IS THE RAM 1500 Laramie the ultimate tow rig and parts-chaser for your street machine? With a 4.5-tonne towing capacity and a 5.7-litre, 291kW Hemi V8 riding up front, we reckon it might be. We had a steer of the 1500 at the Australian launch just outside Bathurst, NSW, and we came away pretty impressed with it.

Built in Detroit, brought to Australia by factory-endorsed distributor Ateco, and locally re-manufactured in right-hand drive by Walkinshaw Automotive Group, the 1500 is the little brother to the heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 models already available Down Under. But ‘little’ is a relative term.

INSET: One of the RAM 1500 Laramies Broads got to drive at the ute’s official Australian launch. He was pretty stoked with the 5.7L, 291kW Hemi motor’s get-up-and-go

The 1500 occupies the middle ground between ‘traditional’ dual-cab utes such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux, and trucks like the larger RAM 2500 and Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD.

When you first hop behind the wheel of the 1500 it feels far larger on the road than the Rangers and HiLuxes of the world, but on the rural backroads we sampled, it quickly seemed to shrink around you as you grew comfortable with its scale. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s a fair lump of a ute though, and in urban environments it will occupy more lane space than most utes and could prove tricky to park – though the Laramie’s reversing camera and ParkSense front and rear park assist will help on that front.

The entry-level 1500 Express is priced from $79,950 drive-away, placing it within the realm of premium offerings from some of the established players in the dual-cab market. We tested the better-appointed Laramie model, however, which is priced from $99,950 plus on-road costs. There are several importers converting US-style pickups (most notably HSV and its Chevrolet Silverado), but the RAM 1500’s sub-$100K price point makes it an attractive proposition.

The shove in the back offered by the 1500’s 291kW, 5.7-litre Hemi will make you smile, as will its raucous V8 bark. RAM doesn’t publish official performance figures, but we heard whispers of 0-100km/h times in the high sevens from the distributor – comparable to the class-leading Volkswagen Amarok V6. The engine is well-matched to an eightspeed automatic transmission and a fourwheel-drive system with four modes, easily selectable via buttons on the dash.

The RAM features a multi-link, coil-sprung rear suspension system as opposed to a more typical leaf-sprung set-up, and it shines on rough country B-roads, where it was able to negotiate bends with more composure than you’d expect of a vehicle with a 2650kg kerb weight. We’d be interested to sample it with a load in the back.

With its extra heft and longer wheelbase, the 1500 won’t match a ‘traditional’ dual-cab off-road; however, it’s capable enough to do what the majority of buyers will ask of it.

The RAM 1500 Laramie is a welcome addition to the Australian ute landscape, and while I love the Hemi V8, the three-litre diesel V6 will only serve to broaden the 1500’s appeal when it arrives later this year.