- Tremendous gains in fuel efficiency
- Strong new base V-6
- Lavish, much-improved interior
- Ride and roadholding
- Innovative storage systems
- Air suspension's somewhat stiff ride
- Unimpressive safety scores
- Not quite up to towing of other V-8 trucks
- Sprint only in-truck data provider
The 2013 Ram 1500 leads full-size trucks in interior quality, gas mileage, and handling; it adds infotainment to the list this year, but we're mixed on its new air suspension, and towing capacity is down.
The 2013 Ram 1500 full-size pickup offers a new V-6, eight-speed powertrain that tops the EPA gas mileage lists, beating all competitors.
Refinement and sophistication are also improved for the new model year, with new technology and more comfort throughout the cabin. While the exterior isn't dramatically different from when it still wore a Dodge badge, the Ram 1500 feels like a completely new truck. (For background on the Dodge version of this model and its history, read our Dodge Ramreview.)
The upgrades keep the Ram in lockstep with Ford's F-150 with new features like an eight-speed automatic transmission, a new air suspension, and a more carlike interior with Chrysler's latest Uconnect Touch interface and much-improved materials and trims. And all of these improvements come with towing and hauling ability that's somewhat reduced on V-8 models for now, but boosted on the base six-cylinder trucks.
Chrysler calls the Ram 1500 “the most recognizable pickup on the road,” and we fully agree. Over the years, its scaled-down big-rig look makes it easy to spot from a distance. All that said, on the outside there's not all that much to distinguish the 2013 model from the 2012—unless you're already a Ram or Dodge fan. Designers have made the front grille slightly taller, and added a new upper fascia panel, while the Ram crosshair grille is now flush. New vertically oriented foglamps have been added, while 4WD models get larger openings for the tow hooks. Headlamps also get a new design, with a twin-beam projector design plus LEDs now used in the running lamps, turn signals, side-marker lamps, and tail lamps. Polished stainless steel running boards have been added down below, and a new 6'-4” bed option is offered in Crew Cab models. And there are five new exterior hues, including some two-tone themes.
The Ram's interior gets many of the same improvements that Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles have seen over the past couple of years. The interior look has been only modestly redesigned, but materials and trims are completely new, with the center stack reworked and all-new climate-control interfaces and multimedia and infotainment systems. And, perhaps most notably, trucks with the new eight-speed automatic will get a new rotary shift selector—located just on the left side of the lower center stack, with buttons for the transfer case located conveniently just below. Ram designers designed the new rotary selector to be easy to use with work gloves, and it's intended to be the same across a wide range of seating options and layouts. The Laramie Longhorn remains the standout of the lineup, with unique burl walnut real-wood trim and plush leather.
The hoary old Chrysler V-6, a 3.7-liter that made an anemic 210 horsepower, has been dropped in favor of a Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 tuned to make 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. It's powerful enough for casual truck users, and is rated at 17/25 mpg--18 mpg city when stop/start technology is specified, making it the best full-size truck by a wide margin. Its eight-speed automatic doesn't feel at all busy, though the rotary-knob shifter takes a while to grow accustomed to. It's now a relevant piece of the Ram powertrain puzzle, even before you factor in the additional eco gold of a stronger but lighter-weight frame (more high-strength steel), aerodynamic shutters, low-rolling-resistance tires, and pulse-width modulation (which improves the efficiency of the alternator and accessories) and a new thermal management system.
HEMI models now make 395 horsepower and 407 pound-feet, and they incorporate both variable valve timing (VVT) and a cylinder shut-off system. A version of the new eight-speed automatic comes to the HEMI engine early in 2013, although a few of the lower-cost trims of the 2013 Ram will carry over the six-speed automatic--and some will carry over the now pointless 4.7-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic combination. Cost no object, oil no peak, the HEMI's still the way to go, and its muscular power means 0-60 mph times of far less than 7 seconds. Fuel economy numbers aren't out yet, but the eight-speed automatic and HEMI combination will also get stop/start technology at some point in the near term.
