It was the beginning of March, 2014. Cold, rainy, pretty much a typical winter day I the Pacific Northwest. But this Saturday was to prove anything but typical. It was, in fact, pivotal in our lives.
After finishing breakfast at Pike Place Market in Seattle (yes, locals go there), we meandered back towards home. On a whim, I drove by a GMC dealership. I’d had a bee in my bonnet for a while about my Tacoma only getting 18 mpg on average, and knew that the newer full size trucks were easily beating that – even a match would see me in a bigger, more comfort-laden ride.
Sticker shock. That’s what came next. $55,000 for a GMC Sierra with a bunch of bells and whistles. The projected 24 mpg highway was nice, though, if a bit unrealistic for most drivers.
I assured my wife we could find a truck much cheaper if we wanted one. And so began the hunt.
Naturally, looking around the ‘Web, I came across the RAM and it’s new little winner of an engine, the EcoDiesel. Already being sold on diesel, and having one in the garage currently, I narrowed by search. This forum, the other forum, online reviews and videos – I was quickly sold. Didn’t stop me from test driving both a Silverado 1500 and a 2500 with the Duramax (for fun). Both were nice, but…not for me.
I did skip the F150 – old design, not sold on the look compared to newer designs and about do for a full refresh. Didn’t want to wait for the Aluminum version to apparently save the world, and given Ford’s issues with the EcoBoost (cooling, reliability, economy – all, IMO, workable issues for a new engine) I wasn’t left feeling that a test drive would be worth my time.
Over the next few weeks we visited a few RAM dealers, and talked to them about deals. Responses ranged from repeated promises to send a price, which never materialized, to borderline anger when I mentioned I was shopping out of state and comparing prices. I had salesmen try to talk down the EcoDiesel and tell me the Hemi was the way to go, others tell me the actual delivery dates would be 5 – 6 months out and did I really want to wait? I politely chuckled and told them if they wanted to sell me an EcoDiesel Laramie, at a good price, call me. They never did.
Now, contrasting this was my experience with Dave Smith Motors in Kellogg, ID. My friend bought his 2500 RAM there and swore I’d “save a bundle” if I worked with them. Turns out he was right. But hey, we each have to negotiate our own deals, and in the end, I got more extended warranty for less money than he did…
I was a bit skeptical whether my salesman would be solid, given the DSM website has got to be one of the most annoying sites to grace the Interwebs today. But solid he was. Down-right impressive in fact. On the first call with Adam (Graveley) I explained that I like to research, ask questions, learn, understand then decide. He told me his job was to support me and asked me what I needed. Prices, option availability, production times, drop-dead dates, rebates; he provided them all near instantaneously over the course of many calls and emails.
When the day came to put down a deposit, it took about 15 minutes. Contract was emailed, we printed and signed it, sent it back over, gave them the credit card number and we were done.
Of course, and Adam explained this, we had to wait for May’s allocations as we’d placed the order on April 18th. No biggie. Last week of April I was sent a VON and told my truck was on order, to be produced on May 7/8. I was thrilled!
Two days later, walking past a 2014 RAM in the Whole Foods parking lot, I realized my mistake. I was crushed. I’d just seen, in person, how wide the trailer tow package mirrors really were. And parking underground at work – what was I thinking?! I needed to change my order.
Here’s where a good salesman can become a great ally. My truck was in D1 – which typically means accepted by the factory and no changes can be made. Well, there ARE ways. I owned my error, explained what I wanted and waited. The call came back – nothing he could do…but…
He kicked it up to the GM and asked the GM to talk to the regional rep to request this change. I was banking on their status with the manufacturer as a big number shop to carry the day – and it did. Within 24 hours I had an email string from the factory back to the rep, to the GM showing the changes made to my order, netting me the factory power folding mirrors. My error, and he fixed it.
Then it was time to wait. Now I’d explained that I wanted to use the VOTS system to track my truck, and that on a $50k+ purchase, maybe I SHOULD have some visibility into things – that this mattered to me. I simply explained that it mattered…and so during every process – damn near every day, certainly several times a week, I was given updates from their system. Paint, QA status (for 2 weeks) KZ, KZN, At Dealer, etc. Adam made sure I was informed. I was very grateful.
