As I'm writing this review in early December, I’d like to make a prediction – the new Land Rover Defender should win the New Zealand Car of The Year title.
In 2019, about 140 Ram 1500s were registered, 120 of which were the top-of-the-range Laramie versions.
For 2020, the arrival of the Express Crew Cab (ECC) sees a new model that drops between the base Express Cab and the Laramie, but with the latter’s cabin – offering more leg, shoulder and headroom, with a slightly shorter 1712mm tub.
On walk up, the ECC is still an imposing vehicle with a broad, muscular front that tips the tape at 2m wide, 5.8m long and 1.9m high.
Our test steed in Granite Crystal also comes as standard with a sports hood, black accent package and semi-gloss black 20-inch alloys.
Dumbed down a little from Laramie, the truck offers, mechanically adjusted cloth seats, a simplified centre console, the absence of volume control on the steering wheel and a missing rear window demister.
But enough of what it doesn’t have, to what it does – in the main that glorious 5.7 litre, V8 Hemi engine that pumps out 291kW and 556Nm of torque. A 121-litre capacity petrol tank will give you an idea of fuel consumption, officially rated at 12.2l/100km, but you don’t buy a Ram to save the planet!
Easy to live with, the rumbling exhaust note makes you forget about consumption. But for those looking for frugality, during light loads, one bank of cylinders shuts down. However, the exhaust sound is lost – so just keep your boot on the loud pedal.
As you would expect, the front seats are broad, deep and comfortable – while those behind will always have plenty of space. For those looking to carry large items inside the cabin, the rear seats flip up to increase space, but don’t fold flat like the Laramie.
Precisely remanufactured from a LHD vehicle that passes through Walkinshaws’ workshops in Melbourne, before a boat ride to NZ, the 1500 still carries the foible of the foot operated park brake mounted above the gas pedal – leading one to wonder how hard it would be to fit an electronic park brake? Likewise, smart entry and push button start can’t be that much more expensive on a $105k vehicle?
Out on the road, the ride is firm – but this is a truck.
The 8-speed transmission is a joy to use and although fitted with push button changes if required, was largely left to its own devices. For those easily intimidated, the overall size makes for awkward parking and the realisation that the back end will always hang over the lines.
Likewise, the 12.2m turning radius needs a degree of forward planning.
However, that same size means other drivers give you a wide berth.
Fitted with selectable 4WD, difficult terrain is never a problem. The ECC offers an 830kg load-bed capacity and comes into its own with a 4.5 tonne towing capacity. Our test truck was fitted with the optional Ram box lockers on each flank, giving a waterproofed 210 litre capacity each, with automated locking linked to the central system.