Dodge Ram 4 x 4 and Heartland Prowler
July 1, 2011
Filed under Trucks For Towing
For some, RVing is an adventure in and of itself; a means to escape the monotony of everyday life, to be with family and to experience new and exciting places. For others, RVing is but a vehicle to experience alternate types of adventure, a convenient way to enjoy one’s hobbies, comfortable in the knowledge that home is only as far away as the campsite.
Today, adventure is big business. The choices are dizzying — from hunting and fishing to hiking, biking, kayaking and windsurfing, there are practically endless avenues to pursue an “active lifestyle.” And both automobile and RV manufacturers are taking notice, offering many versions of their most popular products that are tailored specifically for the customer who thrives on adrenaline.
With that in mind, we thought it’d be interesting to pair a truck designed for “Outdoorsmen” with a trailer designed for “Sport.” This year, Dodge introduced the Outdoorsman version of its popular Ram 1500 pickup, replete with all the features campers, boaters and fishing enthusiasts were looking for, according to Dodge. These include towing features like a standard Class IV hitch, four- and seven-pin harness plugs, heavy-duty cooling and limited slip differential. It also includes a larger 32-gallon fuel tank (26 gallons standard), fog lights and a handy dash-mounted 120-volt AC auxiliary power outlet.
The test unit also included the available integrated brake controller and RamBox, which includes two lockable, lighted storage areas outside of the cargo box where you can store just about anything that will fit in them. Rifles and fishing rods are apparently among the most popular items, so Dodge thought it appropriate to offer the Mopar RamBox holster, which “gently yet securely cradles two rifles or shotguns, or can be rotated 90 degrees to hold up to six fishing rods,” according to Dodge. Our tester also included this option, and just for grins, the PR folks even fitted it with a couple of replica air rifles with scopes to demonstrate its functionality.
Though the press materials suggest that the Outdoorsman could be had for as little as $28,350, the base price for our Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4 x 4 was $34,810. With the Customer Preferred Package 26T ($2,595, which includes the Outdoorsman gear and other equipment), the Technology Group ($495, which includes ParkSense Rear Park Assist System, 506-watt Alpine stereo system) 5.7-liter Hemi engine ($1,310), media center with Garmin touch-screen navigation and 30 GB hard drive ($1,895), the aforementioned RamBox ($1,895) and other stand-alone options, that price swelled to $44,310 — and that, friends, doesn’t even include leather. That is a princely sum for a half-ton pickup in just about anyone’s book. And features not withstanding, the truck doesn’t look expensive with its blacked-out grille and satin-finish wheels.
Ah, well. Sportsmen care more about functionality than fluff anyway, right? And when it came time to pull the 6,220-pound Prowler Sport Trailer, the Ram, with its mighty Hemi V-8 and optional 3.92:1-geared limited-slip differential, never missed a beat. The engine delivered more than enough smooth power to get the rig moving, and the cabin sound level, even during downshifts, was remarkably quiet.
Speaking of downshifts, a small button on the column shifter allowed quick and easy manual shifting on the fly. It’s a handy feature when you want to kick down a gear or two, but don’t necessarily want to mash the throttle or fuss with a balky column shifter to do it. Our truck also had the optional trailer-brake control ($230), which, when combined with the Ram’s excellent four-wheel disc brakes, made stopping a no-drama affair.
The Crew Cab has plenty of room for your 6-foot friends in the back, but like all such pickups, this extra legroom comes at the expense of some cargo area. And when you add the RamBox feature, which effectively narrows the bed, the cargo box approximates that of a small or midsize shortbed truck. To be fair, it’s simply a matter of priorities; if you don’t plan to haul quads or dirt bikes, but you do like to bring your friends (who happen to be former linebackers), then the Crew Cab is definitely the right choice. It is a comfortable truck for long trips, it rides smoothly, and with features like touch-screen navigation and Bluetooth hands-free calling, it would make a very nice commuter, if you could stomach the 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway mileage at $4-plus a gallon.
Okay, on to the Prowler. In a sea of travel trailers, there are few names that are more recognizable. Originally established in 1969, and generally associated with now-defunct Fleetwood Travel Trailers, it’s doubtless that you’ve seen a Prowler in your campground or passing you on the highway at one time or another. The model’s light weight and reasonable price are likely one reason, and the fact that it is offered in a wide range of floorplans (17 total across the Prowler line as this is written) probably doesn’t hurt either. After Fleetwood closed its doors (to travel trailer manufacturing, anyway) in 2009, Heartland RVs recognized the value and longstanding tradition of the Prowler name, and began manufacturing models of its own.
The Prowler Sport 26P BH is what you might call an old-school travel trailer, with its wood framing, aluminum siding and lack of any slideouts. This floorplan, with a queen bed up front and bunkhouse in the rear, isn’t anything out of the ordinary, either, but that’s not meant as a criticism. The market is flooded with trailers sporting the latest bells and whistles, but sometimes all you really want is a trailer with the basics that is as close as possible to the unit you likely grew up in. In that regard, this floorplan and its slightly more than $10,000 base price deliver.
The interior layout is a cozy one and perfect for gatherings with friends or family, with its fixed dinette and convertible couch offering enough room for five to six people to socialize comfortably. Our tester was delivered with Rustic Mandarin interior decor and the Prowler Sport Value Package ($2,000), a “forced option,” which, of course, means it’s not an option at all regardless of how the manufacturer spins it. This package includes (among other things) a residential-size 50/50 sink, microwave, AM/FM/CD/DVD entertainment system (with two outside speakers), cable/satellite TV hookup, 13,500-BTU air conditioner, a porcelain toilet with foot flush and a patio awning (our unit was upfitted with an electric awning, a $340 option).
When it’s time to turn in for the night, the rear bath area offers adequate room for cleaning up with a tub/shower combo and a small lav and sink. The rear bunkhouse is perfect for kids, and there is a removable panel underneath the lower bed that allows access to the large rear storage area. Our only complaint here was that the mattress padding on the bunks was pretty thin, making it an uncomfortably firm bed that would likely get even firmer as the padding gets compressed over time.
Up front, the queen bed was almost the opposite, feeling a bit on the squishy side for our liking. Storage overhead and on either side of the bed was enough for two adults, and while we appreciated the privacy the hard wall between the living area and bedroom provided, it made the area feel a little closed off. But this is purely subjective; you might prefer it to a curtain, for example.
So where’s the “Sport” in this trailer that outdoorsy folks would appreciate? Well, in addition to the aforementioned rear storage, there is also a large front pass-through storage area that will swallow most anything you plan to bring along. With a cargo carrying capacity of more than 3,000 pounds, that’s a lot of stuff. The Sport model also comes with a slick bike rack that pulls out of the rear frame and a removable dinette table for alfresco dining. Some useful options on our test unit included an optional exterior shower ($90), spare tire and carrier ($160), four stabilizer jacks ($175) and keyless entry ($395).
Whether you enjoy hunting and fishing with your friends or just weekend outings with the family, the Dodge Ram Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4 x 4 and Heartland Prowler Sport 26P BH have all the ingredients you need to enjoy Mother Nature’s bounty.