Four-wheel drive is available on every model, 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 11,700 pounds.
The big Ram's redesigned suspension loses no ground, and its ride quality still stands above all its competition for on-road smoothness. Electric power steering is new, and it's about what you'd expect in a work-duty application--though on-center feel is more than acceptable, there's almost zero feedback beyond a few degrees off center. The Ram's new air suspension option enticed us on the preview tease, but after driving it, we think there should be some more compliance dialed into one of its everyday driving modes: of the five that allow best-in-class ground clearance, step-in height, and departure/breakover angles, the "normal" mode is tuned to lower the truck at highway speeds for better gas mileage, and that tends to firm up the ride a bit too much.
Standard safety features remain strong, with the usual airbags, stability control with a trailer-sway system, and hill-start assist. A rearview camera is available on all versions; parking sensors can be ordered on all but the regular-cab trucks. The Ram 1500 has gotten better at crash tests; it's four stars overall by the NHTSA test, but the IIHS still calls its roof strength marginal.
Chrysler's big 8.4-inch Uconnect Touch screen-based system is available in the Ram, and it can incorporate Uconnect Access, which tethers the truck to Sprint data services, adding on a host of features including voice recognition, apps, and WiFi hotspot capability.
The available navigation system offers voice-activated features, new 3D terrain imagery, and lane guidance, as well as fuel-price, weather, sports, and movie info through Sirius Travel Link. There's also a new seven-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster (in Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn models) that effectively replaces a conventional gauge cluster and can quickly communicate information depending on how it's customized, with up to three 'analog' gauges at a time (when towing, an owner would configure the trans temp gauge to be in the foreground, for instance). 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.
Other new features for the Ram lineup are rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, and a power-sliding rear window with defrost; and the innovative RamBox cargo management system is now locked and unlocked with the vehicle's central locking system.
2013 Ram 1500
A big, butch front end pairs well with the Ram 1500's exceptionally nice interior.
Ram's 1500 full-size truck remains the most distinctive full-size truck on the road, but now in 2013, it doesn't quite have the visual impact the first Dodge Ram had in 1994. The scaled-down, big-rig sensibility is all but gone from the fenders, but it's still evocative and instantly recognizable as a Ram. It's not edgy and robotic like the Toyota Tundra or Nissan Titan, as rigidly linear as the F-150, or as soft as the Chevy Silverado.
Most of the updates for the new model year come at the grille, where it's grown even taller and more prominent this year. The Ram actually has five different grilles this year, each one with a name, depending on its texture and finish, so important it is to the identity of the different trim levels. No matter which one's specified, it's flanked by reshaped headlamps and fog lights with some LED trim. At the rear, 15 red LEDs make up the taillamps, and the side marker lights are made up of three red LEDs.In other ways, the latest Ram is little changed from its 2009 redesign. The wheel wells still swell a bit around the tires, and depending on the trim level, blackout molding swaps out for metallic trim, in light touches or heavy swipes. Two-tone paint jobs are still de riguer on the most expensive Laramie and Longhorn editions.
Interior styling for the Ram has been completely reworked, with its high quality and upscale flavor upgraded to an even higher level, making it even more attractive and desirable. New rotary controls for infotainment and climate systems clean up the center stack and free up more space, and a digital cluster replaces some instruments on some models--and even gets softly rendered numerals, so attentive are the details. The new eight-speed-automatic trucks also get a rotary knob for shifting, and it's placed up on the dash as well.
Those with simpler tastes have plenty of options in the Ram 1500 range, from the simple Tradesman to the extreme luxury of the Laramie Longhorn, which has some of the finest wood grain and contrast stitching available in a vehicle of its kind.
2013 Ram 1500
The HEMI's among our favorite truck engines--but the Pentastar is now the best V-6, though we might pass on the air suspension.
The Ram 1500 offers a choice of three different engines, and now its base V-6 is more than a reasonable choice--it's the best choice for anyone choosing to drive a pickup truck even when they don't actually tow or haul very much.
