2019 Ram 1500: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceImportant Truck
The Ram 1500 is without a doubt the most important vehicle in the entire portfolio of parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. With record sales of more than 500,000 last year, the Ram truck accounted for more than 25 percent of all FCA sales in 2017. Never resting on its laurels, Ram set out to build a new truck that would offer the amenities and features customers are looking for while improving the truck’s capabilities and styling. After spending a day with the 2019 Ram 1500, we’d say the new truck is not only the best one FCA has ever produced, it’s one of the best pickups on the road today.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceClass Leading
“In launching the all-new 2019 Ram 1500, we knew it was important to offer class-leading features and technology. But it’s also important to offer our great product at a competitive price,” said Mike Manley, head of the Ram truck brand at FCA. “We feel that we’ve delivered the right no-compromise mix that Ram Truck customers will appreciate,” Manley noted.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRecord Sales
Ram trucks have consistently held their position as the third-best-selling vehicle sold in America, outdone only by the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-Series — the other formidable players in the U.S. full-size truck market. However, coming off a second record sales year, the folks at Ram are hoping this new model will further increase the brand’s sales momentum.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUpdated Styling
The Ram 1500’s exterior styling has been completely redone, but the truck is still easily recognizable — which could be because it says RAM across the grille in large, bold letters. The new grille is forward-leaning to indicate motion, and the new truck is wider than the previous generation. Fog lights get pushed to the edges, giving an even wider and lower appearance. There are six different grille styles, none of which feature the classic Ram crosshairs.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBig-Rig Look
Other noticeable updates include new headlights that now come in three variations. The new Ram also sports a raised aluminum hood to perpetuate the truck’s big-rig look. Rather than putting powertrain badging on the side of the truck, Ram designers gave the badge more prominence by placing it on the sides of the hood.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceLighter Yet Stronger
The new Ram 1500 weighs in almost 225 pounds lighter than the outgoing model. Much of this weight loss comes from a new frame, which is 100 pounds lighter. The frame uses 98 percent high-strength steel — increasing stiffness and durability — to make it the strongest frame ever used in the Ram 1500. Engineers mounted Active Tuned Mass Modules to the frame that counter any vibration, adding to the truck’s quietly smooth ride characteristics.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The Ram 1500 is available in a multitude of configurations with different engines, drivetrains, cab sizes and bed lengths. There are also six distinct trim levels: Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn and Limited. All trucks come standard with 2-wheel drive and a short bed — 4-wheel drive adds $3,500 and the longer bed adds another $300 to the base price. Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel and Laramie come as Quad Cabs and are available as crew cabs.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRam 1500 Tradesman
The Tradesman is designed for use as a basic work truck. With a starting price of $31,695 for the Quad Cab 2WD, the Tradesman comes standard with intermittent wipers, air-conditioning, a vinyl bench seat, a pushbutton start, power windows and door locks, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, three USB ports and an AM/FM stereo. Also standard are black front and rear bumpers, a locking tailgate, a trailer-towing package and 18-inch steel wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRam 1500 Big Horn
Expected to be the most popular trim in the Ram lineup, the Big Horn starts at $35,695. Upgrades over the Tradesman include a cloth 40/20/40 split-folding front bench seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear bench, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a sliding rear window, a carpeted floor, chrome trim, fog lights and 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRam 1500 Rebel
Like the current generation, the new Ram 1500 Rebel gets unique styling and is designed for off-road enthusiasts. Priced at $43,995 for a 2WD Crew Cab (Rebel Quad Cab is only 4X4), the Rebel comes standard with LED headlights and taillights, skid plates, an electronic locking differential, LED fog lights, black tow hooks, a sport performance hood, a damped/assisted tailgate, hill descent control and 18-inch cast-aluminum wheels with on-/off-road tires. Bucket seats, a power driver’s seat, a powered sliding rear window, a 115-volt power outlet and Rebel-themed gauges are also standard.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRam 1500 Laramie
The Laramie moves toward a more premium pickup, starting at $40,690. Upgrades are numerous and include dual-zone climate control, a leather 40/20/40 bench seat, power front seats, heated and cooled outboard front seats, power-adjustable pedals, a premium gauge cluster with a 7-inch configurable display, LED interior lighting and the Uconnect 8.4 system with premium sound system and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto. Rear seats are also heated, and there are two additional USB ports and a 115-volt outlet at the rear seat.

