Anyone who has ever spent time in the US will testify that many of the vehicles we consider large by South African standards are, on any given day, all-but dwarfed on American highways by the average “stateside” commuter. Stories of Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport drivers feeling somewhat intimidated in the traffic alongside six-wheeler “trucks” and mammoth school-run SUVs have long been a part of a US motor industry that prides itself in a “bigger is better” philosophy.
While South Africans are currently enjoying a trend towards slightly larger, American-style pickups, most notably with the Volkswagen Amarok, Ford Ranger, and forthcoming Isuzu KB, we still have some way to go before the average local road user’s eyes aren’t widened considerably at the sight of a Dodge Ram 1500 following in the rear-view mirror. And when this particular Dodge truck boasts a further raised suspension, blackened 22-inch alloy wheels, an aftermarket free-flow exhaust system, a matte-black paint job with bright green claw mark highlights, and is blasting house music from its roll bar-mounted music festive speakers, you can be sure people take notice.
Of course, that’s what the local importer of Monster Energy Drinks is hoping for, and they are quite happy with the attention their two imported, um, monster trucks have been commanding in Cape Town and Johannesburg over the past few months.
Monster Energy Drink is a US-based company founded in 2002. It produces a variety of flavours of energy drinks marketed in tall black cans with corresponding brightly coloured M logos. Monster has gained an international audience thanks mainly to its close association with extreme sports and the exuberant athletes involved. Precision-stunt driver Ken Block is just one of the big-name, big-exposure athletes closely linked with the Monster brand.
Imported and converted to right-hand drive by Richards Bay-based specialists, US Trucks, both Monster Dodge Rams were custom wrapped by Greensky brand architects, with the Cape Town truck featuring a matte-black finish and the popular Monster Energy M logo (made up of three claw marks) and flowing liquid designs, in bright green, running down the oversized panels. For added effect, this Ram features 22-inch alloy wheels and has been raised a further 152 mm over its standard suspension setting.
It’s this additional ground clearance that you have to negotiate first as you clamber up to the driver’s seat of the Monster truck and, while I am somewhat older than all of the enthusiastic brand ambassadors who regularly drive the Dodge to music festivals and skateboarding events etc. I was quite grateful for the standard runner boards and large pillar-mounted grab handles. Once seated behind the wheel you begin to appreciate the sheer size of this baby of the Ram pickup range. If one of the reasons for the increased popularity of SUVs in this country is the high, command driving position that these raised vehicles offer, then the Monster Truck takes this advantage to the next… level (sorry). The centre storage compartment alone is significantly larger than any Land Cruiser that I have driven to date. As a force of habit I enquired whether my rear passenger had enough legroom seated behind me, only to realise that she probably enjoyed more room than in the long-wheelbase Audi A8 that CAR recently had on review. Indeed, from the steering wheel to the instrument cluster, everything in the Ram seemed larger than I had ever experienced before – expect, inexplicably, for the pedals at my feet. For some reason, perhaps during the conversion to right hand-drive, or perhaps because the right hand side footwell was never designed to accommodate pedals, the accelerator and brake pedal in this application are positioned unnervingly close to each other. With 283 kW of power and 548 N.m of torque available you really don’t want to be clipping the “go” pedal whilst searching for the “slow down” applicator…
The Monster Dodge Ram is powered by a 5,7-litre Hemi V8 engine mated with a six-speed automatic transmission. A testament to the strength of this combination is the fact that Dodge claims a 0-100 km/h sprint time of just over six seconds for this 3,2-tonne truck. Of course, the downside to lugging all this weight around is a real-world combined fuel consumption figure of around 24,0 litres/100 km. On the move, the slightly sluggish transmission dulls some of the initial right foot enthusiasm, but once the ‘box settles into a cog, there certainly is a healthy shove, despite the trucks mass.
You are certainly always aware of the vehicles size while piloting it around roads not necessarily designed to cope with passenger cars of this size. While a rear park camera offers welcome assistance in planning reverse manoeuvres, the slightly intimidating overall length (5 817 mm) and resultant 3 556 mm long wheelbase dictate a rather slow and steady approach to direction changes.
On the open road, the somewhat vague steering feel actually adds to the lumbering nature of the Monster Ram and reminded me a lot of the time I was fortunate enough to drive the Arctic Trucks Toyota Hilux models in Iceland. Similar to those brutes, the Dodge’s large capacity rubber starts to get a bit unsettled around the 100 km/h mark.
In the event that the Monster ball is slightly off the beaten track, the Ram 1500 boasts an on-the-fly all-wheel-drive system, as well as low range at the flick of a switch.
The Monster Truck is not only fitted with two large cooler boxes (at any given time packed to the brim with Monster energy drinks) but also a comprehensive Kicker outdoor audio system. With bass aplenty, any music being played in the truck’s cabin can be shared with the outside world (or at least anyone within a 5 km radius) via roll bar-mounted speakers.
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