The former base V-6, a 3.7-liter producing an anemic 210 horsepower, has been dropped for 2013 in favor of a version of Chrysler's Pentastar V-6, here tuned to make 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. It's standard on the HFE model and the SLT. The new six-cylinder starts to get a little strained at about 80 miles an hour on the highway, as it's attempting vainly to overcome the Ram's mass. Until that point, it sounds almost a little like a V-8, until about 3000 rpm, even a bit better than Ford's slightly less powerful V-6. In other words, it doesn't taste at all like weak sauce, and if you're only using your truck for occasional sweaty stuff, it's an excellent pick, and relief at the gas pump. The Ram six earns the best gas mileage in the class, at 17/25 mpg with the eight-speed automatic, before stop/start technology is figured in--and towing is rated as high as 6500 pounds, which Chrysler says is also best of all the six-cylinder, full-size trucks.
As for the new automatic, it doesn't feel at all busy, and though it takes a few rounds to get used to spinning a knob to shift--or clicking Chiclets on the steering wheel instead of paddles. You really have to concentrate to dial into gear instead of grabbing a lever. What it does for the six-cylinder can't be overstated, though. It makes it a relevant powertrain option. It's a big step for efficiency in the Ram, just as the eight-speed is in Chrysler's 300 and Dodge Charger sedans.
Chrysler's aging 4.7-liter V-8 stays in the lineup on the Tradesman model, and as an option on the SLT. as a bridge to fleets and more richly appointed versions. Standard on Outdoorsman and SLT trucks, it's a familiar powerplant that's pegged at 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, and acceleration isn't much stronger than with the V-6 when unladen. Gas mileage is surely lower, but in previous drives it's been a decent provider of power through its six-speed automatic.
Price and gas no object, of course, we'd palaver for the HEMI. Its charm ripples through the cabin and your arm-hair follicles every time you goose the accelerator pedal. The barrel-chested big eight now makes 395 horsepower and 407 pound-feet, thanks both to variable valve timing (VVT) and a cylinder shut-off system, and connects to either a six-speed automatic or the new eight-speed gearbox. It's the engine of choice, with muscular power and acceleration, and enables 0-60 mph acceleration as quick as 6.7 seconds as well as the highest towing rating of the lineup--10,450 pounds in long-bed, rear-drive form. Last year's model hit 11,500 pounds but as of yet the 2013 lineup doesn't include a heavy-duty version capable of that figure, which itself is still 200 pounds shy of the best towing figures available from Ford and GM.
The new eight-speed automatic, available early in January of 2013, will be standard with the V-6 and in most V-8 models, though some mid-grade, HEMI-powered Rams will continue to use the six-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive will be available across the Ram 1500 lineup. On any model, a part-time system will be available, but Ram's on-demand system is available only on the 5.7-liter HEMI-equipped versions.
It's not just HEMI grunt that makes the Ram a joy to drive. Hauling and towing are other strong suits of the Ram, but in the past few years, ride and handling--the truck variety--have won us over, too. The Ram's steering is now electric, and it's quicker than before, with decent on-center feel. It's not fair to expect much feedback from a huge-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive truck, so don't. It's still about the best you'll find in a full-size truck.
The ride quality's now even more dependent on how you outfit your truck. The chassis and suspension have been reworked, with a retuned suspension (control-arm, independent in front) giving the Ram its usual more relaxed attitude, even in unladen 4x4 models.
The new setup's also been designed with an optional air suspension in mind. The air suspension seems to be adapted from the one found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and if you trace that vehicle's lineage, you might suspect it's also related to the one in the new Mercedes GL Class. No matter the origin, it's a setup that could use a little more softness in its most dynamic setup. The setup offers five ride heights (normal, aero, off-road 1, off-road 2, and park mode), and enables best-in-class ground clearance, step-in height, and departure/breakover angles. It can be changed by the driver via the keyfob, to lower the height for step-in or loading--but with more attention paid compressing the suspension at speed for better aerodynamics and hence better fuel economy, there's less compliance left for bumpy surfaces and uneven textures. As a result, the ride quality's a little more firm and tense than before. Combine the air suspension's versatility in its other modes with the basic setup's smoother everyday ride, and we'd be convinced to ante up for its $1500 price premium.
