2011 Ram 1500 Express
New Hemi-powered, entry-level pickup with regular cab seeks youthful buyers who like to personalize
When the sporty entry-level edition of the Ram 1500 pickup was announced in February, as a follow-up to the value-priced Tradesman model that debuted at the Chicago Auto Show, it was known as the Adventurer. Turns out that was a code name. Once the pickup went into production, it was officially named the 2011 Ram 1500 Express.
This pickup targets first-time and younger buyers, and those who seek a pickup with performance and style, which can be customized as desired. Chrysler’s Ram division says Express buyers get a standard Hemi V-8 engine with a 20-mpg fuel-economy estimate on the highway, for a price that other automakers charge for a V-6 model.
Rather than a distinctly separate model, the Express is actually an option group for the Ram ST regular-cab pickup truck. Fitted with a short (6.3-foot) cargo bed, the Express comes with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Quad Cab and Crew Cab versions are not available.
Chrysler’s 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine develops 390 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque, driving a five-speed automatic transmission. The Hemi V-8 incorporates two fuel-saving technologies: Interactive Decel Fuel Shut Off, which shuts down the engine while decelerating; and a Multi-Displacement System that deactivates engine cylinders when they’re not required.
As part of its appeal to younger customers, Ram has made the Express visually different from the rest of the full-size pickup pack. Painted in what marketers call a “racy” monochromatic paint scheme, the Ram 1500 Express features a body-colored grille with black honeycomb inserts, as well as body-colored front and rear fascias and chrome-tipped dual exhaust outlets. Standard Express truck equipment includes a locking tailgate, cargo ramp, rear-bumper step pad, and rear wheelwell liners. Aluminum wheels with locking nuts hold 20-inch tires, and 6x9-inch outside mirrors promise enhanced visibility.
Heavy-duty equipment in the Express includes a 160-amp alternator, 26-gallon fuel tank, four- and seven-pin trailer wiring harness, heavy-duty engine and transmission cooling, and a full-size spare tire. A 3.55:1 rear axle is installed, as are front and rear stabilizer bars and heavy-duty shock absorbers.
Inside, the 40/20/40 split-bench seat is covered in heavy-duty vinyl. Buyers get a choice of vinyl or carpeting on the floor. Air conditioning and a 12-volt auxiliary power outlet are included. So is a six-speaker “media center” with CD and MP3 player, including an input jack for mobile devices. Assist handles for both driver and passenger are installed. Safety features include curtain and side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, and electronic stability control.
Chrysler’s Ram division has assembled a substantial list of factory-installed options, including Mopar chrome tubular side steps, chrome steel bed rails, folding/heated trailer-towing power mirrors, a sliding rear window, and remote keyless entry. The split-bench seat can be upholstered in cloth rather than vinyl. Chrysler’s Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth is an option. Buyers may also select from two alternative rear-axle ratios, and add an anti-spin differential. With an optional Class IV hitch, the Express pickup can tow a trailer up to 9,100 pounds.
One of the easiest pickups on the market to drive, the Ram 1500 Express just might rank among the most satisfying full-size pickup trucks offered in recent times. Besides, it’s refreshing to see a basic regular-cab model vie for attention. Instead of superfluous amenities, the Express focuses on features that matter on the road.
Hemi-engine performance isn’t exactly stunning, but it’s surprisingly effective and pleasing. The V-8 delivers enthusiastic response, partly due to the Express having less weight than a loaded-up, high-end truck with a bigger cab. No one will call passing/merging pick up overwhelming, but it’s clearly satisfying.
Light steering ordinarily seems out of place in a pickup truck, but it fills the bill here. Even on twisting roads, Ram Express steering response is excellent and the Ram stays right in its lane, with minimal effort and concern. Ride comfort also scores a cut above the usual truck status. At times, it’s almost possible to forget that you’re inside a work-ready truck.
Ram Express Pricing
Except for a near-sporty exhaust note on acceleration that seems a bit out of place, the 2011 Ram Express is impressively quiet. Seats are roomy and comfortable; with good bolstering. Support also satisfies, though back support could be a hair better. As expected on the 40/20/40-split seat, space for a third occupant is limited.
Don’t expect gas mileage to be anything to boast about. With rear-wheel drive, the 2011 Ram 1500 Express gets a fuel-economy estimate of just 14 mpg in city driving and 20 mpg on the highway. Four-wheel drive drops both figures by 2 mpg.
Like the work-oriented Tradesman, the more sporty-looking and customizable 2011 Ram 1500 Express model is priced to attract value-conscious customers. With two-wheel drive, the Express has a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $23,830 (including destination charge). That’s $21,785 for the regular-cab 2WD ST pickup, plus $2,045 for the Express option package. The Express group includes the Hemi engine with dual exhausts, five-speed automatic transmission, color-keyed grille/bumpers, fog lamps, and 20-inch wheels. With four-wheel drive, the 2011 Ram Express pickup stickers for a total of $26,240. www.ramtrucks.com
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