ALPENA (WWJ) — I seem to have fallen in love with a truck.
The 2013 Spring Tech Tour Mobile happens to be the current reigning North American Truck Of The Year, the Ram 1500 from Chrysler LLC.
And it’s loaded with high-tech features.
Let’s start under the hood, with a Pentastar V-6 and the first eight-speed automatic transmission ever placed in a truck. (According to Car and Driver, it’s the same transmission you’d find in a $474,900 Rolls-Royce. Do tell.)
The combination offers silky-smooth shifting, although the fact that off the line it shifts about every two seconds, always seeking the perfect and most efficient RPM, takes a little getting used to.
The really cool MPG-boosting technology on the truck involves an air suspension that drops the whole vehicle an inch when you reach highway speed to cut aerodynamic drag. There are shutters on the grille that close automatically at highway speeds too, again, to make the truck slipperier in the wind.
Then there’s the interior, where a big LCD display domiantes the center console, offering maps and other apps you can download wirelessly. Another big LCD separates two circular gauges on the instrument panel. It offers six customizable gauges with everything from instant MPG to transmission fluid temperature to trailer brake gain. It’s no wonder you can’t monkey with this display when the truck is moving — almost too many choices, even when the truck is stopped.
The ride of the Ram 1500 is really civilized on all but the bumpiest pavement. It’s insanely quiet inside for a truck at 70 mph, too, where top gear keeps the engine RPM below 2,000. And its electric power steering is amazingly precise for such a huge vehicle. Yet it remains a real truck, as I proved Saturday evening when trying to reach Black River Falls southwest of Marquette, a UP waterfall I’d never seen before.
The last half-mile of road to the waterfall bore the sign “SEASONAL ROAD: Not snowplowed by the Marquette County Road Commission.” No big snowdrifts were in evidence, but a nice mud bog was. How deep? I’m in a freakin’ 4×4 with monstrous ground clearance, let’s find out! A grin broke across my face as I put the truck in neutral, raised the air suspension as high as it would go, engaged four wheel drive, and bounced my way right through that foot-deep mud without a hiccup. It ain’t a truck if you don’t get it muddy. (Oh, and the waterfall was gorgeous. Totally worth the $9 car wash Sunday.)
Through it all, that V6 provides more than adequate power for highway acceleration, both off the line and in the 40-to-70 onramp department.
Oh, and in an era when EPA mileage rankings are pure fantasy, this one is EPA rated at 25 mpg highway. After nearly 1,000 almost-all-highway miles, I’m at 21.7. In a ginormous truck, that’s outstanding.
Like I said, it’s love. I’m gonna call her Betsy and see if I can get Chrysler PR to forget where they put her.