Known as the Dodge Ram before Chrysler transformed Ram into a distinct, truck-focused brand, the Ram 1500 is a well-sorted full-size pickup with bold styling and a refined interior. For the latest model year, it received a comprehensive update that made it more powerful, efficient and capable than before.
For especially intense hauling duties, Ram also offers 2500 and 3500 models, as well as the off-roading champ of the lineup, the 2500 Power Wagon.
The Ram 1500's strengths include responsive handling (thanks in part to class-exclusive rear coil-springs), a durable yet modern and well-built interior and a strong HEMI V8. The truck's recent refresh seeks to keep those qualities while addressing its biggest deficiencies - middling fuel economy and a weak base motor - and also adding a host of other upgrades.
Charting the Changes
Perhaps the biggest news is the replacement of the truck's antiquated 3.7-liter V6 base motor with Chrysler's impressive 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. In the Ram 1500, the motor makes 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft. of torque, a vast improvement over the outgoing truck's 215 horsepower base engine.
Both the Pentastar V6 and the Ram 1500's optional 5.7-liter HEMI V8, which produces 395 horsepower and 407 lb-ft. of torque, are paired with a new, fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission (although its worth noting that early build HEMI-equipped '13 models will still feature a six-speed unit).
A mid-level 4.7-liter V8 that puts out 310 horsepower and 330 lb-ft. of torque mated to a six-speed automatic remains available.
Looking to improve the big pickup's fuel economy, Ram engineers installed several industry firsts in the truck: A start/stop system on certain models improves city fuel economy by 1 mpg, while an active grille shutter system helps improve aerodynamics that reduce the truck's coefficient of drag by more than .01 Cd.
Also saving gas is a new electric power steering, which increases efficiency by 1.8 percent and adds five horsepower.
All those measures add up to best-in-class fuel efficiency for the RWD V6 model, which is rated at 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Those figures fall to 16/23 mpg with 4WD. The RWD and 4WD 4.7-liter V8 models are rated at 14/20 mpg and 14/19 mpg, respectively, while the HEMI V8 impressively manages to match the smaller eight-cylinder's numbers.
A newly optional air suspension features five height settings: Normal (8.7 inches of ground clearance from the base of the door sill), a 1.1-inch lower aero mode, two off road modes for additional clearance and a park mode that pushes the truck down 2 inches for easy ingress and egress. A key fob button can activate the air suspension to lower the truck remotely.
Other changes include a redesigned frame that's more rigid than before and a heavily reworked front suspension. These changes reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels and also improve the truck's handling, which was already a strong suite.
Styling Tweaks Inside and Out
The Ram 1500's exterior revisions are subtle, but a more prominent grille is taller than before. A revised front bumper sees the new grille "saddled" into a small depression, while larger openings around the front bumper's tow hooks (on 4X4 models) allows for easier tow strap access. The truck's headlights gain a new, optional LED system for the parking and turn signals, but not the main lamps themselves.
Five new colors are available in both monotone and two-tone, while polished stainless steel running boards improve aerodynamics.
Inside, the same basic design remains but some materials are upgraded, while new color themes are present throughout. More soft touch materials have been spread throughout the truck's cabin, and the HVAC and multimedia controls are all-new.
Ram's gauge cluster receives an upgraded 3.5 or 7-inch (depending on trim level) information screen. A proximity key system is newly available, as are Ram Box storage bins that can be locked and unlocked remotely.
The new eight-speed automatic is controlled by a knurled rotary dial the automaker calls e-shift. Located on the left side of the center stack near where the transfer case shift knob once was, the e-shift knob replaces conventional column and center console levers.
New to the Ram 1500 for the latest model year is the availability of Chrysler's Uconnect Access infotainment system (for a complete description of Uconnect Access, check out Leftlane's Spotlight On: Uconnect article).
Generally regarded as one of the more user-friendly infotainment setups on the market, Uconnect Access integrates most of the truck's audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit. An 8.4-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard is the central component of the system, but redundant buttons and knobs for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included.
Uconnect Access features a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search.
Bodystyles, Capabilities and Trims
The Ram 1500 is offered in Regular Cab, Quad Cab and Crew Cab models. The Regular Cab features two doors, the Quad Cab has four doors and the Crew Cab has four doors with expanded rear passenger space. Three box lengths are available: 8-foot (regular cab), 6-foot-4-inches (Regular cab, Quad Cab and optional for Crew Cab), and a new length with this latest generation box length of 5-foot-7-inches (Crew Cab).
The Ram 1500 is capable of towing up to 11,500 pounds in Tradesman Heavy Duty form, and all models make towing easier with a standard 4- and 7-pin trailer hitch wiring harness and connector with a plug-in connection integrated into the rear bumper. Payload capacity maxes out at
Eight trim levels are available, each with a unique appearance: Tradesman, Tradesman Heavy Duty, ST, SLT, Outdoorsman, Sport, Big Horn and the top-of-the-line Laramie. With these numerous and wildly different trims, the Ram 1500 can be outfitted as a spartan work truck, a leather-lined luxury vehicle with the latest tech features, and almost anything in between.
Tradesman Heavy Duty
The new Tradesman Heavy Duty trim could almost be considered a unique model thanks to its combination of mechanical components from the 1500 and 3/4-ton 2500 Heavy Duty models. The frame (including increased steel gauges), heavy-duty axles and eight-lug wheels all come from the 2500, giving the truck class-leading payload and towing capacities of 3,100 lbs and 11,500 lbs.
The truck also features upgraded heavy-duty cooling, larger brakes, the HD six-speed automatic transmission, a Class IV tow hitch and a standard HEMI V8.
The new top trim level for the 1500 is the Laramie Limited, which boasts one of the most luxurious interiors ever fitted to a pickup. Details include full leather seating with contrasting piping, black burled walnut trim, LED lighting and a soft, French-stitched full leather lid atop the center console. Chrome ringed-gauges with liquid graphite needles, rear flap-closure seatback map pockets and berber carpeting complete the interior treatment.
Exterior touches include a body-color front fascia and rear bumper, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels and no badges save for a small italicized block-letter "Limited" on the tailgate and the traditional Ram logo.
Standard features on the Laramie Limited Trim include a navigational radio, remote start, back-up camera, power adjustable pedals with memory, heated steering wheel, front ventilated and heated seats and rear heated seats.
All Ram 1500 models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Rivals to Ram 1500 include the rugged Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the Ford F-150, which has been the best-selling vehicle in America for decades. The Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan are also worthy competitors, and both are built in United States.