When it came time to head over to Idaho, we hopped on a plane and in 40 minutes touched down in Spokane. The dealer sent a driver and van to our hotel to fetch us the next morning. Seamless. Though I delayed us a few minutes drooling over this very trick, customized Mustang. It’s clearly a newer generation ‘Stang, but with an early ‘70s front end and other body bits added. Nice touch with the GT500 stripes, evoking Shelbys, but clearly nothing they ever made.
The drive was nice, everyone fawned over our two dogs during the entire day, and when we finally walked into the dealership – and you have to remember we’d only ever spoken on the phone or emailed over the last 2 months – Adam walked right over and said, “Duane, Donna, pleasure to finally meet you. Let’s drop your stuff at my desk and get you some coffee.” Small thing, I realize, but he’d taken the time to research ME so he knew what I looked like (I’m all over the web). Heck, even a quick search in LinkedIn tells you who I am quickly. Bottom line – no waiting, just a welcome and service.
Then we saw Gracie for the first time. Sitting outside, under an awning, all quiet and proud. Damn she looked good. I wanted to dance. I wanted to giggle. I wanted to drive. Mostly, though, I smiled like a dumb teenage boy who’s just seen a boob for the first time in his life. (Gracie is a 2014 RAM 1500 EcoDiesel. Laramie trim, 4wd, air suspension, sliding rear window with defrost, sunroof, rain sensing wipers and auto-dimming high beams. We had a color matched spray-in bed liner added and the driver and passenger side windows were tinted at 35%. She’s Prairie Pearl in color, and all dolled up with about 800 pounds of chrome…LOL)
The test drive was a laugh – truck was obviously a winner. Inspection time, though, showed me the laugh was on me. Everything checked out with the truck, and we found a couple small paint flaws, but Adam had shared my checklist with other salespeople at the shop. A few chuckled (no doubt at how anal I was being), but they printed off copies and shared them around to help everyone understand how buyers of some products approach the process…and in particular, how much info is around for ED buyers and what they expect.
We did note a “stain” on the plastic cap that covers the top edge of the tailgate. Folks rubbed, tried polishes, etc. All to no avail. So, the owner of the detail company that does the work for DSM was introduced, she explained what it could be from and let us know she’d have it replaced before we left with the truck – they had one in parts now, and it’d be on the truck in about 15 minutes and “…would that be sufficient?” HELLS YEAH!
DEF was only at half, and he told me he was waiting for me to fill it. We drove to their shop down the road, pulled up and a guy comes out to fill the DEF tank – just like at an old timey gas station! Cool. Can’t say my DEF wasn’t full when I left the dealership – cat pee, check!
Took us all of 30 minutes with Finance (Austin rocked) and we were ready to go. Just like that. Adam had already taken the truck down to the station and filled the fuel tank. After a last minute negotiation that netted me a RAM hoodie, we hopped in our new truck and headed for…SUBWAY – we were starving! They did have a BBQ going outside the dealership, but we weren’t up for burgers or ‘dogs.
Speaking of “outside the dealership”, holy crap this truck gets attention! We watched the 30 or so people in line and they were ALL looking at the truck. People at the back of the line just assumed it was on show, so they’d open the doors to look in, then see our gear in there and embarrassingly close the door and step away. LOL (I ended up locking the doors.) People walked around it in circles. One lady wanted her picture taken with the truck. Another guy was starting to second guess his purchase of a 2500 earlier in the day.
I mean, it’s a purdy truck, for sure, but man…even today on our commute to work – other drivers in traffic were oogling, one guy asked if it was the new EcoDiesel and did we like it (stupid questions, but hey, I’ll answer). Nuts!
After leaving the dealership, we took the Long Way Home. Back to Post Falls on the 90 (hit Cabelas for some Wild Boar for the dogs, and some treats for us, too), then North to Wenatchee, then West on Highway 2 through Leavenworth and finally home in Redmond. All in, nearly 400 miles in just under 9 hours. We stopped twice along the way. Once at Starbucks, and once at a small joint outside Leavenworth called The Alps, for some of the yummiest sauces and jams on the market! We’d driven through high desert, alpine mountains, rainforest. We’d seen the rain sensing wipers in action during mist and a downpour so heavy it scoured the bugs off the truck! The auto-adjusting high beam lights were a treat – accurate, rarely a false-positive and sensitive enough to detect someone’s taillights in front of you at quite a distance – you can literally engage them and forget about them.