© FCA USRam 1500 Longhorn
The Longhorn and Limited reside at the top of the Ram 1500 lineup; the Limited is more luxurious, while the Longhorn gets a Southwest theme. With a base price of $51,390, the Longhorn is only available as a crew cab. Features include premium leather bucket seats, heated and cooled front and rear seats, a leather / wood steering wheel, Uconnect 8.4 with Navigation and HD radio, rain-sensing wipers, Longhorn-themed gauges, rear in-floor storage bins, rear under-seat storage and “Longhorn” branded onto the wood-trimmed upper glove box door. LED headlights with signature beams, chrome side steps, bed lighting, a spray-in bedliner and 20-inch cast-aluminum wheels are also standard.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRam 1500 Limited
With a base price of $53,890, the Limited tops the Ram 1500 offerings. In addition to the extensive features found on Longhorn, the Limited gets active 4-corner air suspension, power-retracting running boards, blind-spot monitoring with trailer detection, rear cross-path detection and chrome body-side moldings.

© FCA USOptional Safety Features
Available on the Laramie, Longhorn and Limited is an Advanced Safety Group that includes forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control and park assist.

© FCA USUnder the Hood
The Ram 1500 is available with three different powerplants at launch — two of which will introduce the truck’s new eTorque mild hybrid system. The eTorque system replaces a traditional alternator with the combination of a belt-driven motor-generator unit and a 48-volt battery pack. The generator provides a seamless start/stop function as well as short-duration torque added to the engine crankshaft in certain driving situations to improve responsiveness and efficiency. This makes for smoother starts as well as more seamless gear changes.

