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Saturday, March 17, 2018

2019 Ram 1500 Review

2019 Ram 1500 Review
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The 2019 Ram 1500 sets the bar high for full-size pickup trucks.

The 2019 Ram 1500 pickup truck wants to be more than just a trusted hauler. With its roomy, refined interior and its choice of engine options, the 2019 Ram is the most livable full-size pickup on the market today.

We rate it 7.0 out of 10 overall, with some caveats. For one, we haven’t driven the new mild-hybrid V-6 and V-8 engines. For another, we’re still waiting for crash-test results.


The latest Ram doesn’t have as much of the big-rig machismo of its predecessors, regardless of trim level: Tradesman, Big Horn, Texas-only Lone Star, off-roady Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, or Limited. Instead, its smooth shape, conservative cheats the wind and doesn’t look as awkward as the 2019 Chevy Silverado. Inside, the 2019 Ram is akin to that old Mastercard slogan: everything you want it to be. Crew-cab configurations have four inches of additional legroom this year, with three-quarters of that going toward the back seat. Even the Tradesman hasluxury undertones inside with its tasteful mix of grays and even the occasional padded surface. Big Horn models make up the bulk of Rams found on dealer lots, and they’re sublime inside with their available 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, soft-touch surfaces, and supportive bench or bucket front seats. Laramie trims are as swank as most rivals’ range-toppers, with the decadent Laramie Longhorn the pinnacle of pickups thanks to gorgeous leather and real wood trim spread across every surface.

A choice of extended- and crew-cab configurations are on offer with two bed lengths. A regular cab isn’t on the table yet, but Ram says it’ll eventually come.

Rams come standard with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated at 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. This year the V-6 is mated to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system called eTorque that supplies 90 lb-ft of torque but is mainly intended to boost fuel economy. A 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 395 hp and 410 lb-ft is optional, and it too can be fitted with the eTorque system as an additional upgrade. The V-8 can run on half of its cylinders to conserve fuel. A vibration cancellation  system reduces cylinder shutdown juddering.

All engines are paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission and either send power to the rear wheels or all four via either a part-time or a full-time transfer case. Depending on the options buyers select, the Ram 1500’s tow rating is as high as 12,750 pounds.

Underneath, the Ram’s separate ladder frame holds a coil-spring suspension that stands in contrast to rivals’ rear leaf springs. A height-adjustable air suspension is optional on every version, as is a locking rear differential.

Ram sets the standard for technology inside, albeit at a price. A 5.0-inch infotainment screen is standard, while an 8.4-inch display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is available. Step up to the Laramie and buyers can opt for a hefty 12.0-inch screen mounted vertically that integrates most non-climate functions. Early pre-production models we tested look great but had some software hiccups; we’ll reserve full judgement.

On the safety front, the Ram offers a slew of gear like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control. No crash tests have been performed on the latest Ram.

Styling
The 2019 Ram 1500’s exterior is toned down, but its interior is tops among pickups.

For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Ram 1500 no longer looks like it’s a Mack truck’s distant cousin. It’s less distinctive than before, but its interior is a winner. We award it 6 out of 10 points, with a tick above average for what’s inside.

The 2019 Ram’s front end is dictated more by the wind tunnel than ever. The shoulder created by its fenders is less pronounced than before and the myriad grille options no longer include the distinctive crosshair design. Instead, the Ram is clean, but anonymous. Compared to the 2019 Chevy Silverado, it’s cohesive and conservative, which means it should age well.

What the Ram forgoes is headline-grabbing materials, for better or worse. Where rivals now offer aluminum or carbon fiber, the Ram is perfectly happy being composed primarily of steel.

Every trim level has its own look. The work-oriented Tradesman’s unpainted bumpers and steel wheels won’t raise eyebrows on a jobsite. Mainstream Big Horn/Lone Star trims are flashier with chrome; the Lone Star is a Texas-only model, but it’s identical other than its badging to the 49-state Big Horn. Lariats have chrome wheels and some additional exterior flourishes, while the Limited and Laramie Longhorn are urban and country flagships, respectively.

Inside, the Ram’s dash design is convenient and attractive. On Laramie and higher trims, it’s downright luxurious.