Now, as many of you know, these trucks are quiet. I mean, library levels of quiet. 80 mph on the highway, back window cracked open 2 inches and sunroof venting. Volume of stereo on 4 and you could clearly hear the music, vocals and DJ. Each time the dogs moved in the back, I could hear the faint tinkle of their tags. I could hear every stretch and moan as they adjusted position to either get more comfortable, or sniff a butt again – they’re dogs, it’s what they do!
I could actually hear my wife’s thoughts. Turns out, she loves the truck as much as I do! Yes, it’s that quiet!
For almost the entire trip, the truck was doing what we expected. Sipping fuel. Until the last hill behind the house. Now, you have to understand. This isn’t a normal hill. It’s more of a Hell than a Hill, in fact. Maybe ¾ of a mile long, with about 10 tight turns and an elevation change of over 300 feet. If it snows in our area in the winter, the police close the road – the race is on. It’s not a matter of IF there will be a crash, but when, and can they close the road soon enough to avoid accidents?
So, up we crawled. Slowly at first, then more aggressively as the turns fell behind us and I wanted to see how low I could drive the MPGs…turns out I hit 9 on the way up the hill…LOL
Pulled into the driveway at around 11pm, unloaded everything, prayed the dogs would pee quickly and crashed knowing Gracie was home with us, finally.
Yesterday, more of the same – tweaking settings, enjoying the truck. Alone and driving around town on day 2, I cranked up the stereo and noticed two things: first, if flat rocks – sounds good and can pound if you want it too. Second, from outside the truck, you don’t hear very much of the music. I stepped out to snap some pics and if it weren’t for the sunroof having been open, I’m not sure I would have really heard the stereo. And I had the volume at about 30 at that point!
I’m impressed with the steering so far – feels good, is direct enough and seems to be pretty tight. Each time I expect to hit the stops, I find more lock available. I know there is an end, but I haven’t encountered it yet in a variety of situations.
Quality of the product is great, IMO. Maybe it’s the Tuesday/Wednesday build I was on, but the truck is solid. One fender flare has come away slightly as another owner noted, but easily fixed by pressing it back in. And if the tape doesn’t hold this time, the dealer can remove and replace during a visit. Couple of small issues with the paint (one “inclusion” of some sort that our second inspection caught and a spot which was raw metal from the factory, though clear coated, oddly) which will be handled under warranty. Favorite feature so far is the bed light. Small thing to be sure, but when you need light to tie something down, you need light!
Seats were super comfy for both driver and passenger for 8+ hours of driving, with the overall quietness factoring in to lower fatigue. Definitely a truck you can cover long distances in.
Headlights were OK, with the standout feature being the auto-dimming high beams. If I were doing lots of after-dark driving, I’d add a light bar with LEDs, or some driving lamps.
We have the air suspension and I can say a few things here. It’s comfortable. Feels firmer than you might expect, but takes away the worst of big bumps. Still gives you a bit of bump at the rear, as all pickups do, but it’s hardly bothersome. Truck handles as well as a 5500+ lbs whale can handle. In fact, speaking of “handles”, I think today’s attack on the roundabout on the way to work scraped some barnacles off the underside of Gracie’s door handles…not saying there is body lean, but this ain’t no BMW Z4!
The suspension does try to keep the truck level. I leaned on the tailgate to read instructions for my tailgate lock and after a couple minutes, the truck started to push back on me…LOL I stood up, and she settled back down again.
Bottom line – we’re blown away with the quality, ride, economy, comfort and amenities. This truck is everything, and a bit more, that we hoped it would be. Everything about this experience was exactly what I’d hoped for or better. Salesman was awesome, dealership was fantastic, Finance guys were easy to work with, the delivery, the product, everything – just fabulous!
Some other random pics from the past few days: