Stealth wealth. It’s an often-European concept that hasn’t always translated well over here. The Volkswagen Phaeton, for example. In recent years though, American carmakers have stumbled upon a stealth wealth nice in the form of lavishly equipped pickup trucks. To the uninitiated, they look like a common workhorse. Step inside though, and occupants are greeted with all the comfort and tech they could possibly want. The truck leading this pack right now? Well that would be the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn.
Despite Ram having kicked off the trend of tall-grilled odes to fragile masculinity in 1993, the latest Ram looks downright tasteful among current competition. The soft-edged chrome grille features horizontal slats that accentuate the truck’s width, while the front bumper adopts a similarly-contoured form. The headlights are reasonably powerful LED units that do a decent job of illuminating inky night while the tail lamps feature the rare treat of amber indicators. Along the side, colour-keyed fender flares maintain a sleek appearance while making way for up to 22-inch wheels.
Exterior utility is a core component of every pickup truck and my test truck came equipped with a few options meant to enhance cargo flexibility. The first is the Rambox storage system consisting of two lockable waterproof bins, one either side of the bed. While they do eat into bed width, they’re reasonably capacious and the one on the left comes with a three-pin grounded plug socket, perfect for powering up corded tools. Hilariously, they’re equipped with child safety releases despite the lids being located roughly 12,000 feet above the ground. The second utility-enhancing option is a multifunction tailgate that comes with a hideous vertical seam. It can either fold down like a traditional tailgate or fold outward like barn doors for easier access to the cargo area and for horizontal workspaces if you happen to be four metres tall.
So what is the Limited Longhorn trim? Put simply, it’s obnoxious redneck cosplay executed beautifully. Resplendent in high-quality leather, more techno toys than a Best Buy and incredibly kitschy touches like barbed wire embellishments on the floor mats, this isn’t just a foreman’s truck. Whoever drives this owns the entire damn company.
Let’s start with the leather. Our test truck came upholstered in gorgeous full-grain saddle leather with unusual stitching embellishments meant to conjure up images of cattle branding. In reality, this stitching appears to give off bro country tribal tattoo vibes but that still seems on-brand. Whatever, the hides are fragrant enough to make stepping into the interior feel like walking into a Coach store. Most genuine luxury cars don’t have leather that smells this phenomenal. As for the seats themselves, they’re exceptionally comfortable with plenty of adjustment and support up front and a reclining bench in the rear, an uncommon party piece in the full-size pickup truck segment.
Space is about as vast as expected with plenty of room for three adults in the back and enough headroom up front to comfortably wear a stetson. Interior storage is also great with a configurable centre console, dual gloveboxes, covered bins under the floor and multi-tiered storage in the doors. For those looking to do some work, there’s a crib sheet under the front console lid with a protractor, formulas, rules and conversion charts.
In terms of trim and other Easter eggs, Ram hasn’t been afraid to take risks. The silhouettes of four generations of Ram truck are hidden deep in the console, a nod to fanatics of the brand. There are more textures inside this truck than in the average Bethesda game, from hammered-tone trim that looks like it was hit with birdshot to gorgeous matte wood to a proper amount of chrome. It’s a slice of San Antonio on four wheels and the tech is equally as eyebrow-raising. All the standard features of a luxury truck from a panoramic sunroof to cooled seats to power-adjustable pedals are present, but there’s more going on here than that.
Forget having an iPad on the dashboard, this truck has a flatscreen television. A 12-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen display comes bundled with the Level 1 Equipment package and it’s as ludicrously massive as it is crisp. With split-screen functionality, excellent black levels and top-notch responsiveness, it really is the centrepiece of this lux truck’s dashboard. Audio comes courtesy of a 19-speaker 900-watt Harman Kardon stereo that’s punchy, warm and reasonably clear. There’s also loads of charging outlets in three-pin, USB-A, USB-C and 12-volt form scattered across the cabin. Other party pieces include heated and cooled rear seats, the space-saving rotary gear selector, a reasonably crisp 360-degree camera and all the Level 2 driver assists one might want.
Powering this Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn is Stellantis’ 5.7-litre Hemi eTorque engine. It’s 345 cubic inches of pushrod V8 with bones dating back to the Dubya administration augmented by a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Does the integrated starter/generator actually do anything for real-world fuel economy? Who knows? We averaged a predictable 13.5 L/100km in mixed driving, exactly one litre worse than the government’s combined estimate of 12.5 L/100km. What the eTorque system certainly does is provide an added dose of smoothness, filling in the shifts from the ZF-derived eight-speed automatic gearbox like buttercream frosting between layers of cake. Aside from the occasional stumble from the stop-start system, this is one of the most velvety V8 powertrains I’ve ever experienced.
Perhaps more impressive than the powertrain is how everything comes together on the road. My test vehicle came equipped with the optional four-corner air suspension, a $1,895 option that makes this cashed-up workhorse ride like a 1979 Lincoln Town Car. Frost heaves, small sinkholes, errant alligators, nigh-on everything you could think of within reason will be effectively smothered by this trick bit of luxury car tech. The only ride harshness I noticed while driving came from the chatter of the optional Falken all-terrain tires. The air ride even drops the truck closer to the ground at high speed for less drag.
In keeping with the pillowy ride, every input on the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn is tuned for maximum comfort. The throttle pedal has roughly a mile of travel, perfect for smoothing out an active foot. Ditto the brake pedal which for better or worse, offers up smooth stopping power without any feel whatsoever. Even the steering has an overboosted weightlessness that makes this rig particularly relaxing to drive. Towing and payload capacities are rated at 8,100 lbs. and 1,800 lbs. respectively, although opting for the 3.92 axle ratio bumps towing capacity to 11,200 lbs. A reasonably competitive number set for the half-ton class and useful figures for those looking to do real work.
So how much would this cowboy Cadillac set you back? Well, it starts at $73,195 before options and trust me, there are options. The eTorque engine is an additional $995, the air suspension is $1,895, the Advanced Safety Group with lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise and park assist is $2,300, the panoramic glass roof is $1,695, the RamBox system is $1,295, the Technology Group with heads-up display and auto-dimming mirror is $1,595 and the 10th Anniversary Edition package which includes the split tailgate is $1,395. On the lighter side of things, the tri-fold tonneau cover is $650, the 124-litre fuel tank and hitch receiver are $495 each, the trailer brake controller is $395, the bed utility group with extra tie-downs and a bed step is $500 and the Red Pearl paint a mere $295.
For adventurous types, the $995 Off-Road Group includes an electronic rear locker, hill decent control and an array of skid plates. By far and away the most expensive option on my test truck was the Level 1 Equipment group, a $3,595 package that includes so much stuff that it ought to be standard. The 12-inch screen, the Harmon Kardon system, the power running boards, wireless charging, satellite radio and blind spot monitoring. Grand total? A cool $92,605. Gulp.
While the days of both the honest workhorse pickup truck and the full-size American land yacht are dead, the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn blends the best of both. A loaded Ford F-150 may now offer massaging seats, but it simply can’t match the overall refinement of the Ram. While a well-equipped GM truck may look appealing, it also lacks the fine materials and tech of the Longhorn. Yes, this vulgar display of Americana ticks all the right boxes. Unreal craftsmanship, a flight deck more impressive than that of Spaceball One, 40-ply ride quality and more than a mere modicum of immodesty. Forget a Mercedes-Benz GLE, this is where it’s at.