Riding High in a Ram from Down Under: An Australian Drives the Ram 1500 from L.A. to Detroit

Riding High in a Ram from Down Under
By James Stanford for PickupTrucks.com

Australian correspondent James Stanford has always written about the trucks we don't get to drive in the U.S., like the Ford and Holden Utes and Volkswagen Amarok. But this time we've dragged him to our shores and placed him in a big American pickup. We hope you enjoy what James thinks about driving the Ram 1500 from L.A. to Detroit.

Australia is like the U.S. in a lot of ways, but there are also significant differences.

You have baseball. We have cricket. You have NASCAR. We have V-8 supercars. You have pickup trucks. We have utes.

Australians buy a mix of car-based utes and cheap Japanese commercials (made in Thailand), but you can’t get full-size pickups like the Ford F-Series, GMC Sierra or Ram. Any attempt to sell them in the past has been unsuccessful because only a handful of Aussies really “get” pickups.

To understand why Americans like pickups so much, last January I drove a Dodge Ram 1500 from Los Angeles to Detroit.


A few key criteria had to be met before starting out. It needed to have a V-8, a nice 5.7-liter Hemi and a crew cab for all the stuff my lovely wife would inevitably buy along the way. (I didn’t think it would all fit in the tub — Aussie for “cargo box” — out the back.)

First impressions

I must say that I was impressed with the Ram 1500 Laredo 4x4 the first time I saw it. To be more accurate, I was nearly blinded by it. It was a sunny day in Los Angeles, and the reflection from all that chrome was dazzling.

A pickup this big is intimidating to an Australian, and for the first few hours I wondered why I chose a Ram for the trip.

It was fantastic inside, full of leather and all of that space, but the Ram was so wide that I struggled to stay in my lane as we rolled along in thick traffic on the freeway out of Los Angeles. It was strange to sit up so high in traffic because our utes and utilities are so much shorter.


We steered toward Death Valley and watched the scenery change to dry desert as I got used to the Ram. It might have seemed massive to me, but I was soon passed by even larger pickups.

What surprised me most was just how quiet the Ram was. I thought it would be like our commercial utes, which are pretty noisy. But it was so serene inside.

From Death Valley to Sin City

Our route took us along some fantastic dirt tracks that run through Death Valley and past some ghost towns from the mining days, including the abandoned gold-mining town of Rhyolite, Nev. (named for the area's volcanic rocks and sand), which is now a scene of installation art that includes a series of ghosts. The artists must have a sense of humor.

These places reminded me of the Australian outback. The Ram was so comfortable cruising. It felt at home covering huge distances, eating up the miles with the engine just ticking over.


Our route took us up from Death Valley eastward into Nevada, near Area 51 on what is called the Extraterrestrial Highway (U.S. State Route 375). We stopped at the Little A 'Le' Inn pub and store in Rachel.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any aliens; they may have moved on to Las Vegas, which is where we spent the night. The gaudy lights of Sin City reflected off the Ram’s chrome grille and bumpers.

The heat is on

We resisted the urge to blow all our fuel money and moved on toward the Grand Canyon. The next morning, we found the Ram under a thick coat of snow, which never happens where I’m from. Digging it out was novel and fun, for a few seconds.

I have to admit that until this point, the Ram’s heated steering wheel seemed like a waste of money, but I changed that view instantly in the low temperatures. When your fingers are ice blocks, the heated wheel and seat are up there with the greatest automotive inventions of all time.


The Grand Canyon turned out to be even more beautiful than the brochure, thanks to a top coat of snow. Wow!

Within a few hours, we were out of the snow and rolling through Arizona into New Mexico.

A run on an old section of Route 66, which was pretty bumpy, showed just how good the Ram’s ride is. I expected a rough, jolty ride, but the Ram rolled along as well as some of our Australian car-based utes, thanks to its rear coil-sprung live axle and multilink suspension. It was a bit more cumbersome around the corners, but it was always predictable in its path.

Let it snow

A few hundred miles later in Denver, I had my first full-on snow driving experience. The snow was coming down so hard that the road was completely covered, and two-wheel-drive cars were sliding everywhere. Luckily, the Ram had four-wheel drive and new tires that seemed to have a lot more grip than anything else — that is, until I wanted to stop.


I had a few hairy moments trying to slow the Ram as we slid toward a group of stopped cars. Given my inexperience, I decided to just drive super slow and leave lots of space in front of me. I was passed by a few people on the highway, including an older lady, but I can handle that.

The Ram Box

In Colorado, I started to appreciate the optional Ram Box tub storage bins. These lockable compartments were handy for bits and pieces you didn't want to leave in the cabin, and I learned that when filled with snow, they make excellent chillers. They keep soft drinks cool for the trip and other beverages ice-cold ready for when we pull up for the night.

I appreciated the Ram Box, but the $1,800 asking price is too high. The trip on the interstate from Denver to Kansas City was an eye-opening experience. A severe winter storm came through the day before, and we saw crashed cars every few kilometers, some stuck on the center barriers, others in ditches.

