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Competition is fierce among half-ton pickup trucks, yet the 2015 Ram 1500 remains one of our favorites. The Ram focuses on fuel economy, with eight-speed automatics available, a class-exclusive diesel engine, and plenty of aero tricks, but it doesn't forget comfort either, with coil springs at the rear, an available air-ride suspension, and nicely appointed interiors.
That said, the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado, new last year, have closed the gap considerably, and we haven't yet driven Ford's newly lightened aluminum F-150. But the Ram still has its strengths, many of which are tied to those unique features. And then there's the unmistakable look the Ram wears, the same one 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 look was given a slight update for 2014, including a slightly taller crosshair grille that now sits flush. Twin-beam projector headlights with LED running lamps, turn signals, side-marker lamps, and tail lamps are available. Inside, the Ram 1500's cabin still looks fantastic: the center stack houses climate-control, multimedia, and infotainment interfaces that are tops among trucks. 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, although it's not the engine packaged with the cheapest available Ram truck configuration. The V-6 is tuned for 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque here. 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 thermal management system. Its only real weakness is towing strength compared to competitors--towing is rated a few hundred pounds less than V-6 versions of the Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, and Chevy Silverado.
HEMI V-8 models 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 with the eight as an option. 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.
New last year is the excellent EcoDiesel, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six that makes 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 an eight-speed automatic exclusively. 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.
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 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, much like it is in most trucks with hydraulic assist, actually. The Ram's optional air suspension is nice around town, but the feature that lowers the truck at speed in the name of fuel savings can make the ride a bit stiff on the highway. Still, we appreciate its automatic load-leveling, especially when towing, and the key-fob button that lets you lower the truck's rear for easier loading and unloading. The truck can also be raised for more ground clearance or lowered fully when stopped to make it easier for passengers to get in and out.
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 available as well. The Ram 1500 has gotten better at crash tests over time; it is rated at four stars overall by the NHTSA, 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 3G data service, adding on a host of features including voice recognition, apps, and WiFi hotspot capability.
The available navigation system offers voice-activated features, 3D terrain imagery, and lane guidance, as well as fuel-price, weather, sports, and movie info through Sirius Travel Link. There's also a seven-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster (in Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn models) that effectively replaces a conventional gauge cluster and can quickly communicate information with loads of customization and 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 powered USB, SD card, and aux-in ports, as well as full iPod control via USB, and 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. And if you're going to use the bed, be sure to check the box for the factory spray-in bedliner.
- V-6 is a real option for more drivers
- Turbodiesel six for fuel economy
- Excellent interior space and finishes
- Still has best ride in class
- Storage is extensive, well-thought-out
Next: Interior / Exterior »
- Air suspension limits compliance on road
- Safety is still a liability
- Towing ratings have fallen over time
- In-car data services have least coverage