30 Days of 2013 Ram 1500: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

June 5, 2013
We're rounding the corner on our time with the 2013 Ram 1500. And while we prep our final posts--a towing exercise or two, some comparisons with a well-known competitor or two--we're taking a look back at what we wrote about the Ram earlier this year.

Over the past 30 days, our take on the Ram 1500 hasn't budged much. That's a point or three in its favor, since the Ram already was one of our highest-rated full-size pickup trucks. In going through our review of the 2013 Ram 1500, two things stood out, though: its safety score and its features score.

What about performance and gas mileage? We've rated them equally, even though the EPA and the spec sheet gives plenty of room for argument. In its favor, the Ram's highway mileage is a couple of digits higher in its best-performing models, and we're still convinced its optional air suspension offers the best truck ride.

Here's why the numbers stay the same--and feel free to discuss in the comments below. While the Ram 1500 lineup's three engines and transmissions pick some holes in the Ford F-150's powertrain lineup, it's just as easy to pick around the relatively limited availability of the Ram's Pentastar versus Ford's V-6s, or to compare V-8 gas mileage to EcoBoost. Our observed gas mileage has been on the low end of EPA figures; to us, that makes the comparison a better one within the Ram lineup, not across truck offerings from Detroit. Then there's towing: Ram V-6s beat the F-150 by a few hundred pounds, but the big Fords top the best Rams by more than that.

Where we've grown more convinced, or gained more insight, is back in those two former categories. In safety, the differences are clear: prior versions of the Ram have been rated pretty poorly by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). With the redesign of the Ram this year, and a revamped frame, the NHTSA's given it four stars overall for all its body styles, with a five-star rating for side-impact protection--good showings for a vehicle that had been below par for previous model years. The IIHS still gives the Ram a marginal roof-crush score, though, while the F-150 is the only domestic full-size truck to get the group's Top Safety Pick award--even though the NHTSA gives it a three-star rating for front-impact protection. We've updated our Ram review and boosted its score by a point to reflect the newly released ratings.

Finally, in features, we've spent a lot of time this month with UConnect, Chrysler's mobile-connectivity package. Our Ram 1500 has UConnect as well as the configurable screen between the gauges. Frankly, we know why UConnect's won awards for its clarity and its ease of use. The screens simply read more easily, and some major functions work without the seek-and-hunt unpredictability that lingers in Ford's MyFord Touch system. We'd give both an above-average nod for voice recognition, with some of the same maddening dead ends when seeking destinations by voice. We've also noticed major pockets of the southeast not covered by the Ram's in-vehicle Sprint-powered data services and wifi, which limits its utility in a prime truck market somewhat. (That, and the fact its data can't be bought in buckets along with a cell phone plan.) Improve on that, work on the voice input and add some final touches like cover art display during Bluetooth streaming, and we'd add our voice to the chorus calling UConnect the best of its kind.

Looking ahead, our Ram 1500 SLT Crew Cab 4X4 goes back home next week, but not until we tow some, compare some, and bring you some on-screen memories of the past 30 days. Now that we know what we know, we're looking forward to the 2014 edition and the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel we'll be driving soon. Stay with us this week as we wrap up our Ram 1500 coverage--and take a look at our latest month-long road test, our 30 Days of the Audi Allroad.

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Our 2013 Ram 1500 SLT Crew Cab 4X4 has a busy schedule this month as we put it through towing, hauling, off-roading, and accessorizing, from Georgia to Arkansas and back. Stay tuned for more--follow our Ram 1500 run here, and as always, follow The Car Connection on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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