action is to use the massive wing mirrors, wide-angle back-up camera and good old-fashioned “looking around” from the driver’s seat to park.

My particular parking spot is a three-maneuvre job even in a Fiat 500, so it was a bit tense in the Ram. This is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s achievable. You will only ever back your truck into spots though, with welcome help from the back up camera; fronting in will give you a heart attack.

Parking aside, the Ram is extremely easy to drive. Its height and size make for unparalleled visibility on the road. And while the steering is fingertip light, the 1500 still holds its lane confidently and steadily. The ride is bouncy without being a pogo; that is to say, the Ram drives like a truck.

There’s another reason I like trucks, and it’s buried under the long, high, hood. It has eight hemispherical combustion chambers that collectively add up to 5.7 litres of displacement. They combine for 395 horsepower and 410 hardworking lb-ft of torque. You can choose to send all that power to all four corners in low or high range, courtesy of a proper mechanical transfer case for more traction. Or, if like me the box is empty and the tow hitch safely stowed, you might want to send power just to the rear wheels for entertainment value.

Either way you choose to use your right foot the 5.7L Hemi will respond with grunty, angry noises that make it seem like you’re doing work, even when you’re not. The gear selector dial feels chunky and is easy to use, but the best thing about it is that it will go to park automatically if you forget. This makes sure you’re always in the right gear. The eight-speed transmission gives smooth, confident shifts and never seemed confused or fussed. You’ll pay to play though – especially in the city. I saw an average of 17.5 L/100 km during my week of pure urban driving. Out on the highway, where Ram’s cylinder deactivation technology comes into play, you will fare better. Official fuel ratings are 15.7/11.0/13.6 L/100km city/highway/combined.

City slickers will also enjoy the creature comforts on offer, including heated steering wheel, heated seats, Sirius XM and of course, all the joy of FCA’s UConnect system. This tester is still rocking the non-Android Auto/Apple CarPlay edition, but those two will be available soon on UConnect. It’s worth waiting for them. Once they’re in place, UConnect will once again be the undisputed king of infotainment and HMI systems. The back-of-steering-wheel controls are perfect, the large touchscreen and large volume/tuning knobs are exactly what the doctor ordered. This is a brilliant system.

For those of you who like power, you’ll find a 110 volt household power outlet front and centre and a set of 12 V and USB plugs under the console lid. You’ll also find a segmented change holder for your toonies and loonies.

Even the way the phone is held in place – by a stiff rubber holder complete with cable slots for charging – is cleverly thought out and executed. That’s some serious User Experience work on display.

There is a cavernous console bin for cabin storage, and even more under the rear seats, where even more clever UX is apparent. I was hoping to use the Ram’s six-foot bed to help me cart Christmas presents around, but without a factory tonneau cover fitted to this tester, that became a bad plan. Instead, I used the back seat. Folding up the seat base exposed a false floor that could be set up to create a wide, flat surface bigger, and easier to access, than most boots or even hatchbacks. Ram isn’t the only one doing this now, the Nissan Titan does it too for example, but it’s still cleverly executed. The floor is robust too – I had no qualms loading it up.

The lack of a tonneau cover exposed another FCA specialty – the Easter Egg. Ram, like Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge are renowned for design touches that harken to other models and heritage. “Daddy, it looks like a Jeep is following us!” called my daughter from the back seat. It wasn’t until we stopped and I noticed the round headlights and Jeep-esque carvings on the inside of the tailgate I realized what she was on about. Nice job, Ram.

This box also was kitted out with the box lights – one up high on the cab and two at the back pointing along the sides of the box. These lights might be great for people who use the box for working and things. But like I mentioned – I don’t.

So why should a city slicker own a truck? Well, for one, this Ram 1500 Sport in cherry red with matching mirrors and grill is downright attractive. It drew many an admiring comment and gaze during my time with it.

For two, the engine is bloody entertaining, and driving a truck is complete and utter fun.

And for three, because trucks are cool. That’s why.

Engine Displacement 5.7L
Engine Cylinders V8
Peak Horsepower 395 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Peak Torque 410 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm
Fuel Economy 15.7/11/13.6 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space All of it
Model Tested 2017 Ram 1500 Sport
Base Price $53,695
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $60,005
Optional Equipment
$4,415 – Comfort Group (front heated seats, heated steering wheel) $595, Remote start and security alarm group $595, 3.92 Rear axle $125, UConnect 8.4-inch with nav $700, ParkView rear back-up camera $450, park sense front/rear park assist $550, Class IV hitch receiver $475, Trailer brake control $375, spray-in bed liner $550