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2013 Ram 1500 Express Rocky Mountain Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

Ram has a good thing in their 1500 pickup – last redesigned for the 2009 model year, it’s been a go-to standard in the American truck market. When it came time to make changes for the 2013 model year, rather than dramatic exterior changes, they went with more of a minor refresh. It fits, given that the Ram 1500 was already a great-looking truck. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been other drastic changes, however. On the inside, the Ram 1500 received a ton of convenience and cosmetic updates which greatly enhance the comfort and usability of this full-size pickup.

Our Ram 1500 came to us in a Crew Cab 4x4 configuration – four real doors, 6’4” bed – in the Express trim. There’s no doubt that this is a work-truck configuration – no cushy leather, no slathering of infrequently-used options, but rather, a preferred work-truck configuration. The Express trim dresses it up a bit with some attractive upgrades – body-color fascia and bumper, carpeting, fog lamps, and 20” wheels. Put another way, the Express package takes the work-ready Ram 1500 and adds some style the family will appreciate, creating a truck equally at home at the boat launch as at the job site. Our tester included some thoughtful options such as a tailgate which locks with the key fob along with the doors – a nice time-saving touch – and an integrated trailer-brake controller.

Inside, it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the updated interior of the Ram 1500. Not just thought, but Ram seems to be listening to its owners and prospective buyers closely and integrating their needs into the truck’s design. Rather than simply creating a larger version of a car interior, the Ram’s interior purpose-built to be a truck – comfortable, not ugly by any measure, but clearly with a function-first mentality. Chunky controls abound – big knobs for climate control, big buttons on the stereo – making it easy to manipulate settings with gloves on. Even the key follows this rule – rather than a traditional fumble of trying to align metal to metal against the steering column, the Ram 1500 uses a plastic fob which inserts into an easily-visible slot flat against the dash. Storage nooks abound everywhere, including a thoughtfully large slide out drawer in the center of the dash below the climate controls.

The Crew Cab configuration provides four real doors and six seats – the sixth owing to a bench in the front which is not likely to be comfortable for anyone over average height. In the rear, taller passengers may find legroom to be somewhat restricted, but the seats are comfortable and a decent place to pass travel time.

That aforementioned stereo, by the way, is excellent. Easy-to-use, thumpy bass, with AM/FM/Sat and line and USB inputs. Notice what’s missing from that list? No CD. And it’s about time. Given that many carry their music library on their iPod or Smartphone, it’s easier to just plug in, eliminating a failure-prone mechanical part and its associated controls

Driving is a pleasure; we have not driven a smoother, quieter, more easy-going truck than the Ram 1500. Power from the 5.7L V8 HEMI engine is staggering, and the truck is well-mannered and easy to control even in ice, snow, and high wind. The ride is firm although not harsh. The 4x4 system is predictable and kept the vehicle moving nicely in mud and inclement weather. Even absent any driving aids such as parking sensors or a rearview camera the Ram was easy to maneuver owing to wide exterior mirrors making the view easy. Our only quibble is that the front end overhangs the front wheels rather significantly, making tight corners or parking spots a bit of a challenge, but nothing that one can’t get used to.

Our tester came with a six-speed automatic transmission mated to that HEMI and while it’s smooth and responsive, it doesn’t make the vehicle easy on the fuel – we averaged a meager 16 MPG overall. Ram reports that the six-speed will be replaced with an eight-speed in the near future, and we expect that this new tranny will have a positive impact on fuel economy.

The Ram 1500 comes decently equipped from a safety perspective, including antilock disc brakes, stability control, hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Ours also received the aforementioned optional integrated trailer brake controller – a highly recommended option given the steep grades of the Mountain West.

Ultimately, 2013 brings a series of well-thought-out and well-executed enhancements to the Ram 1500. Although higher trims include luxury comforts for weekend cowboys – and can approach or break the $50,000 mark – the Express trim represents an excellent value – a work truck that is fine for a night with the family or towing the camper on weekends. If you’re in the market for a new light-duty truck, Ram should be high on your list.


2013 Ram 1500 Express Quad Cab 4x4

Engine Type: V8 HEMI MDS VVT

Engine Size: 5.7-liter

Horsepower: 395 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque (lb-ft): 407 @ 3,950 rpm

Transmission: 6-Speed shiftable automatic

Wheelbase / Length (in): 229 / 140.5

Curb Weight (lb): 5,313

Pounds per HP: 13.5

Fuel Capacity (gal): 32

Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded

Tires: Goodyear Wrangler SR-A; P275/60SR20

Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated disc / Solid disc

Suspension, front/rear: Short and long arm / Multi-link

Ground clearance (in): 9.2

Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - MPG

city / highway / observed: 13 / 19 / 16

Towing capacity (lb): 10,200

Base Price: $30,630.00

Options and Charges

Customer Preferred Package 25C (Express Trim): $2,340.00 (20 x 8 inch aluminum wheels with P275/60R20 tires; body-color front fascia, grille, and rear bumper with step pads; fog lamps; carpeting; full-size temporary spare; locking lug nuts; front and rear floor mats; delete spray-in bedliner; delete class IV receiver hitch)

Popular Equipment Group: $535.00 (cloth 40/20/40 bench seat; remote keyless entry with all-secure)

Trailer Brake Controller: $350.00

Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover: $500.00

Anti-Spin Differential Rear Axle: $325.00

32-Gallon Fuel Tank: $75.00

Uconnect® 5.0 AM/FM/BT Stereo: $465.00

Delivery: $995.00

Price as tested: $36,215.00