2013 Ram 1500
Comfort & Quality
Interior quality is tops, and the excellent cabin space is complemented by huge storage bins under the floor and in the bed.
The big Ram pickup hasn't changed much in its overall dimensions or storage space, but it has seen another round of quality improvements--even though its cabin already was the best of all the full-size trucks, and though it's rated as the highest-quality vehicle in the entire Chrysler lineup.
The Ram 1500 is big--not as cartoonishly big as the Toyota Tundra, but usefully large, putting its vast expanses to use to carry up to six people on two bench seats, or fewer as the need arises. It also blends in some interesting, thoughtful storage that's just not found in the other big domestic and Japanese-brand trucks.
Three body styles define the Ram 1500 lineup. The standard two-door pickup is the Regular Cab; it has just a tiny bit of space behind its bench seat for storage, and it's the one that's pressed most of the time into utilitarian use, in fleets and for utilities. The Quad Cab is Ram's version of the typical extended-cab pickup, with a pair of rear-hinged access panels and more cargo space available. The biggest Ram cabin of all comes with the Crew Cab, which gets four full-size, front-hinged doors.
On all versions, the bench seat and the Ram's wide stance impart great shoulder room, even for three adults. Opt for front bucket seats, and the Ram gets a huge center console--it's as wide as a hotel nightstand--that divides the flat seats and separates front passengers completely, putting them almost out of arm's reach. On the driver-side door, there's a well-padded section that's perfect for resting an elbow, an underrated detail that we've seen completely fouled up in $70,000 luxury sedans. The seats themselves: they're wide and flat, doing an honest imitation of their Midwestern roots, for better or worse.
On those bucket seats with power adjustment, the range of adjustment is very good, typically allowing tall drivers to move the seat lower than in other vehicles--just as important as tilt steering in setting up a good driving position. Adjustable pedals are offered on expensive models, if the driver's short of leg.
Crew Cab models' rear seats aren't the bolt-upright units you might expect, instead offering a nice recline. Leg and head room are abundant in back as well, though not in Quad Cab models. Under-floor storage bins supplement the optional, lockable Ram Box that can be integrated into the fenders--and this year, locked by remote from the key fob. In general, there's plenty of storage space. If you can't find a place to store something inside the Ram, you're not looking. There's a storage bin on top of the center stack, one ahead of the center console, huge cupholders, deep door pockets, and trays for change and pens and anything you'll need to use safely on the road.
The variety of truck beds available is as important to commercial buyers as to individuals. Regular-cab Rams can be had with 6.4-foot and 8-foot beds, while the Crew Cab models come with a 5.7-foot or a 6.4-foot bed--the latter, the only bed on the Quad Cab this year. A new 6-ft.-4-in. bed option is now available on Crew Cab models giving customers the ability to combine Ram 1500’s largest available cab with the largest four-door/bed combination. A spray-in bedliner is standard at the top and the bottom of the lineup; all other versions have an option for a molded, drop-in bedliner.In every Ram we've driven thus far--two V-6 models and a V-8 Longhorn--noise suppression has been admirable, with both road and wind noise held to very low levels for the full-size pickup class. Interior quality and feel are as good as or better than any other truck on the market, with the redesigned dash a standout in the class, even before the Longhorn's distinctive walnut trim is applied. There's just more attention to detail and trim quality in the Ram than in almost every other full-size truck, though Ford's F-150 is certainly in the same league, especially with its King Ranch and Harley editions.
2013 Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 has a respectable feature set, and crash-test ratings have improved to its best yet.
