First Drive Review By Larry Nutson - 2019 RAM Truck Of The Year +VIDEO
SEE ALSO: 2019 Truck Of The Year Announcement
2019 RAM 1500
Plush and Capable
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Always getting better. That’s the way it should be. The new 2019 Ram 1500 is better--lighter in weight, quieter in the cabin, and uses less fuel than the old Ram.
However, things rarely get cheaper, and the new Ram is no exception being a bit higher priced for all the newness it provides.
The 2019 Ram 1500 made its debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit right after the start of the year. Offering something for everyone it will be offered in seven trim levels, all with different interiors aimed at different buyers.
Pickups are big sellers these days. And, the market is quite competitive offering very good full-size pickups from six different brands. There’s lots of brand loyalty in pickups and Ram enjoys the highest. However, it’s really tough for any one brand to gain a conquest sale of an owner of another make. Ram needs to keep every existing owner plus try to make inroads and sell to owners of the other brands. It’s a vicious circle.
The pickup market is divided into work use, outdoor activity use and family use. There are those who need a pickup for their job, whether they be a tradesman, or construction worker or landscaper. And then there are those who have a pickup to tow a boat or a camper or to use for hunting or fishing. Somewhat of a blending occurs with the farmer or rancher whose truck is used both for work as well used for the family’s personal transportation.
Jim Morrison head of Ram brand says the split, on a national basis, is about one-third, one-third, one-third across the three use categories. However in some parts of the country, Texas for example, more pickups are used for family transportation—the go-in-to-town truck.
If you’ve followed pickup truck news in the last couple years you know there has been lots of discussion on body materials. The new 2019 Ram has a new frame that features 98 percent high-strength steel. The body is steel, and to improve light-weighting and fuel efficiency, the new Ram has an aluminum hood and tailgate. Overall it’s 225 pounds lighter, this in spite of it being four inches longer.
Maximum payload is increased to 2,300 pounds and maximum trailer tow to 12,700 pounds.
There’s a choice of two engines: a second-generation 305-HP 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 or a 395-HP 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. The trucks will also offer 48-volt mild hybrid technology — a first for FCA — to boost torque and improve start/stop function. Official EPA fuel economy ratings for the eTorque mild hybrid engines are not yet available but a 10 percent improvement in MPG is expected.
The “big rig” styling first introduced in 1994 continues the Ram’s DNA. The cross-hairs in the grille are gone, now featuring R-A-M lettering. The pickup box is a taller resulting in not only more cargo carrying but better aerodynamics.
Several features — an active front air dam that deploys at 35 mph, grille shutters that close when airflow isn't needed and an optional air suspension system that can lower the truck — also make it more aerodynamic, for a 9-percent improvement over the 2018 model.
Pricing begins with the Tradesman Quad Cab 4x2 priced at $31,695. Up top there’s the Limited Crew Cab 4x4 V-8 at $57,390. A destination charge of $1,645 needs to get added to them all.
Tradesman, Big Horn and Rebel pricing reflects the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 eTorque mild hybrid powertrain, which becomes available a bit later. The optional 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with 8-speed automatic transmission is $1,195, while the eTorque-equipped HEMI is $1,995, also late availability. Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Limited pricing reflects the standard 395-HP 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, while eTorque-equipped HEMI is an additional $800 (late availability).
So how’s the new Ram 1500 drive? Climbing up an inside you first notice the “chest up” feel to the center stack. A stunning Uconnect 12-inch touchscreen display can be ordered with 360l Sirius XM on demand. There’s a 19-speaker 900-watt Harmon-Kardon audio system available.
All the soft touch surfaces are hand stitched. There’s rear seat ventilation and eight-degree of rear seat recline for more comfort. Ram claims the quietest cabin in the class at 66dB, and based on our test drive I have to agree. Conversation is easy and audio listening very pleasant. Tire and wind noise is minimal, prompting me to remark on wanting to take a long road trip. I dare say the new 1500 is quieter in the cabin than many SUVs and minivans.
Interior storage abounds with a total of 151-liters, more than double the nearest competitor.
Ride and handling is quite comfortable with the suspension tuned for confident and yet compliant ride. We drove some 1500s with the optional air suspension that seemed to me to be a no brainer to want to have with the benefits it provides both on and of the road. There’s lots of isolation for driving on rough roads.
There’s a very luxurious feeling overall in the new Ram 1500 with its premium interior materials, quiet road manners and comfortable ride. It’s very car-like.
We only drove the 395-HP Hemi models and dare I say, what’s not to like about the Hemi mated up to the 8-speed automatic. Acceleration is way more than you need. We got between 17 and 19 mpg on our road drives with speeds ranging from 30 to 65 mph, comparing well to the EPA ratings of 15 city mpg and 22 highway mpg.
We also did a bit of off-road driving through the dessert, along dry washes, some soft sand, as well as over some moderate inclines. The 4X4 Ram 1500 is a capable as ever in handling what nature can throw at it. A new off-road package is offered with a one-inch lift, electronic locking rear axle, tuned shocks and hill-descent control.
The all-new 2019 Ram 1500 in Quad Cab and Crew Cab is in production and coming to dealers. The Ram single cab pickup will continue in production for this year in the old design. And, in 2019 the EcoBoost Diesel will be added to the engine choices.
All-in-all the new 2019 Ram is a very capable truck that is pushing the envelope on luxury truck interior cabin finish.
This report comes from an invitation-only Ram launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Ram Truck provided my overnight accommodations, meals, and transportation.
© 2018 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy
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