Posted: June 17, 2014

Executive wheels: One fitful, one fit for a king

My AWD rides

Jeff Rundles

I drove these two vehicles back-to-back and felt as if I had covered nearly the entire range of available AWD vehicles for Colorado in two short weeks. They both surprised me, but for totally different reasons. The Ram truck is simply amazing, and the Subaru Impreza is a disappointment.

2014 SUBARU IMPREZA 2.0i SPORT LIMITED

I have long been a fan of Subarus, and I have a special affinity for the Outback, Legacy and Forester. I thought I felt this way about the Impreza. I definitely like the look of the newer ones on the street; the exterior styling is superior. And the last time I drove one, about four years ago, I was very impressed with its solid construction.

This time, however, I was disappointed. The interior finishes struck me as cheap and plastic-y, the doors seemed flimsy, and the bumpers and outside trim all feel so thin that they might fall off at the slightest provocation. 

The biggest disappointment, though, came on the road. The 2.0-liter engine with 148 hp is relatively zippy, and the car handles fairly well. But this is the noisiest car I have been in for some time. Usually, a Subaru kind of hums – the Subaru engine has a distinctive sound – but the road noise here is almost unbearable, as if you were driving with all the windows down on I-70 surrounded by semis. I was surprised and, frankly, shocked. If I was in the market and took a test drive, I would have walked away after only a few blocks of driving.

For the record, the Impreza comes in eight trims, beginning at $17,895, and they all have the same engine. The one I drove is supposedly more tricked out, but other than the rear-view camera I can’t see how. The base on the Sport Limited is $23,195, they added on the mystery $1,000 option package and $795 for destination and delivery, and the bottom line was $24,990. I wouldn’t buy it for the base of $17,895 in the lowest-priced trim.

RATING: ONE WHEEL (OUT OF FOUR)

2014 RAM 2500 LARAMIE LONGHORN CREW CAB 4X4

The Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4X4 is another matter entirely. It’s big – huge – and I am not much of a truck guy, but if I were in the market for an upscale ¾-ton pickup, this is the one I would choose. The Ram in the name is what Dodge is now calling its trucks, so until relatively recently, this would have been a Dodge Ram.  

In sharp contrast to the Subaru, this Ram truck is among the quietest vehicle I have ever driven – which is amazing in that it is a diesel, and diesels usually are noisier. The interior in so luxurious you’d think you were in a Mercedes or Cadillac, and it is without question one of the nicest road vehicles I have ever driven.

Highway driving was a giant pleasure. The leather upholstery is superb, comfortable in a long-drive stiff kind of way, and the controls for everything were very intuitive, easy to reach, and smartly designed. We tapped into the FM and AM radio, satellite radio, and even engaged the Bluetooth to sync up my son’s iPhone music stash in the Media Hub with voice commands, and it all worked beautifully and the sound – through nine amplified speakers and a subwoofer, was magnificent.

I was very impressed with the little things. Since this is the Laramie Longhorn trim with the western theme, even the floor mats had a pattern of barbed wire molded into them. Also, along the side of the walls in the truck’s bed, accessible from the outside, are lockable storage bins built into the walls, great for tools, storing stuff and, hence the drain, putting in ice and cold drinks. Very smart design.

I suppose the most amazing thing about this vehicle is the engine – the 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo diesel with Exhaust Brake. The Ram trucks come in many configurations, beginning with the 1500, through this 2500, and on into the 3500 – ½-ton, ¾-ton, and 1-ton, respectively – with a whole bunch of cab choices – regular cab, crew cab, mega cab – and in just the 2500 Crew Cab 4X4 (there’s also a 4X2) there are 9 trims available, not even counting this one with the 6.7-L Cummins.

The dealership must be confusing. Just the literature is confusing. There is, apparently a 6.4-Liter Hemi version available, with some 410 hp, and it took me forever to discover that this 6.7-L turbo diesel is rated at 370 hp. What gives it an edge, so they say, is that diesel engines carry more weight. Here the towing capacity is 17,970 lbs., with a payload capacity of 3,140 lbs. and 800-lb-ft. of torque. By the way, trucks of these sizes are not rated for mileage.

Anyway, Ram 2500 Crew Cabs range in base price from $36,545 to the $52,200 base price of this model, so there’s something for everyone. On this one they added on a bunch of stuff – the engine for one, at $7,995 – and it brought the bottom line to $66,850.

I’m no expert in trucks and not really a big fan for everyday driving. But if I had a boat, or a trailer, or a mountain I wanted to haul around, I’d want to be driving this one. I felt like a king in it.

RATING: 4 WHEELS (OUT OF FOUR)

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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