With new safety features available on many trim levels, the 2013 Ram 1500 has improved on the real-world safety of the previous version. That prior edition had some difficulty in crash tests from both agencies as well, and the Ram's running upgrades have brought significant improvements in its crash-test scores--even if it's not a complete victory.The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn't yet tested the Ram 1500 for side impact, but it gives these trucks a 'good' rating for frontal impact. Unfortunately its roof strength score is only "marginal," and with the roof only able to withstand 2.97 times its weight, it's actually below the standards for passenger cars.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the entire Ram 1500 lineup four stars overall, including a five-star rating for side-impact protection. That's a big improvement over prior years, when the revamped Ram had earned low three-star side-impact scores.This year, the Ram 1500 returns with the mandatory airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. All models now come with hill-start assist, which maintains braking until the gas is engaged on an uphill ascent, and trailer-sway control, which uses anti-lock braking to mitigate the wagging effect induced when towing.
On the features list, all models offer a rearview camera either as an option or as standard equipment; rear parking sensors are available or standard on all body styles except the regular-cab versions. The more expensive Laramie and Longhorn editions also offer adjustable pedals, a boon to shorter drivers in particular. Blind-spot detectors aren't offered, but large, folding trailer side mirrors enhance visibility, which is mostly excellent--though we still recommend the rearview camera due to the Ram's high tailgate.
The Ram's new Uconnect Access system also links the truck to emergency 911 service, in case of an accident.
2013 Ram 1500
With in-car cellular data, reconfigurable gauges and all kinds of infotainment options, the Ram 1500 rivals the F-150 for tech features.
Pickup trucks may excel at versatility and rugged capability, but over the past decade they've also dipped deep into the well of luxury. You still can buy a Ram 1500 stripped almost to the bone of any upscale features--but then again you can spend more than $50,000 on a truly ritzy version with a plusher interior than in some hundred-grand sedans we've driven.This year, the base price of the Ram 1500 ranges from $23,585 for the 4x2 regular-cab, short-bed Tradesman, to $48,415 for the 4X4 Laramie Longhorn crew cab. In all there are nine trim levels, to date: the Tradesman, Express, HFE, SLT, Bighorn/Lone Star (regional packages), Outdoorsman, Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn, with a tenth Limited edition in the plan for later in the model year.
Of these models, the HFE is the only one offered in a single body/bed style, as a regular cab with a short bed. The Laramie Longhorn comes only in the Crew Cab body, with either bed length. All other trim levels can be specified in at least two bed lengths, and in two or more body styles.
Base Ram 1500 pickups don't have much on the features list: they get black bumpers, a spray-in bedliner, manual mirrors and door locks, 17-inch wheels, a vinyl bench seat, a column-mounted shifter, roll-up windows and an AM/FM radio standard--but they also get a USB port. From there, the models are loosely grouped at the cheaper and plusher ends of the spectrum, from Tradesman trucks that highlight very good towing capacity of 10,450 pounds, to Sport R/T trucks with standard HEMI power and the best truck acceleration in the class, to Laramie Longhorn trucks with heated leather seats, power features, remote start, a rearview camera, even a Bluetooth-enabled, hard-drive-based music system and a voice-activated navigation system.
The Ram also 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. Chrysler has convenient radio controls mounted behind the steering wheel still, but we wish you could flick through the presets instead of clicking through them in one direction via a single button.
This year, the big news is all about data. Chrysler's Uconnect package of multimedia and connectivity features is now the best in trucks. There's a large 8.4-inch touchscreen that can be combined with a separate display tucked in between the gauges. All are built on a new Powernet high- and low-speed data network architecture, which lets up to 40 different modules communicate as they manage the Ram's safety, powertrain, and infotainment systems.
The available navigation system, for example, runs zippily through an extensive range of features. It offers voice-activated instructions, new 3D displays, overhead displays of lane guidance, and connects with Sirius TravelLink for gas prices, weather information, sports scores, and movie times. The displays are beautifully rendered, more than on any other truck, and that counts for much when on the go. HD Radio will be available, and the system will also offer text-to-voice translation with a fixed set of responses available at fingertip or voice control.