Controls are easy to find, with most accessories grouped into toggle switches below the climate controls. The standard 5.0-inch screen is as basic as a skinny latte, but an 8.4-inch unit is an easy upgrade. The 12.0-inch screen available on Laramie and higher trims takes up a lot of real estate, making comparisons to Tesla all-too-obvious.
Review continues below

Performance
The 2019 Ram 1500’s mild-hybrid engines are intriguing, but the conventional V-8 gets the job done well.

The 2019 Ram 1500 doesn’t laugh at cheap gas, but it chuckles in its general direction–t least when fitted with one of two mild-hybrid engines choices available.

Overall, we rate the Ram 1500 at 6 out of 10, with a point above average for its slick-shifting 8-speed automatic.

For now, the only Ram 1500s we’ve driven have been equipped with a familiar 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 395 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The V-8 is a smooth, sonorous operator that provides the hefty Ram with good acceleration and the ability to tow up to 12,750 pounds, at least when ordered up with the right array of axle and body configurations.

For an extra grand, the available mild-hybrid system Ram dubs eTorque adds 130 lb-ft of torque with the V-8, 90 lb-ft with the standard 305-hp V-6 to help out with low-speed acceleration and to reduce the gas engine’s workload.

We’ve not driven either eTorque powertrain, so we’ll have to reserve judgement.

For a pickup, the Ram 1500 handles well and its ride is almost luxury SUV-smooth. That “for a pickup” qualifier is necessary, though, since this big truck still floats over bumpy terrain and hardly gnaws at curvy roads. Not that it needs to, of course. Isolation from the road is the Ram’s forte; Lariat and higher trim levels feature extensive sound deadening and acoustic glass to keep the outside world, well, out.

The standard coil-spring suspension absorbed bumps well on our initial preview drives on glassy pavement in the Arizona desert and it felt equally at-home on washboard dirt roads in the desert. The optional air spring setup is offered on every trim level; at the tap of a toggle switch, the suspension moves up a couple of inches for extra ground clearance. At higher speeds, it drops about half an inch to improve airflow. The air suspension is noticeably stiff, but not unduly so. It’s designed to improve aero and fuel economy more than it helps ride quality and ground clearance.

An off-road variant, the Ram Rebel, splits the difference between a conventional four-wheeling package and a desert racer like the Ford F-150 Raptor. The Rebel now features an inch-taller coil spring suspension, Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires, and an electronic locking rear differential. The optional air suspension sits an inch higher in the Rebel than on other Rams, giving the truck a meaner stance.

At high speeds on a washed-out riverbed, the Ram Rebel we drove was entertaining. Its dimensions make it too big for many fire trails, but it’ll be more than happy mud-plugging or dune-bashing.

Four-wheel drive is optional on every Ram except the Rebel, where it’s standard. The base transfer case is a part-time setup not meant for use on dry pavement; an optional system lets users leave their trucks in automatic mode year-round.

Comfort & Quality
A spacious, comfortable interior makes the 2019 Ram 1500 the luxury limo of pickups.

It says something about the 2019 Ram 1500 when the mid-grade Lariat trim level is nicer inside than the range-topping trims offered at heftier prices by its rivals. Maybe it says even more about what competitors are selling.

We rate the Ram 1500 at a heady 9 out of 10, with points above average for its superb front seats, the stretch-out rear seat in popular crew cabs, the fine materials found even on work-grade Tradesman trims, and its impressive all-around utility.

For now, the Ram is offered in extended and crew cab models badged Quad Cab and Crew Cab, respectively. They both offer a quartet of front-hinged doors. Extended cabs deliver acceptable rear seat room, while crew cabs are palatial in row two. Front passengers are treated to an impressive interior with comfortable front seats in either a three-place bench or a two-seat bucket setup with a massive, highly configurable center console.

Ram sweats the small stuff for every passenger. USB ports—including USB-C—are scattered about, every control is easy to reach, and luxury features are available all across the range. Rear seat riders in crew cabs get an especially nice place to stretch out their legs; the rear seat backrest leans back and the base slides forward for more room.

No shortage of pockets and cubbies mean drivers and passengers have nearly countless ways to lose pens, notebooks, small children, and bass boats. Of course, the Ram is a pickup, and its bed is predictably big. Crew cabs offer 5’7 or 6’4 bed lengths, while the extended cab gets only the longer choice. Optional bins integrated into the bed sides marketed as Ram Boxes are available for even more utility. Inside the bed, available lights, a bedliner, and cargo tie-downs increase flexibility.

