- V-6 is a real option for more drivers
- Turbodiesel six better yet for fuel economy
- Excellent interior space and finishes
- Still has best ride in class
- Storage is extensive, well-thought-out
- Air suspension limits compliance on road
- Safety is still a liability
- Towing ratings have fallen over time
- In-car data services have least coverage
The 2014 Ram 1500 brings a new turbodiesel to its class-best fuel economy ratings; it's also tops in cabin finish and infotainment, but lags in towing.
The rivalry between full-size trucks has risen to new heights; yet the 2014 Ram 1500 remains one of our favorite full-size pickup trucks. The light-duty Ram pickup already sported the best EPA gas-mileage ratings in the segment for its base V-6/eight-speed drivetrain combination, and now it's doubling down with a turbodiesel option.
Last year the Ram added a host of new features that brought it at least into a neat tie with Ford's F-150 for utility and performance, with the new 2014 GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado then closing the gap considerably. The highlights? An eight-speed automatic transmission, a new air suspension, and a more refined cabin, with a new Uconnect Touch infotainment system and much-improved materials and trims. At the same time, ultimate towing and hauling capacity fell slightly, though its uber-truck look went basically unchanged, as it has since the days it was known as the Dodge Ram. (For background on the history of how its name changed, read our Dodge Ram page.)
Over the years, that scaled-down big-rig look has made it easy to spot the Ram 1500 from a distance. The changes wrought in 2013 are carried over to 2014: the grille is slightly taller than before 2013, and the Ram crosshair grille is now flush. The foglamps are new, and so are the headlamps--a twin-beam projector design with LED running lamps, turn signals, side-marker lamps, and tail lamps. Inside, the Ram 1500's cabin still looks fantastic: the reworked center stack and climate-control, multimedia and infotainment interfaces are the best of all trucks. We're still at odds sometimes with the eight-speed automatic's rotary shift knob. It's supposed to be easy to use with work gloves, and easier to fit in across a wide range of seating options and layouts, but we still find ourselves reaching for a ghost shift lever. Of all the cabins, the Laramie Longhorn is our favorite, with its genuine burl walnut and plush leather.
Chrysler's Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 is the base engine in the Ram 1500, and it's tuned for 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque in the full-size truck. 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. It's just not all that strong--towing is rated a few hundred pounds less than the V-6 F-150, GMC Sierra, or Chevy Silverado.
New for the 2014 model year is the excellent EcoDiesel, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six that make the Ram 1500 the first full-size light-duty pickup to offer a diesel in America. It's rated at 240 hp and 420 lb-ft, same as it is when it's fitted in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and it's coupled to the eight-speed automatic. Offered in a range of models, it's priced nearly $3,000 higher than a similarly equipped Ram with a HEMI V-8, but fuel economy of 20/28 mpg is much higher.
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 is paired with the HEMI, though a few of the lower-cost trims continue to carry over the six-speed automatic. The 4.7-liter V-8? It's finally gone. If cost is no object, the HEMI's still the way to go, for its muscular power and 0-60 mph times of far less than 7 seconds.
Four-wheel drive is available on every model, either in part-time or full-time flavor. Tow ratings are shy of the Ford and GM trucks: 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; rear parking sensors can be ordered on all but the regular-cab trucks, and front parking sensors are new for 2014. The Ram 1500 has gotten better at crash tests over time; 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 features offered in the Ram lineup are rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, and a power-sliding rear window with defrost. Don't miss the innovative RamBox cargo management system either; it's now locked and unlocked with the vehicle's central locking system.