I often lament that the truck manufacturers try to dazzle journalists with the most luxurious vehicles with the most extensive options, but two weeks ago I got what I had been asking for: a moderate-priced truck with many of the features that sport truck buyers demand, but without a hefty price tag. Granted, it is a standard cab, but it is still intriguing and it was a terrific drive.
The RAM 1500 Tradesman was introduced a couple years ago as an affordable alternative for those who need a good work truck with towing capability, and many of the same things that I know sport truck buyers want. While the Tradesman name evokes work, it could easily reflect trading work for outdoor activities, as far as I am concerned.
The one we had was a commercially-inspired bright white, but I have sure seen a lot of sport trucks in this color. The interior had a dark slate/medium graystone interior, steel 17″ steel wheels and LT265/7OR17E on/off-road tires, manual door locks and windows and vinyl floor coverings (no carpet).
The Tradesman is one of the entry level vehicles of the 9 trim levels available in half ton pickups from RAM. Prices for the basic Tradesman start out at $21,975 for the 4×2 regular cab, powered with the 4.7L, 310 hp V8. Good power at a quite reasonable price.
I found the white with matte black grille, trim, door handles, etc., very fresh looking — better than a lot of chrome on this vehicle. In another color with the matte black trim it could have been a minor stunner – and it was a knockout when it came to performance.
The one I drove had a 4×4 and 5.7L Hemi and basically priced out at $25,835 as delivered, without extras. It had several options but nothing super fancy. The Tradesman package ($525) added steel painted wheels, spray-on bed liner and Class IV receiver hitch with tow capacity of 8,900 lbs. A Protection Package added tow hooks, transfer case skid plate shield and front suspension skid plate — which I always recommend — for $150 more. The trailer brake control group ($300) included tire pressure monitoring display, electronic vehicle info center, instrument cluster with display screen and the trailer brake system.
The upgraded tires that I mentioned earlier were $250, a sliding rear window was $140 and the anti-spin rear differential wa $325.
On the inside, the ST popular equipment group ($750) changed the vinyl seats to cloth on the very comfortable 40/20/40 bench seat withintegrated fold down storage/work surface. It also included cruise control and Sirius Satellite Radio. UConnect Voice Command with Bluetooth and auto dimming mirror added $360 to complete a very workable media system.
The only other addition to the 6’4″ bed were RamBoxes that offer award-winning storage for fishing or hunting gear, picnic supplies and, of course, tools. They have compatible locking to the vehicle doors. At a $1295 price point, they are an excellent value — especially on a truck with a standard cab. How much storage? My passenger and I packed two substantial duffles for a three-day trip and transp0rted them in the RamBoxes with room to spare in a single box. The other held computers and cameras.
The bottom line: $30,975 for a vehicle with respectable tow capacity and adequate features for most folks.
Since we took this vehicle on a road trip, there was ample opportunity to check out performance. First was the quiet drive. Even with all terrain-tires, it was impressive and the well-matched suspension offered a very comfortable ride. Turning radius was nice and narrow, and the truck maneuvered well.
The 5.7L Hemi is a great engine and power was never an issue. It is not the greatest out there for fuel efficiency with an estimated mpg of 15; but the standard 26-gallon fuel tank gives a respectable range of about 400 miles.
While my husband, also an auto writer, guffawed about the manual locks and window cranks, they didn’t bother me at all. If they did, I could add the $375 power and remote entry group of options, which inckludes heated fold-away mirrors, power locks and windows and remote keyless entry.
If not, you may be in the same situation I was, explaining to a teenage passenger where the activation for locks and windows could be found. He, of course, had never seen such a thing and was completely incredulous.