This is TL;DR Uncut, a more detailed review of the title vehicle. For the original TL;DR Review, click here.
There are diehard Ford fanatics. Their bitter rivals will only drive things with a Chevy bow-tie. There are guys that will only drink Miller and there are guys that will only drink Budweiser. Then there’s the Coors guy. He drives a Ram.
He sees the hate between the two groups and chooses a different, sexier path. The mountains on his beer turn blue and his pickup looks like a big rig. Neither of these things matter in the functionality of the products themselves, but, hey, it’s pretty friggin’ cool.
And he’s right. With the release of the 2nd gen Ram in 1994, Dodge changed the truck industry with its bold styling. Now in its 4th generation, the look remains largely the same and it is still better than the Ford or Chevy, which look like a freight train and a boxy box full of boxes, respectively.
The Ram is fun and it’s different. It speaks to the rebellious adolescence in everyone. Cases in point: the factory dual exhaust to punctuate that HEMI growl or, in this case, the Black package. It was introduced in 2013 and, since then, the other manufacturers have followed suit, much in the way that they are usually following in Dodge’s footsteps in truck styling.
While the exterior hasn’t changed much, the Ram has many advancements when compared to trucks of yester-year. Coil springs in the rear, along with cushy seats, make the truck truly comfortable and composed even on the bumpy road construction that I endure daily. The 410 pound-feet of torque makes towing a boat feel like towing a dinghy.
Technological advances, like the 8 speed transmission, direct injection, and cylinder deactivation make it much more economical. It gets surprisingly good mileage in the city, and I recently topped 20 MPG combined. For reference, my old ‘99 Silverado V6 regularly got 18 MPG and my dad’s ‘99 F-150 V6 is lucky to get 15 — and they have half the horsepower.
On the interior, the plastics no longer feel cheap. The layout is nice and the pieces fit together perfectly. The extended cab left my legs hitting the front seats, but the rear legroom in the crew cab is outstanding. The rear seat folds up for additional storage, in addition to two secret compartments in the floor. The rotary dial shifter frees up room in the front. Even this model, which starts as a lowly “Express”, comes with power/heated mirrors, UConnect, a backup camera, and a vehicle information display that tells temperatures and pressures for just about everything.
That, however, is the problem. Too much technology for the sake of technology can be a bad thing. On those previously mentioned bumpy roads, touch screens of any kind are infuriating. You end up just poking at the thing with your bobbing arm, looking like a orchestral conductor. Change the radio station? 16 random pokes later and, instead, you’ve adjusted how long your lights stay on after locking the doors. I’d take knobs and buttons any day; they help keep a driver’s eyes on the road.
Trucks should be inherently fun. They have a ton of torque with little weight over the driven tires. Burnouts and 4WD snow drifting are part of the appeal. In this, even with stability control “off”, the engine bogs at the start of wheel spin. An attempt at a controlled slide is met with terrible groaning and grinding noises as the brakes attempt to correct your hooligan nature. Big Brother is always watching.
That brings me to my comment about this truck (and all modern trucks, for that matter) being unnecessary. It is completely impractical as a daily driver. It is massive. I feel guilty driving it and I fear single parking spaces. If you want all of these comforts and technologies to use daily, you don’t need a truck.
On the flipside, if you do need a truck — and I mean a true workhorse — then you don’t need all the bells and whistles. A touch screen and stability control won’t help on the job site. Honestly, there isn’t a truck-like thing that today’s pickups can do that a 25 year old one can’t.
Logic tells me that the average truck of today, which costs easily upwards of $35,000, doesn’t really serve any purpose. If you need a daily driver, get a car. If you need a truck, get an old $3000 beast off of Craigslist. If you might need both, get an XJ and a trailer.
It defies simple, need-based logic but defines our society. People think they need them because it is perceived as being somehow better. Trucks have become a status symbol for sheeople and that sickens me. Worse yet, I fell for it. I got lulled into a trance by the voice of Sam Elliott.
To sum it up: I still love the look and feel of this vehicle. I love getting to fill the bed with mulch or pull home my next project car. I respect the engineering to improve ride quality and fuel consumption. But, if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t. I’d have something from the last millennium. Something my grandpa would have been proud to drive on the farm. Maybe something you can take the top off of like...
Yeah, that. Someday.