After watching a hockey game in St Louis, we headed up through Iowa, stopping at the Iowa 80 truck stop, which is apparently the world’s largest, and it certainly gave that impression.


In the home stretch, we decided to check out Hell, Mich., a tiny town just out of Detroit. No kidding, it's actually called Hell. Interestingly, it was snowing there on the day we arrived.

I savored the V-8 engine during the last few miles into Detroit, taking the opportunity to open it up and enjoy that sweet sound.

The Hemi propelled the Ram along pretty fast, too. Not that it’s a racecar, but it’s nice to have all that power in reserve.

The Ram has a fuel calculator, but it presented the information in miles per gallon, while Australians use liters per 100 kilometers. The fact is, I didn’t really want to know our mileage because I suspected it to be a gas guzzler.

It worked out to 14.8 mpg, which seems like a lot, given most of the run was at steady highway speed, but I wasn’t expecting any miracles.


The cold truth

Our arrival in Detroit was a bit more exciting than expected because I left an unopened can of Coke in the cabin. Not a drama in Australia, but the freezing temperatures led to a dramatic explosion that sent sugary, iced caffeine all over the cabin. It was all clean again after a few hours.

As I handed back the keys, it was time to hand the Ram back and reflect on what I learned.

A) Cans of drink should not be left in vehicles in winter.

B) The Ram is a much better vehicle than I could have imagined.

I’d love to drive one of these back at home, as long as someone paid for the fuel, so it’s a shame there are no plans to build it in right-hand drive for us Australians. How about a swap? We’ll give you some Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon utes, and you send the Ram.

That way, everybody wins.



All they need to do is get those small V8 diesels made and make them in RHD. US pickups could be a global success.

So what do Australians use as work vehicles? Ex. Towing, construction, utility... Just wondering


X2 As much as I am a Hemi fan a 5.0 Cummins would work wonders for my personal needs. Nice write up could not agree more!

wow, australians complain about 14 mpg? no wonder why fullsize trucks ain't popular outside of the u.s. they would rather trade payload and towining capacities for good fuel mileage. let them keep their light trucks. if they were serious, they would get one.

Good article! But...........

14.8mpg on a mostly HWY trip? This is worse than the trucks combined EPA rating. Hopefully this is because James is an aggressive driver and not a reflection on how bad the RAM's fuel economy really is.

I personally know that the 4th gen Ram gets much better fuel milage then that. Plus you look at how much he drove in 4x4. I'm also sure he made use of the HEMI:D

"I personally know that the 4th gen Ram gets much better fuel milage then that. Plus you look at how much he drove in 4x4. I'm also sure he made use of the HEMI:D"

X2 More like the 18-20MPG area!

"wow, australians complain about 14 mpg?" - Allistar

Australians complain about everything!

You're right Mr "Nice Write Up," I'm sure you can get awesome fuel ecopnomy in the new RAM (I'm not being sarcastic). Since 2008 the EPA has been more aggressive with cars/trucks in their fuel economy testing. EPA testing includes faster highway speeds (up to 75/80mph), A/C use, and harder acceleration (to name a few changes). By being conservative on how you drive you can easily beat the EPA's ratings. Keeping track of my fuel purchases since I bought my 2006 Chevy I have managed to increase my combined average from 17.4mpg to 19.6. On long hwy trips I can easily get 22mpg. With my wife's 2006 V6 4x4 explorer the trip from Moore,OK (elevation 1253ft) to Winter Park, CO(elevation 9052ft) we got 21.7mpg.

My point? The EPA ratings are easy to beat with only a little effort.

No long bed version except with the regular cab ????

you have to upgrade to a 2500 or 3500 for a long bed. i can not wait to get my new ram! nice article thoroughly enjoyed.

That's just dumb! I can get any manufacturer 1/2 ton ext. cab long bed except dodge!

@ woopud

That truck in the pivture is a crew cab. They have the shortest box of the Dodge 1/2 tons. The extended cab is a little smaller in the back with the space added to te length of the box. Full 8 ft box available only with reg cab.

Hurry up Ram, v8 diesel in the 1500. You guys have got the engine already just shake hands with Cummins and put a 6 or 7 speed tranny and you and I both win.

that's 16 lpk for you non-americans

I own a 09 ram crew trx4 with hemi and 3.92 rear and I get 19 mpg on long highway trips I get 15 mpg in city so he must have been really stepping on it. thats not bad for 390 hp/407 lbs tq


I hope you mean 16 km per liter..., 16liter per km is bad, very bad...

"So what do Australians use as work vehicles? Ex. Towing, construction, utility... Just wondering"
Utes , Asian Pickups Cab Chassis Vans, Light and Medium Duty Trucks, Tractor Trucks and if it is farm work and Tractors and related vehicles.

Woopud, it's 16L/100km. L/100km is the metric standard for fuel consumption.

Shut your mouths guys, you would complain about 14mpg too if your cost of gas hasn't gone below $4.50 a gallon in the last 10 years.

