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Ram steps to front of pickup class

| Friday, May 31, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Flames belong in a campfire — and I should know.

When I was dark-haired and dangerous, I joined four other shaggy '70s guys for a weekend ski trip to Possum Kingdom — an outing that involved a 17-foot Arrow Glass boat, two sacks of food, and 19 cases of beer.

On the first morning, after a long jagged night, two foggy members of our crew managed to let bacon grease in a hot skillet catch fire, setting the cheap curtains in our tiny cabin ablaze.

Once we got everything more or less under control, fanning smoke with threadbare Buckwheat Stevenson T-shirts, we decided to skip the morning cholesterol and resume our tutorials with Dr. Budweiser on the lake.

Stuff happens, we shrugged with a gulp.

Likewise, right before fire consumed the 2013 Ram pickup I was driving recently, I had concluded that the new Chevrolet Silverado due this spring had better be good.

The Ram Laramie Longhorn I had easily surpassed the Silverado in power, features and refinement, and it nipped hard at the vaunted Ford F-150's heels.

Then, of course, the Ram started to hiss and spit flames along the Dallas North Tollway, and promptly burned to the pavement.

So when Chrysler asked a few weeks later whether I wanted to drive another Ram, I said absolutely — even without a fire extinguisher. Just kidding, Sergio.

Although the company hasn't given me an update on its efforts to find a cause for the fire, I'm convinced that it was a freaky, once-in-a-lifetime roasting.

The 2013 Laramie Longhorn Chrysler sent to The Daily Planet was almost identical to the one the company scraped off the tollway.

At $55,630, it practically groaned beneath the weight of all its top-of-the-line options.

My dark brown-and-tan crew cab arrived with Chrysler's wonderful 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 under the hood, the new eight-speed automatic, which neither Ford nor Chevy offers, and four-wheel drive.

It looked more elegantly brutal than ever.

But get this: Behind the flashy chain-link grille were shutters that closed to improve aerodynamics when the truck didn't need a lot of air for cooling.

Though the Ram crew cab sports four large doors, mine had the short pickup bed, which kept it looking proportional despite the length of its body.

Standing well over 6 feet tall and weighing close to 6,000 pounds, the Ram was smaller than heavy-duty versions of the truck. But not by much.

Keep that in mind if you're suffering a slight midlife crisis and considering trading the minivan for one. The Ram, by the way, will tow more than 10,000 pounds, or roughly three minivans.

On the plus side, the giant pickups of today offer amenities that cowboys in the '90s could not have imagined.

Ram's Longhorn model competes with Ford's luxurious King Ranch F-150.

The dark brown dashboard in mine resembled stitched leather, housing a center stack big enough to be seen clearly by satellites and Obama's drones.

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