Pickups started off as vehicles of pure utility. An engine, steering, bench and a bed was about all you got in 1925 when Henry Ford’s Model T Runabout, the first mass produced truck, left his famous assembly line. 33,800 were built that year with the large majority ending up on farms and construction sites all over the US, but a new trend soon took off; people started to commute in these spartan workhorses. Fast forward to today it’s blatantly obvious that wasn’t just a fad. No vehicle symbolises America better than the pickup and the country’s insatiable appetite for them shows no sign of abating.
The segment is made up of just a handful of models out there but total sales last year topped the 2.2 million mark. Since those early days, trucks have been evolving and have grown into massive, terrain-tearing monsters. Buyers demanded — and have been getting — more and more luxury amenities that you’d usually associate with luxury saloons and the basic work truck is becoming a shrinking segment. That isn’t a surprise when models such as the Ram Laramie 1500 Longhorn able to combine the rough with the smooth with relative ease — but, just how smooth is this fancy truck? It’s loaded with special comfort and convenience features and some of the highlights include distinctive premium headlights and taillights, LED bed lighting, keyless entry, remote start, rain-sensing wipers and dual-zone climate control and it also packs some fine materials in the interior such as Walnut Burl-trim on the steering, centre console, and door cards and Canyon Brown Tan power 10-way leather seats (they’re extremely well padded not mention heated and cooled). And with a sparkling two-tone burgundy and light gold painted body, a set of special 20in gold and silver alloys and a massive chrome grille up front, it looks far too handsome for shenanigans such as kicking up a storm off the beaten track. It’d be far more suitable delivering you to a black-tie rodeo if there was such a thing but any thoughts of the Longhorn not being capable on treacherous terrain are soon put to bed following a spot of enthusiastic off-roading even if tackling large dunes does feel a little odd at first in this most grand of vehicles. But it’s good to know that when the roads turn rough, it can easily deal with them.
Featuring a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 with variable valve timing, it makes a very healthy 395 horses and 556Nm of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic (with all-wheel drive) and has ample power to negotiate steep hills and the grunt on offer also makes overtaking manoeuvres on the highway a doddle. When effectively equipped, it has a maximum trailer weight of 10,090 pounds. As far as the ride is concerned, it’s ever so smooth and that’s because the Ram has a rather more advanced setup than most of its rivals using multiple links, coil springs and Bilstein monotube shocks, which make for very comfortable long highway journeys (the Limited gets air suspension which would be even more enjoyable) and it handles well too with only minimal body motion. The steering is very light and doesn’t require much effort which sure helps out when parking in a tight spot, but you need to press down on the brakes rather hard to bring it to a stop.
There’s a host of communication and technology features in the cabin including an 8.4in Uconnect system with 3D navigation, a rear view camera system, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free phone, voice command, and text reader. It also gets a unique model-specific instrument panel layout and design and overall while seated in the very well-equipped cabin it’s hard for images of traditionally handcrafted and time-tested wares from Texas — iconography such as an antique pocket watch, a fine pair of hand-tooled leather cowboy boots and a horseman’s saddle — not to swirl around in your mind. It’s befitting then that I’m listening to some country music, and Don Williams never sounded better on the 10-speaker Alpine sound system.
The Middle East is one of the key markets outside of North America where the Ram brand has the potential to grow (there are nine variants in the 1500 line-up on offer) and with the eagerly anticipated Ram Rebel to arrive later this year, things are looking up.
‘Luxury’ and ‘pickups’ may not have belonged in the same sentence back in 1925 — but that’s long since changed and trims such as the Longhorn will ensure trucks keep evolving and if they retain their off-road prowess, capability and utility just like this one does, then there’s really not much to complain about.