© FCA USV6 Power
The standard engine is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that produces 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. All V6 engines are equipped with the eTorque system which can add up to 90 lb-ft of torque at launch. Fuel economy numbers have not yet been released for eTorque-equipped motors, but Ram expects a considerable improvement over the outgoing model.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHEMI V8
Of course the RAM 1500 will also be available with the legendary HEMI V8. The 5.7-liter V8 produces 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. The V8 will be available with or without the eTorque system, which adds as much as 130 lb-ft of torque in certain driving situations such as launching from a stop. The V8 without eTorque is rated at 15 mpg city / 22 mpg highway. In our drive with this engine we saw around 20 mpg, so these figures seem to be accurate. Ram has also announced that a diesel powertrain will be coming next year.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSmooth Automatic
Both engines get teamed with a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission and can be paired with a part-time or on-demand 4-wheel drive system.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCapability
The new Ram 1500 is comfortable and quiet with all sorts of available luxury amenities, but it’s still a truck capable of impressive trucklike tasks. When properly equipped, the Ram can haul 2,300 pounds or tow as much as 12,750 pounds. These are both considerable increases over the previous generation.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
As good as the Ram looks on the outside, the interior really shines. The Ram crew cab is 4 inches longer than the previous generation — 1 inch went into the front seat, 3 inches for the rear. This makes for a very roomy cabin both front and back. We tested the cloth-covered bench seats as well as the leather buckets, and both are comfortable as well as stylish.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seat
Although the rear seat of the quad cab is predictably a bit tight, the crew cab offers an immense amount of legroom on par with a typical extended-length luxury sedan. There’s easily space for three, and with a flat floor, the middle position is equally comfortable. Rear seats can be heated and cooled depending on the trip level; a 110-volt power outlet and two USB ports are available.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInterior Cargo Capability
The rear seat can also be used for carrying cargo — the seat bottoms easily fold up and out of the way, providing a large flat cargo floor that even has tiedowns to keep items secure. Other available storage includes bins in the floor as well as a foldout storage area hidden beneath the rear seats.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSeating Options
Ram offers several configurations and options for front-seat occupants, via bench or bucket seats, trimmed in cloth or leather. The bench seat’s middle position makes seating tight for all in front, although it is certainly usable in a pinch. However, when not in use, the seat back folds down to create a useful large center console.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCenter Console
The center console in the upper Ram 1500 trims is an impressive use of space. Various movable sections can be configured to create room for up to a 15-inch laptop or an impromptu file cabinet. The console includes a few useful surprises: the underside of the console lid has a metric /standard wrench conversion chart, as well as formulas for determining angles and area —handy for a carpenter or construction worker. For history scholars, the bottom of the console has images of the last four major generations of Ram pickups.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBig Display
One factor that makes the new Ram’s interior one of the best in the truck business is the latest generation Uconnect system with an available 12-inch touchscreen display with split-screen capability. This vertical display is bright, easy to read and it can be configured in many ways. The Ram 1500 can also be equipped with what FCA calls the most powerful factory audio system ever offered in a pickup truck. The optional Harmon Kardon audio system features 19 speakers, a 10-inch subwoofer, active noise cancellation and a 900-watt surround-sound amplifier.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceKnobs and Buttons
Although the 12-inch display is outstanding, most Ram buyers will probably opt for one of the smaller screens. We had the chance to test both the basic 5-inch screen as well as the more advanced Uconnect 8.4, and both are clear with fast-response touch. And all systems come with actual knobs and buttons for volume, tuning and climate control — a welcome user experience.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceEasy Bed Access
The new Ram adds some nice features in the truck bed as well. The aluminum tailgate is lightweight as well as damped, so it opens slowly. An available retractable step unfolds from beneath the left-rear bumper, making climbing into the truck bed a breeze.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRamBox
The innovative storage units built into the side rails of the Ram 1500 bed have been updated for the new model year. The RamBox now features a 115-volt power outlet as well as lights integrated into the box lids for better illumination. The storage boxes are also lockable, weatherproof and drainable, adding considerable cargo-carrying versatility.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
At the time of our drive in the Ram, only the V8 without eTorque was available for testing. Driven on a nice mix of highways and back roads, the Ram proved to be one of the quietest and smoothest-riding trucks we’ve ever driven. An active noise cancellation system keeps the Ram quiet inside, as do an acoustic windshield and side glass. Improved aerodynamics also reduces wind noise.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePlenty of Power
The HEMI V8 offers plenty of power — the big truck easily accelerates to highway speeds. For improved fuel economy, an air dam drops down below the grille once the truck exceeds 35 mph; trucks equipped with air suspension simply lower themselves for the same effect.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTowing
Our press drive in the new Ram included some towing exercises. Directed cameras make trailer hookups easy even without human assistance, and with the air suspension the truck can raise itself to complete the hookup. With a 5,000-pound boat behind, the truck stayed perfectly stable at high speeds, and merging into traffic was no problem. The Ram’s blind spot alert system will even self-detect the length of its trailer and provide advance warning if a vehicle is in the lane next to the trailer.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOff the Road
The Ram 1500 Rebel is available from the factory with everything needed for off-roading, and this Ram handles soft sand and steep climbs easily and smoothly. With the air suspension set high there are no ground-clearance issues, and the 4-wheel-drive system performs well in the soft sand. Most noticeable is how smooth the new Ram feels even when the trail is not. It is a much better ride than other trim lines on the same type of terrain.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
As one of the best-selling vehicles in America, the Ram is already the right vehicle for many consumers. That said, the 2019 Ram 1500 improves on the previous generation in just about every way. With trim levels that range from the rough-and-ready to the Limited that feels and drives more like a luxury automobile, there seems to be a Ram 1500 for practically any consumer need. Add in the updated styling, roomy interior, high-tech features and innovative powertrain, and the Ram 1500 becomes one of the best truck options on the market.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9.0
Pros: Roomy interior; quiet ride; capable high-tech powertrain.
Cons: Quad cab rear seat a bit cramped; jarring off-road ride (except Rebel).
Bottom Line: Ram sets a new bar for half-ton pickup trucks, and it’s pretty high.


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