New & Used Ram 1500: In Depth
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The Ram 1500 is a full-size pickup that competes with the GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, and the Toyota Tundra, too, but to a lesser extent. All of the Ram’s American competitors have been recently updated, but so has the Ram, adopting a new, more efficient V-6 engine and new infotainment systems.
For all the latest information on this full-size truck, see our review of the 2014 Ram 1500.Over the long course of history, the Ram 1500 traces its lineage back to Dodge pickups. In its modern form, it's been around since 1994, when a resurgent Chrysler redesigned its pickup trucks with a daring new look that borrowed the stance of 18-wheelers and immediately gave its pickups some impact over the plainer trucks from Ford and GM. The move was a wise one: the look was a hit, and before long, the Ram was a strong third-place seller where it had been an also-ran.
In 2002 Chrysler introduced a new Dodge Ram with HEMI V-8 engines and a somewhat diluted look, but much improved dynamics that gave it the best ride quality in the class and some of the best towing figures, too. However, the Ram's progress would nearly halt when Chrysler was first sold by its Daimler parent company to private equity, then would plunge into bankruptcy in 2009, to be rescued by Italy's Fiat.
The Ram brand emerged as Chrysler and Fiat wedded themselves together in the auto industry's newest mega-alliance. Pairing up in late 2009, Fiat and Chrysler divorced the Ram trucks from Dodge in the 2011 model year, christening the former Dodge Ram 1500 as the new Ram 1500, and updating it lightly with a new six-speed automatic in the 2012 model year and with new trim packages, including a lavish Laramie Longhorn edition with piles of standard equipment and a plush leather interior--a rival for the GMC Denali trucks and Ford's King Ranch pickup. Ram also added an R/T 1500, with a more sporty look, and the pickup gained more available features, like a rearview camera, a USB port, and a navigation system.
The biggest changes since a 2009 refresh have come this year to the 2013 Ram 1500. It's almost a new truck underneath its lightly updated sheetmetal, with a new ladder frame, a new V-6 engine, a new eight-speed automatic transmission, new interiors, a newly available air suspension, and new connectivity and infotainment features. It's slightly lighter, which helps the base 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 earn some of the best gas-mileage ratings in the class--up to 17 miles per gallon city, 25 miles per gallon highway with the standard eight-speed automatic, and a mile per gallon higher on the city cycle when outfitted with the optional stop/start system.
The HEMI 5.7-liter V-8 adds the eight-speed automatic as well for economy boosts, though not until later in the model year; the 4.7-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic carry over as a mid-range option for now, though they're not long for the Ram world. A new air suspension is an option on almost all models, and it offers five ride positions for aerodynamics, off-road capability, or loading and unloading.
Four-wheel drive is available on every 2013 Ram, either in part-time or full-time flavor. Tow ratings are comparable to 2012 models, only minus one model that sported an 11,500-pound rating. For now, the maximum capacity stands at 10,450 pounds, while Ford and GM trucks can hit at least 11,000 pounds. All Ram 1500s also offer the RamBox, a storage system built into the truck bed and fenders itself; this year, a central locking switch in the cabin or on a mobile app locks all the bins at once.
The latest Ram also receives a rich-looking interior that incorporates a rotary-shift dial for eight-speed automatic (other automatics keep a console or column shifter) and a big new spot for an LCD screen that displays a host of new connectivity features. The big screen shows off the optional navigation system, or information from Sirius TravelLink, including gas prices or weather reports, or output from the available rearview camera. The Ram can be connected to the cloud via a 3G data link to the Sprint network, and via a mobile app, owners can start it via a smartphone, lock it or unlock it, run diagnostics, or simply enable a wireless hotspot around the vehicle.
Among the more spendy options are a seven-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster that replaces a conventional set of gauges with readouts for up to three functions at a time--towing info, radio station, or navigation directions, for example. The Ram comes with new powered USB, SD card, and aux-in ports, as well as full iPod control via USB, as well as expanded steering-wheel controls. Of course, the top of the lineup, the $48,000 Laramie Longhorn comes with all of this standard, as well as special walnut trim harvested from logs abraded by barbed wire, and prized for their distinctive burl.
Safety has been a sore point compared to some of the other large pickups. The Ram 1500 has a strong set of features, including a trailer-sway system, hill-start assist, and an available rearview mirror system. But the Ram 1500 doesn't do all that well in crash tests, with only 'marginal' ratings in roof strength and four-star federal NCAP overall results. In the 2013 tests, side-impact results haven't been released, but in recent model years the Ram hasn't done well in those either.
Ram's ads have been a talking point for the brand ever since it splintered to form its own division, and the Ram Trucks ad for the 2013 Super Bowl was the only ad to rank in the top 10 of all commercials shown during the big game.
Ram has announced that a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 will be offered in the 2014 Ram 1500, as the EcoDiesel. As in the 2014 Grand Cherokee, the engine makes 240 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque; and it's expected to top the Ram V-6's 25-mpg highway rating. It's also reportedly considering a rival to the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor.