Rental Car Review: Just A Good Ol' Truck
Like most North Americans, a truck is a way to either for absolute necessity or to show off your superiority over everyone.
Did you know you can rent a regular ol’ pickup truck from an airport – or off-airport – rental car counter?
Just a reminder for those of you who may have gone into shock when picking up your winning roll from the rental car roulette. They might just sit next to your humble ride. Not that it’s a bad thing.
Sometimes, you do need a pickup truck. Or, want one to drive. Like most North Americans, a truck is a way to either for absolute necessity or to show off your superiority over everyone.
In my case, it was a spin that went a bit big. I got a deal on as mid-sized pickup truck, even when inventories of rental cars at the local I got it from was short of supply. Luckily, I had this reservation for a while, so I was able to get a pickup truck.
However, the pickup truck I got was bigger than I actually reserved.
The rented 2022 Ram 1500 Classic Crew Cab 4X4 SLT was already put to use. I had to return a walker that I ordered with the wrong weight rating. The bed was utilized to haul it back to the store. Meanwhile, I also had another order waiting at the same store to go with my new mini refrigerator for the home office. The back seat area did the job to haul that back home.
Job done? Let’s talk about the truck, first…
When it was introduced in 2019, the newer Ram 1500 elevated Stellantis’ truck brand with a vehicle engineered from the ground up. While great, the prices got out of hand. Consumers wanted a new Ram 1500, but not work trucks starting over $30,000.
On the other hand, the previous generation Ram 1500 was a perfectly good truck. It laid the foundation for the newer model by pushing the engineering boundaries with independent rear suspension and a higher level of technology for the driver compared to its rivals.
To keep truck consumers looking to save money on a new vehicle coming to Ram showrooms, the truck brand continued to sell the older model by rebranding it the Classic. It is an old trick to keep vehicles that remained popular past their expiration date to make it sound like it is a “senior” model.
The advantage of the Ram 1500 Classic is the price. Work truck models started around $27,000-28,000 back in 2019. That price point is very attractive to both fleet and budget-minded consumers. You still get a solid level of standard equipment across three trim levels – including my “mid-range” fleet-only SLT model.
For example, the digital information screen in-between the larger analog dials is still relevant. You do get most of the information found on a similarly equipped newer Ram 1500. You also get the UConnect 8.4-inch touchscreen which is practically standard on most Ram 1500 models. And, every switch and control is just the same across the Ram pickup lineup.
There are a few things missing on this rental-spec Ram 1500 Classic. Normally, there are switches on the back of the steering wheel for the audio system. Nope. Could it be a victim of the supply chain woes the industry navigated through the past few model years? And, I thought the UConnect system had wireless smartphone connectivity? Nope. Then again, that could be wishful thinking on my part.
There are still reminders of the first Ram 1500s I worked with last decade. The seats have a nice cloth upholstery, yet the front seat design could be a bit uncomfortable if you do not adjust the lumbar support to your needs. Rear seat room is still good, as is the ease of loading to the rental’s five-foot-seven-inch box. I’m also glad they put side steps on this rental. That made everything easy for someone who is recovering from six weeks in the healthcare vacuum.
Underneath the hood of this rental is the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 good for 305 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic transfers power from the V6 through a two-speed transfer case onward to all four wheels. It did a good job motivating a mostly unladen half-ton crew cab pickup. Although the 14.8 MPG I averaged was somewhat discouraging, it was not about the fuel economy that I was concerned about. It was simply about fulfilling the task.
In all, I love the driving experience in the Ram 1500 Classic. Again, you have to get the mindset of it being a rental car out of your head. It rode, handled, and stopped like any Ram pickup truck I worked with in the past 11 years – which is really good in my book. Steering might not induce confidence in tight maneuvers, but always remember that this is a full-size half-ton pickup truck and tight turning radiuses is not its best attribute.
The good news is that Stellantis still produces the Ram 1500 Classic for 2023 out of their Warren Truck Assembly facility near Detroit. As I mentioned before, the SLT model is strictly a fleet-only trim level. If you happen to see one on a used car lot, you might get one at a nice price. However, if you’re looking for one new, there are just two trim levels available to the rest of us for 2023: the work-ready Tradesman and the fun-loving Warlock. Pricing starts at $30,695. For reference, the newer generation Ram 1500 starts at $37,090.
The Ram 1500 Classic is a great value to consider when shopping for a new pickup truck. If you have been watching prices of new full-size half-ton trucks, you have probably gone into sticker cardiac arrest. With the 1500 Classic, you can get more than enough truck without going overboard with technology. This is music to the ears of fleet managers, farmers, and hardworking consumers.
For me, this is not the first pickup truck I rented. Therefore, this is not a weird spin on the rental car roulette. After all, I like working with pickup trucks and it has been quite a bit since I had a Ram to drive in. In particular, the older generation model.
Don’t wince if you end up with a pickup truck for your next rental. It may not be suitable in some places, but it’ll definitely do the job for you.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda
All photos by Randy Stern