Ram 2500: Terrifyingly Good
October 1, 2013—My first car was a 1988 Dodge Raider. For those that don’t know, it was a two door SUV built by Mitsubishi and essentially identical to the Montero. It featured a two-barrel carbureted four-cylinder engine, automatically locking hubs and four-wheel-drive low for getting out of mud or up/down steep hills. It also had an inclinometer on the dashboard so that you could tell at what angle the truck was currently inclined.
I did my best to kill the Raider: driving it through larger saplings in Western Maryland’s Appalachians, attacking hills at steep lateral angles with General Custer’s bravado yet somehow surviving, and bashing through snow banks when the weather made roads impassable. I think it had about 110 horsepower?
And while I’ve been off-roading in the Battlewagon more recently, I’ve never driven or ridden a trail with any sort of professional instruction. My approach has always been a Jeremy Clarkson-esque application of power to simply knock through obstacles and tight spots. So yesterday, at the Motor Press Guild’s track day I took an opportunity to ride along in a Ram 2500 Laramie Power Wagon Crew Cab up some of the off-road trails that surround Willow Springs Raceway.
The truck is beautifully appointed with Sirius satellite radio and navigation, full leather interior, and tons of storage in the cab. It is quite luxurious considering it’s supposed to be a work vehicle. But it’s also quite capable as the drivetrain can be switched from 2WD to 4WD high to 4WD low, selectable independently locking front and rear differentials and front and rear sway bars that can be disconnected automatically to allow for greater suspension travel.
Simply put: the Ram 2500 Laramie is feature packed both for comfort and obstruction-conquering ability. I jumped aboard (literally, mind you, as this truck is quite tall) and was expecting some fun bouncing around like I had experienced on the east coast and Mojave. I began to worry when I realized that we weren't going into the rocky desert but to climb the mountains west of the Streets of Willow circuit.
Up we climbed with Sirius’ ‘80s on 8 thumping through the cabin. In spite of the fact that most of the time the only thing visible through the windshield was hood and sky I enjoyed feeling the suspension articulating and smoothing out the ruts and larger rocks. Anyhow, I could see the horizon through the side glass and yes, it was steep but the Ram powered up at a leisurely pace with the air conditioning blasting nice, cold air.
Then we summited. “Oh and look! Off to your right is Willow Springs! No, down, past the goats laughing at us.” I’ve been involved in more than my share of stupid car shenanigans. I’ve raced Ferraris on tracks, driven a Ford Mustang GT to Quebec in the middle of a snowstorm and ridden a scooter in Bangkok traffic. I have never, EVER been so terrified in a vehicle as when the driver of that Ram 2500 pointed the nose of the truck downward.
Remember my mention of nothing but sky and hood? Now the view changed to nothing but gulley and hood. We crawled along at less than one mph. Stones and pebbles audibly slipped as the truck descended, gingerly as possible for a five-thousand pound object struggling to avoid tumbling down a mountain. We reached a small plateau about half way down and I took a deep, calming breath. As he ominously shut the radio off, the driver turned the Ram left towards what I can only describe as a cliff.
Put it this way, I wouldn’t want to climb or go down this “slope” with hiking boots on, let alone with wheels under me. He must have noticed my unease and told me not to worry as he had seen Jeeps ascend an 86° slope a couple of weeks ago. I considered the rocky gulch in front but far below the wall we were on, laughed nervously and thought, “but we’re DEscending.” My hand was already becoming one with the door’s grab handle as I pondered what the crush strength of the Laramie’s roof was. “This is a 78° down slope, in case you’re wondering, and three-hundred feet long.”
What it was was the longest rollercoaster drop I’d ever been on and we crept down it in slow motion. Except that on a rollercoaster the wheels don’t slip occasionally when rocks get loose underneath you. I alternated my stare between the rocky gulch below and simultaneously in front of us and the perpendicular desert horizon to my right. And while I momentarily considered calmly climbing out and requesting a helicopter, I thought it unbecoming.
As is plainly clear, I survived. The track time in the cars was exciting, but in a fun way, not in a Ram 2500 Laramie-induced I-will-probably-shit-my-pants-if-you-don’t-wrap-this-nonsense-up way. I loved the Lotus Exige S (wish they sold it the US...) and thought the new C7 Corvette Stingray was phenomenal. But I will never forget just how impressive the Laramie’s capabilities are. It is heart-stoppingly remarkable. [kiWO]
For the rest of the track day pics, click here.