In a land of $5/gallon gasoline, Startech, the Chrysler Group division of world-renowned Mercedes tuner Brabus, has unleashed its interpretation of a street-tuned sport truck that offers European clients more exclusivity than driving the latest Ferrari or Porsche.
At the European auto shows this past fall in Geneva and Frankfurt, the Startech stand, normally populated by modified Jeeps, Chrysler PT Cruisers, and a 6.1L Mercedes V-8-powered 186-mph Crossfire coupe, has been dominated by a hulking black (signature color for all Brabus and Startech show vehicles) Dodge Ram sitting atop Startech-designed Monostar VI 24-inch wheels and 295/40R24 Pirelli tires. The result is a sport truck that, while stylistically restrained in the tradition of German tuners, would look right at home on Interstate 405 heading north out of Los Angeles.
As you look under the hood of the Startech Ram, you see the TV-certified (the German vehicle certification agency) 345hp 5.7L Hemi is essentially stock. Its exhaust note is enhanced by the installation of the Startech-designed sport exhaust system, with one slanted oval-shaped chrome exhaust tip exiting the rear of the vehicle.
Walking around the Ram's perimeter you see that its visuals are enhanced with the strategic application of a number of highly polished stainless-steel parts. The most striking is the front of the vehicle enhanced by two front tube guards, making the contour of the front bumper more prominent.
Along the sides, sill guards, which feature integrated entrance lights, give the Startech Ram a ground-hugging stance. The lights illuminate the ground next to the vehicle, activated by either pulling on the door handles or by pushing a button on the keyless-entry remote. The rear quarter is enhanced by the addition of highly polished stainless-steel quarter bumpers framing the previously mentioned oval exhaust tips; it's subtle yet effective.
Parking a vehicle as big as the Ram Quad Cab in Europe - where an S-Class Mercedes at 5 meters long is considered gigantic - is facilitated by a Startech-developed Parktronic system that uses acoustic signals to inform the driver as he or she approaches a fixed obstacle or an adjacent vehicle. The sensors are integrated into the front and rear production bumpers. They use acoustic signals to inform the driver of the distance to any seen or unseen obstacles.
The interior of the Ram follows U.S. tuner truck traditions by having acres of fine leather, making it a comfortable place to enjoy the vehicle's extensive custom-installed multimedia system. In the case of the pictured truck, it includes a fully integrated VDO/Dayton (distributed by Audiovox in the USA) navigation system that features a 7-inch navigation monitor flush-mounted into the center stack. On this truck, the OEM Infinity AM/FM/CD with changer controls remains in the stock location above the navigation monitor. It should be noted that workmanship of the trim bezel surrounding the navigation monitor is flawless. Secondary navigation data is displayed in the rearview mirror.
The rest of the interior is enhanced with door-lock pins and foot pedals fabricated from polished-aluminum, high-quality floor mats and stainless-steel sill plates with an illuminated Startech logo. If a client opts for an even more personalized approach, Startech offers leather upgrades in a rainbow's selection of hues crafted from a soft yet especially durable Mastik leather.
It's not necessary to venture all the way to Germany to sample a Startech Ram or any other modified Chrysler Group vehicle, which now includes the Pacifica in addition to the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty as well as the PT Cruiser or the company's version of the Viper SRT-10. Brabus North America has a full service facility set up in Newport Beach, California, right across the street from John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Calling (949) 797-0177 will save you the trouble and expense of a long distance call to Bottrop, Germany. There's just one problem: The speed limit on the adjacent Interstate 405 is still 65, not unlimited as it is on Germany's autobahns. That's a crying shame.