17 April 1998

AMERICAS BUTCHEST

PICK-UP SEEN IN ESSEX

CHRYSLERS Ram V10 is a bulging muscle of a pick-up. It is big, powerful and iron-pumpingly uncompromising. Its eight-litre mill (you couldnt merely call it an engine) growls out 300bhp and its road presence casts an intimidating shadow.

Living with the Ram – one of the biggest pick-ups in the world – even for a few days, is a psychological experience. Chrysler sent me one in bright red, with chromed wheels, and extra lights on the roof to give it added stature.

I felt I should have pulled on my tooled leather cowboy boots to mosey down to the Fyfield Village Store to buy a six-pack of skimmed milk. But I decided it was probably ostentatious enough, so for image I just puffed a panatella left over from Christmas as I climbed into the Rams cab, which seemed close to tractor height.

The mill started with a subdued growl and a curious beat. I slipped the big gearshift into first (it could have been almost any gear with 450lb ft of torque at 2400rpm) and edged out into the lane, the Ram brushing the verges on both sides. Other vehicles scuttled nervously out of its way, their drivers waving in awe, wonder – or sympathy that anyone should so lack aesthetic taste. But the Ram was literally above it all and just purred along on a handful of revs like the most quiescent of pussy cats.

Then came the main road where it was more in scale. Beware of spinning the quadruple rear wheels, Chrysler had warned me – in the wet or dry. So I gave the monster gentle wellie – or cowboy boot – and worked my way through its five-speed gearbox.

It takes about 8.5sec to reach 60mph and is said to do 112mph if you let it; I did not. Overtaking is never a problem and cruising quickly is an easy, loping business. Handling is surprisingly good.

Fuel consumption is truck-like. It is very easy to get down into single figures, which may be OK in Texas but is a shade depressing in Essex.

As a load carrier the Ram is in the real estate class: Its load deck measures 2.46m x 1.62m (97in x 64in), gross vehicle weight is 4760kg (10,500lb) and maximum trailer weight a remarkable 6170kg (13,600lb). Yet when we wanted to take it to Tesco for the weekly shop, I realised there was not room in the cab for all those plastic bags, and they could be hardly allowed to fly around the load area. So it had to be the trusty Vauxhall Omega turbodiesel as usual.

&#42 Whole oxen

However, if ever Tesco stocks whole oxen, the Ram will come into its own. The odds on that happening, though, are probably about the same as Chrysler selling the eight-litre V10 Ram in Britain. "No plans," they say.

Pity, I think, as I light another panatella, pull my baseball cap down to shade against the setting sun, push the pedal to the metal and set out to conquer the Rockies… well, High St, Chipping Ongar, actually.

Stuart Birch

About as modest and unassuming as Las Vegas. Unmentionable fuel-use figures but barnstorming performance. Purchase in the UK would require about £30,000 and a rush of blood to the head.

DODGE DATA

&#8226 Model: Ram 8.0 V10

&#8226 Engine: 300hp 8-litre V10

(245hp 5.9litre V8 petrol and 215hp 5.9 litre 6 cyl turbo diesel also available)

&#8226 Torque:450 lbft at 2400 rpm

&#8226 Transmission: 5sp manual or 4sp auto

&#8226 Loadbed: 2.46m x 1.62m (97x64in)

&#8226 Fuel tank: 192 litres (42gal)

&#8226 0-60mph: 8.5 sec

&#8226 Max speed: 112 mph

&#8226 Fuel Consumption: (Dont ask – single figures)