We’d be remiss without calling out the Ram’s impressive interior quality, regardless of trim level. Hard plastic trim is relegated to the work-oriented Tradesman. Opt for the Big Horn/Lone Star trim and the door panels and dash are finished in materials that are soft to the touch. The range-topping Laramie Longhorn is a standout with its real wood trim panels that include a kitschy-cool badge that’s actually branded into the material—by machine, not cowboy, but still.  

Safety
The 2019 Ram 1500 is available with advanced safety tech, but it comes at a price.

The 2019 Ram 1500 promises big strides in terms of safety over last year’s model. That shouldn’t take much, if we’re honest.

The latest Ram hasn’t been crash-tested, so we’re holding back its score until we know more.

All Rams come with what’s essentially the minimum level of safety gear: six airbags, anti-lock brakes, a rearview camera, and stability control.

Notably, the rearview camera features a zoom function on Rams with the larger 8.4- and 12.0-inch infotainment screens. A surround-view camera system is optional on Laramie and above Rams.

Blind-spot monitors are are optional on Big Horn/Lone Star and higher trim levels. They’re standard on the Limited.

Unfortunately, only Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited trim levels are available with a bundle of high tech in the optional Advanced Safety Group: automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic emergency braking. We’d like to see those features available on the higher-volume Ram Big Horn/Lone Star trims, too.

Features
The 2019 Ram 1500 wants for little, but it’s also a good reminder that today’s pickups can be very expensive.

The 2019 Ram 1500 has an ordering sheet that’ll keep you up at night. It’s not because it’s frightening, but because it’s lengthy and involved.

All versions of the full-size pickup are well-equipped, while the high-end Laramie Longhorn and Limited trims rival luxury brands for their content and execution. We give the Ram 1500 7 out of 10 points here, with nudges above average for its huge infotainment screen options paired with excellent software and for its hefty degree of customizability.

The base Ram Tradesman makes sense for work use, but most buyers will step up to the Big Horn (or Lone Star if you’re in Texas) trim level. Here, the Ram comes with cloth upholstery, chrome bumpers, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Pop for a few options and you can swap out the base 5.0-inch screen for an 8.4-inch touchscreen unit that has some of our favorite infotainment software—and it’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, to boot.

The Lariat that’s a step up is a nice splurge with its soft leather seats that are both heated and cooled, plus a 7.0-inch screen in the instrument cluster. At around $48,500 for a crew cab with four-wheel drive and the V-8, it’s not inexpensive, but it’s lacking little.

Unfortunately, adding advanced safety gear means popping for a few other options first that jack up the price by $6,000, although the eye-catching 12.0-inch screen is a more palatable $995.

The Laramie Longhorn and Limited flagships mostly mirror one another in terms of equipment: semi-aniline leather upholstery, real wood trim, 20-inch alloy wheels, and LED headlights. The 12.0-inch screen is standard on the Limited, as are power running boards, but our money would be on the western-themed Laramie Longhorn and a lazy afternoon riding fences in West Texas.

A word on the Ram’s infotainment options, if we may. The base 5.0-inch screen is simple but effective, with standard Bluetooth and and three USB inputs. More Rams on dealer lots will probably have the 8.4-inch touchscreen with its intuitive software and available baked-in navigation. The showpiece is the 12.0-inch screen standard on Limiteds and optional on both Laramie grades. It’s a stunner with its screen that can display two things at once—navigation and audio stacked one on top of the other, for instance—but early models we drove were surprisingly buggy. We’ll chalk that up to pre-production software, at least until we get the chance to drive another 2019 Ram 1500.

Fuel Economy
There’s a lot of available green tech in the 2019 Ram 1500, the first mild-hybrid full-line pickup truck, but EPA ratings haven’t been announced.

Stay tuned. The 2019 Ram 1500 will probably have some interesting stories to tell in the fuel economy department, but it hasn’t yet been rated on the EPA’s scale. With three gas powertrains on offer, two of which are electrified, our expectations are high.

The turbodiesel that’s due for next year should raise the bar even higher.

For now, a discussion of what we can tell you. The 48-volt eTorque system standard with the V-6 and optional on the V-8 allows the engine to turn off at stoplights while all accessories like climate control and audio remain on. It can’t motivate the Ram on its own, but it provides a little assist at low speeds so that the gas engine doesn’t have to work as hard. On so-equipped Rams, the suitcase-sized battery pack is located behind the rear seat.

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