The Tech Tour Mobile: Truck Heaven

SOUTHFIELD — Dear Chrysler public relations people: Uh, I don’t remember where I put your truck. I’m sure it’ll turn up eventually. I’ll be sure to let you know.

No, that won’t work. How about: Dear Chrysler public relations people: Aliens abducted your truck. Sorry.

Even less plausible. Maybe: Dear Chrysler public relations people: I’m still not sure just exactly how much I love the Ram 1500, North America’s Truck of the Year. I’ve only driven it 1,800 miles over the past 10 days. Can’t I keep it a little longer? Six or eight years ought to do. Sincerely, your pal, Matt.

No? Well, drat. I’m pretty sure the people from Chrysler are coming Monday to take back their truck, and that’s a damn shame. Because I love this thing.

Americans want the impossible so often, and vehicles are no exception. They want a truck that acts like a car when they’d really rather have a car, but acts like a truck when they really need a truck. Oh, and can it please get better mileage than many five-passenger sedans? Thanks ever so.

The Ram 1500 comes closer to delivering all these conflicting wishes than any truck I’ve found so far.

Thanks to a combination of air suspension, electric power steering and amazing sound dampening technology, the Ram 1500 rides a lot like a car. It’s only bouncy on the roughest of roads, and that’s when it’s practically empty.

But raise the air suspension and it’s an able off-road (or at least pretty-bad-road) performer. And it’ll still tow 5,000 pounds, which is a lot of trailer or boat.

And the V-6, coupled with the same eight-speed auto transmission you’ll find on a $470,000 Rolls Royce, provides mind-boggling fuel economy on the highway when the truck is lightly loaded. Burning gasoline and keeping my speeds reasonable, I was actually getting 21.7 mpg on the highway. (Burn E-85, drive fast or carry a load, and your mileage quickly deteriorates, but only as far as 17 or so, which still isn’t that bad for a vehicle this huge.)

In short — it’s a winner. Of course, all this wonderfulness doesn’t come cheap — I tried to build and price one online identical to mine, and amid the ramtrucks.com Web site’s bewildering array of choices and if-you-order-this-then-you-have-to-buy-that restrictions, it came in at about $39,000.

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