THE vehicle on test here is a beast – it’s as simple as that. It knocks everything in this sector into a large cocked hat and is the biggest monster to come from the USA since the first sightings of Bigfoot in North Dakota.
Read the stats of the mighty Dodge Ram SRT-10 and weep:
Now I know what you are all saying: this isn’t a fleet vehicle – what are you doing testing it? Well, if you think that, you may be in for a surprise.
There are two very good reasons why a company might consider the Dodge Ram as a suitable vehicle. Firstly think of the publicity potential.
EVERYONE gawps at this wondrous vehicle and with a few well-placed decals on the side you have an advertising opportunity that is worth far more than the £37,995 (ex-VAT) cost of this truck.
And secondly, a driver who chooses the Ram as his company transport and is a 40% taxpayer will pay just £17 a month in benefit-in-kind tax until April next year. It’s a commercial vehicle, you see, and CV tax rates apply.
Dodge decided there was enough interest in trucks like this to bring a few over and is unleashing just 50 of them. There is also a smaller Laramie version with a ‘diminutive’ 5.7-litre engine, but it doesn’t have the SRT-10’s fire in its soul.
That fire comes in the form of a V10 powerplant that comes straight out of the Dodge Viper supercar.
It’s not the latest thing in engine technology by any means and even has old-fashioned pushrods. But the Yanks believe there is no substitute for cubic inches and in this case they aren’t far wrong.
Acceleration figures are almost unbelievable. This great lump will reach 60mph from standing in a tad over five seconds and will power on up to 150mph if you want to risk both your life and your licence.
Fuel consumption? You really don’t want to know. We managed 9.8 miles per gallon during our test week. Basically, if you worry about things like petrol, you might as well stop reading now.
It’s not just the engine that is a monster. The SRT-10 measures nearly 20 feet in length, seven feet in width and has a wheelbase of almost 12 feet. Curiously enough, the Laramie offers four-wheel drive while the SRT-10 doesn’t. But then Dodge probably realises that few people would want to take a glorious truck like this into the dirt.
Inside, there is seating for six people and the usual array of standard goodies you’d expect from a ‘Yank tank’, such as electric everything and air-conditioning.
The Ram comes, obviously, in left-hand drive format but has a full three year/60,000-mile warranty and access to the usual dealer services you’d expect from a Chrysler car.
Behind the wheel
NEVER before in the history of Fleet Van has a test vehicle caused such a stir. As the Ram was ceremoniously tethered in our car park, crowds from sister titles such as Car and Max Power flooded out to ogle.
Driving down the road, people gawped and pointed – and stopping in car parks invariably resulted in gangs of blokes flocking round asking to look under the bonnet.
For the first couple of days it was fun but, to be honest, it started getting on my nerves by the time our test week was over.
But let’s turn to the plus points of this monster – and firstly its gargantuan exterior, which dwarfs just about everything else on British roads. At 19 feet long and almost seven feet wide, the Ram has a presence that’s hard to ignore.
The downside, of course, is that parking can be tricky at best or nigh on impossible at worst. And yes, before you ask, I did manage to back into a sneaky gatepost and damage the rear bumper.
The doors of the Ram are like something off the front of Fort Knox and climbing aboard (it’s a big step up) reveals an oversize cab that can seat up to six people in comfort.
The driver’s seat is a joy – it’s like sitting in a huge armchair but unlike most American cars which have horrible squashy chairs, this one is firm and has plenty of side support.
The dash is a major disappointment with a dull uninspiring look, but as designer Trevor Creed pointed out: ‘Our theme was to add muscle, not flash.’
The muscle bit of the Ram makes itself abundantly clear on firing up the engine.
At tickover, it gruffles away quietly to itself, but blip the throttle a few times and a miraculous transformation takes place. That gruffle is replaced by a banshee V10 howl and the whole cab can be felt tilting to the right as the Viper powerplant tries to flip the truck over on its roof rather than propel it down the road.
Under way, the Ram is surprisingly easy to handle. It may be shod on huge-sized 22in low profile tyres which measure almost a foot in width, but the power steering is weighted nicely and the six-speed gearbox shuffles up and down with hardly a blip.
It’s a real Jekyll and Hyde vehicle with two distinct modes – sane and positively loony. Floor the throttle at 40mph and the Ram bucks like a mad sheep, gathers itself up and flies like the wind.
Gearchanges are accompanied by a swift kick in the kidneys and within a few seconds, if you’re not careful, you’ll be busting the 100mph mark. During my test week I found myself constantly having to adjust my speed downwards as 70 mph felt more like 30mph.
This sort of behaviour is all well and good until it comes to fill-up time, which will approach rapidly if you choose to drive in a sporty manner.
We managed a top fuel consumption figure of just 9.8 miles per gallon and I didn’t get much change from £90 when I filled up but, hey, what do you expect from a truck like this?
As I handed the keys back to a very nice lady from DaimlerChrysler at the end of my test week, my emotions were mixed. I’d just spent the most exhilarating week of my driving career to be sure, but it was a relief in many ways to climb back aboard my other test vehicle, the relatively dinky Mitsubishi L200.
The Ram is a hoot for sure, but driving it is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.
MIND-BLOWING, outrageous, monstrous – just three adjectives to describe this titan. For companies that want a vehicle that’s not run of the mill, this is the one to choose.
Model tested: Dodge Ram SRT-10
Max power (bhp/rpm): 500/5,600
Max torque (lb ft/rpm): 525/4,200
Max speed (mph): 150
0-62mph (seconds): 5.5
Price (£ ex-VAT): £37,995