Jay Murch,

Many people use vans with a trailer or diesel japanese pickups for work vehicles, but majority are Holden Commodores or Ford Falcon utes


Y'all are poking fun at the australians for "complaining" about 14.8mpg. Do you think 14.8mpg is good?

I'm an Aussie living in Brisbane and I drive a 2008 Ram 1500 Crew Cab with a long box and 5.7 Hemi. Yes, Rams are available in OZ, but we do pay a premium for shipping and conversion to RHD. As to fuel consumption, I'm presently averaging 12Litres per 100k Approx 20 miles per US Gallon on my freeway driving round trip to our job site. I also own a couple of 2002 F250's that are great work vehicles for our landscaping, civil construction work, and having previously owned Ford Falcon utes, though good for work and practical as a cab/chassis, they just don't measure up to the work capability of the typical US pickup. Over the combined total of nearly 500,000 kilometers in the three pickups, I've never had a serious problem. Fuel though is another issue, and paying about $4 a US gallon, it can get expensive. But hey, somethings are worth paying the extra for!

Wow, this is news. How about providing your viewer base something useful?


Would someone please give Rob a hug? He's feeling a little cranky this morning.

14.8mpg isn't good at all, but it's about what I get in my F150 and I still drive it, and enjoy it. I think even in Australia, people would still buy the V8 gasser models, some would convert those to run on LPG. But if there was a small diesel option, the majority would pick that. Looking at the impressive mpgs the media got with the new 6.7 Super Duty, if they built the 4.4L V8 using that technology, could we be looking at 30-35mpg on the highway? Plus the speed limits in Australia are slower than they are in the US, so while they're cruising at 100-110km/h (65mph on cruise with no tolerance above) , they could really see much better mileage.

It's great to read a story from someone with a totally different viewpoint. I bet he had the truck in 4x4 for a large portion of the trip. I agree that the Ram Box option is way too pricy. I can get a new drybox for 1/4 the price. The Ram Box kills the use of a canopy,headache rack or boat rack. When fuel prices start to rise again we will see a shift in driving habits, engine configurations and vehicle configurations.
Great story. Keep up the good work.

Nice write up. Interesting to see a different point of view.

In his orginal story on the Ram printed in the Cars Guide section of the Weekend Sydney Morning Herald, he added he picked the Dodge as his family had Chrysler Valiants(Not Plymouth) in Australia.
He seemed to dispare that a similar Hilux about the same price had less features. As he stated few Aussies "get" US Pickups in more ardous work situations, but has a "car" with Utility they are better as a drive than the Japanese Pickups. The "Noisy engines" are a reference to the small diesels the Japanese Pickups use.

Maybe we should follow the Aussie's lead and pay more attention to fuel economy. Instead of waiting for the next best thing (Hybrid? 1/2 ton diesel?) to come out, lets explore what the individual can do to improve their fuel economy (I'm sure the Aussie's will).

Also dont forget about Hybrid technology. Now I know people have many concerns about the Chevy Silverado Hybrid (Reliability? Resale? Initial cost?). Many people see the EPA rating (21cty/22hwy for the 2wd) and complain that it is not high enough. The reason the fuel economy sucks is that the EPA testing guidelines are more aggressive. We can learn from the guys/gals that drive Toyota Prius Hybrids. If a Pruis owner can easily increase their combined mpg by 50%, why can't we do the same with the Silverado Hybrid? The Potential for awesome fuel economy in hybrids is high!

How high will gas prices have to be in the US before truck owners start to complain? Even if you haul/tow big loads on a daily basis improving your fuel economy is still easy.

"How high will gas prices have to be in the US before truck owners start to complain? Even if you haul/tow big loads on a daily basis improving your fuel economy is still easy."
The new Japanese Pickups will have European sourced 3 litre Diesels that are putting out 430lbs ft of torque and about 29-30mpg. Not that difficult for a small diesel F150 to do the same..

Well the Toyota Hilux 3.0 diesel has 126kW/343Nm, which is 167HP/253 lb-ft. The Navara has a 2.5L diesel which has about the same. Very slow in acceleration, and the older ones were much much worse! But the new Nissan Navara coming out with the Renault-souced engine, which I think is what Robert Ryan is talking about. It will have 170kw/550Nm (228HP/405lb-ft). That's more like what a 3L V6 diesel should be putting out these days, though Jaguar and Land Rover are more up like 270HP/443 lb-ft.
I honestly believe the 4.4L V8 diesel in an F-150, with the Urea system, would see easily over 30mpg. Very easily!

I agree with all of you regarding the MPG potential of diesel engines powering midsize and 1/2 ton trucks. With the right upgrades and conservative driving technique the mpg numbers could go even higher!

Waiting just sucks. I like my chevy trucks, but if Dodge or Ford came out with a diesel long before GM, I would be tempted to leave GM behind.

Great write up, love to see an outsider appreciate just how good a modern North American truck really is. I remember when the SVT Lightning was tested on Top Gear and the Brits predictably scoffed at it. They may have scoffed less at a SRT-10 (as an owner of both I can say it was a better truck)... but these new ones are a huge leap forward yet.

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