The most intriguing piece is the Ram's new Uconnect Access setup, which brings Sprint data service into the truck in the same way Audi Connect uses T-Mobile's 3G signal. Through the data connection, the Ram's universe grows to include voice recognition, mobile apps, and WiFi hotspot capability. It also enables some concierge-like services without the use of human operators. Mobile apps will enable owners to unlock and lock their Ram through the data connection; remote start will work the same way, though obviously, a key will work more quickly when standing nearby. The apps and the functionality of Uconnect itself will be updated via the Sprint link. Unfortunately, Sprint will be the only data provider, and your current data bucket can't be used, even if you're a Sprint customer.
Some Ram 1500 pickups also will get a new 7-inch reconfigurable LCD screen nestled in the gauge cluster, flanked by traditional dials. It can be customized with a range of information, from radio-station display, to trailer-towing status, to navigation direction. Trip-computer info is shown at the corners.
The reconfigurable gauge cluster has useful fingertip controls, and the transmission now uses a rotary knob to switch gears, freeing up space on the console (some V-8s will still use a console or column shifter). Steering-wheel buttons take the place of paddle controls.Other new features for the Ram lineup are rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, and a power-sliding rear window with defrost; and the innovative RamBox cargo management system is now locked and unlocked with the vehicle's central locking system. It's standard on the Tradesman, but optional on every other trim line.
Other available options include a DVD player for both front and rear seat passengers; steering-wheel-mounted radio controls; Sirius Satellite Radio; and in Laramie versions, finely detailed interiors with a range of exterior color options, and on the Laramie Longhorn, real wood trim harvested from fallen fenceposts, burred by barbed wire. An available R/T package adds 22-inch wheels and tires and a restyled front air dam along with a 4.10 rear end and a limited-slip differential.
Just keep in mind that the top-of-the-line Laramie Limited costs more than twice as much as the base Ram 1500, but offers so many more features and amenities it's almost a different truck.
2013 Ram 1500
The new V-6 scores better fuel-economy numbers than many seven-passenger crossovers, and even HEMIs are better off with the eight-speed automatic.
Gas mileage hasn't always been the first reason buyers looked at pickup trucks. But as prices have risen into $4 territory, fuel economy has become paramount to towing capacity, especially for contractors and independent contractors, and truck makers have responded with excellent new drivetrains.
Among full-size pickups, the Ram 1500 now scores the best fuel economy in the class in its base versions, and we're expecting some of the best numbers for its V-8 models as well.The base Ram 1500 with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic (and rear-wheel drive) is now rated at 17/25 mpg, which easily trounces the next-best truck in the segment, the Ford F-150. With its 3.7-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic, the F-150 is rated at 17/23 mpg. In HFE trim, the Ram 1500 adds active air shutters and stop/start technology (which turns the engine off if at a complete stop—at a stoplight, for instance—then restarts it the instant you lift off the brake pedal) to improve city gas mileage to 18 mpg. Those overall numbers far exceed anything in the class, even exceeding those of some mid-size crossovers, even those of the GM hybrid pickups. Adding four-wheel drive drops the numbers to 16/23 mpg.
The Ram's mid-line 4.7-liter V-8 is less competitive in its class. It carries over on a few trim lines this year, with its five-speed automatic. On rear-wheel-drive versions, it was rated at 14/19 mpg in the 2012 model year; that's now the rating for 4WD models, with RWD versions rated at 14/20 mpg.Chrysler's rorty, powerful HEMI V-8 comes in for some gas-mileage improvements too. The 5.7-liter engine earned an EPA rating of 14/20 mpg when outfitted with rear-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic on 2012 models, 14/19 mpg with 4WD. That combination will be available in the 2013 model year, even after the new eight-speed automatic and stop/start technology replace it on some models, for a boost to 15/21 mpg. Those upgrades will join the engine's standard cylinder deactivation, which cuts off fuel delivery to some cylinders when full power isn't needed.