It was 1994, and I was testing cars on the radio and for magazines back in Houston when our delivery service brought a vehicle to the station that was about to set the truck world on fire. The Dodge Ram that arrived that day drew more stares on the street than anything I had driven up to then, including a Ferrari, a Hummer, and various Mustangs, Corvettes and Mercedes Benzes.
I loved it, and it took a bit of time to love its successor. But, the new Ram was a better truck in every aspect…better interior, better engine, etc. But the formal grill that set the Ram apart and made Ford and GM scramble back to the drawing board to try to compete, was been enlarged to big-mouth bass proportions.
When I first saw it, I thought they’d frankly gone too far. It looks like the product of an illicit affair between a Dakota and a Kenworth. But driving it was like night and day compared to the old one.
Now comes the Outdoorsman package, which I first saw at the 2010 State Fair of Texas.
It’s geared toward those who enjoy the outdoor life, and glory be, our truck came as a standard cab. Oh, there’s enough storage behind the seats for a couple of guns or an anorexic super model. The Outdoorsman package is available on the 1500, 2500 and 3500 heavy duty models. Our 2500 was about mid-range, but nicely equipped.
Start with the engine. The new 5.7 liter Hemi V8 cranks out 383 horsepower, and has been with us since dinosaurs ruled the earth.
Unlike it’s competition from GM and Ford, the three-quarter ton Ram looks like it’s lighter brethren but with a heavier, hydro-formed frame to handle the kind of work you buy one of these behemoths for. The HD’s come in both regular and crew-cabs, the former of which describes our test truck, and in 4X4 form like this one, the climb up is high enough to require a Sherpa guide.
The interior, always the most accommodating and handy of the big 3, is even better. Adjustable pedals mean my 5 ft. wife can easily fit in the big Ram (if only she could climb in), and the dash, huge fold-down armrest/console and seats have all be redesigned with nicer materials and a better layout. Only two bed lengths are available for simplicity’s sake, we had the 8-foot one with a nice liner and lots of tie-downs.
Base price is just over $34,000, but with a killer four-wheel-drive system and a few doo-dads our test truck came to around $41-K. Take my advice and read all the fine print. A little will power with the options list can whittle that down.
And frankly, it works. Room with a good ride, excellent build quality a nice engine and more comfortable interior, the Ram Outdoorsman has improved enough to be considered a true equal of Ford and Chevrolet in all aspects, not just style. I’ve gotten used to the grill, because behind that swollen nose is one great truck.