A large V8. Seating capacity for three. Rear-wheel drive. For years, this combination was the definition of pickup truck, and while this certainly isn’t the norm anymore, these simple, honest trucks are still out there.
Engine: 5.7L Hemi V8 with 395 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic or eight-speed auto.
Fuel Economy: 14 mpg city, 20 mpg hwy, 16 mpg combined.
Fuel Economy (CDN): 17.1L/100km city, 12l/100km hwy, 14.8l/100km combined.
Price: Starts at about $29,000. About $32,000 tested.
Price(CDN): As tested $37,065.
And if you’re looking for one of these at a Ram dealer, you may end up with a simple truck with attitude. I’m talking about the Ram 1500 Black Express.
The Ram Express is one step above the basic Tradesman trim line and brings along 20-inch wheels and body-color grille and bumpers, offering buyers a little more style on Ram’s most basic pickup. If you need a simple work truck with style, the Express is the choice for you, but if you’re interested in flashing a big middle finger to every Corolla driver and scaring Grandma back into her retirement home, the Black Package is a necessary addition.
Tough Looks with an Engine to Back Them Up
Every last bit of the exterior is blacked out, from the badges to the wheels, making this truck look mean and ready to take your lunch money. An optional black tonneau is not only very easy to operate, it gives the tough truck a slick rear-end look.
Our Ram Express backed up its tough looks with an equally mean engine: a 5.7-liter Hemi V8.
The motor churns out 395 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, sent through a six-speed automatic transmission. An eight-speed auto can be had as well, but or tester wasn’t equipped with the extra two ratios, which isn’t so bad.
The six-speed is smooth, fairly quick, and when sending the Hemi’s grunt through a 3.92 rear axle ratio, this truck is pretty damn fast, giving it aggressive power to match its attitude.
Low-end torque comes on immediately and pulls this rig straight up to highway speeds in a flash, while a deep, delicious rumble emits from the exhaust.
Like always though, the power comes with a price.
Fuel economy in this truck is less than stellar, with official ratings coming in at 14 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway for a combined 16 mpg. The real problem is that the nature of this beast urged my right foot deep into the accelerator often, driving my average fuel economy down to 15 mpg.
Big Rig Drive
Heavily weighted steering offers plenty of feedback and a solid planted feeling, even while cornering. The truck does tend to push wide in high speed corners, which is further accentuated by some light body roll, making the Ram feel like a big rig rolling down the road.
And you can do some heavy hauling with this truck, which is rated to tow up to 10,650 lbs and haul 1,900 lbs worth of payload.
Jumping inside the truck is when you see its basic roots. A single cloth bench seat is present, which can seat three in a pinch and two comfortably. When the center seat is folded down, it offers a large storage console to house all of your stuff, while there is room for some storage behind the bench seat, with a floor-mounted plastic bin ready to house tools or camping supplies.
This truck also forgoes one of Ram’s latest innovations: a knob-operated transmission. The Express opts for a classic column shifter, the only way to go for a truck that is abounding with this much testosterone. There is something special about pulling that column shifter down into ‘D’ that the knob can never capture.
Our tester came with the upgraded 5.0-inch Uconnect infotainment system, which works just as well as the full-size 8-inch display setup. Controls are intuitive and the system operates without lag, hesitation or hiccups.
Everything else about this interior just works. Simplicity is the name of the game and the Ram 1500 Express delivers.
Big Motors for Little Cash
If you’re interested in just a Ram Express regular cab equipped with a V8, you’re l00king at spending a hair under $29,000, a pretty good deal considering you’re getting 395 hp.
Our Black Express Model costs about $32,000 thanks to options like a hitch, trailer brake controller and upgraded infotainment unit.
The idea of paying over $30K for a regular cab pickup truck had me bothered at first, but driving the Ram Black Express for a week convinced me otherwise. Driving this truck makes a huge statement, so big in fact that there are few cars at the same price point that command the same attention. Having that much presence is certainly worth the upgrade.
Both Ford and Chevy sell similar simple trucks. When comparing similarly trimmed trucks with V8 engines, the F-150 XLT goes for about $31,800 while a Silverado LS sells for about $29,000, putting all of these trucks right next to each other in terms of price.
The Verdict: 2015 Ram 1500 Black Express Review
Not just a tough looking truck, the Ram Black Express can put in work when it needs to. You can also pull up to car meets and get just as much attention as the exotic sports car worth twice or three times as much, and in my opinion, it offers the best looks on the road when it comes to pickup trucks.
All that attention for a truck that costs this little is a great value in my books. If you want a pickup truck with more style than the Man in Black himself, you need a Ram 1500 Black Express.