2016 Ram 1500 Review

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Mitch McCullough Mitch McCullough Editor
June 20, 2016

The 2016 Ram 1500 will win over full-size truck buyers looking for a diesel offering and an opulent interior, but safety scores need improvement.

It's hard to go wrong when choosing a full-size pickup. The Ram 1500 competes with an all-new, lightened Ford F-150, a recently redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, a 2-year-old Toyota Tundra, and an all-new Nissan Titan. There is not a dog among them, yet the Ram stands out with comfortable cabins, a smooth ride, and excellent fuel economy from diesel and V-6 engines with 8-speed transmissions.

The Ram is easily distinguished from the others with its Freightliner looks. Its interior looks fantastic and features a big screen and controls that make it among the most intuitive to operate. We like the Laramie Longhorn, with its Southwestern leather and burl walnut.

There are few changes for the 2016 model year. The 2016 Ram 1500 lineup gets two new models: a Ram Rebel off-road model, and a Ram Laramie Limited luxury liner.

Review continues below

The 3.6-liter V-6 is the base engine in the Ram 1500. Rated at 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, it has enough power for hauling and is EPA-rated 17 mpg city, 25 highway, 19 combined or 18 mpg city on HFE models, making it the most efficient pickup in its class. The 8-speed automatic works well with this engine. To enhance fuel efficiency, the Ram has a lightweight frame that uses high-strength steel, aerodynamic grille shutters, low-rolling-resistance tires, pulse-width modulation for the alternator and power accessories, and a thermal management system. Its tow ratings are a few hundred pounds less than that of the V-6 versions of the Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, and Chevy Silverado, but if you are doing a lot of towing you are likely looking at the 5.7-liter V-8.

The 5.7-liter V-8 generates 395 hp and 407 lb-ft. Known as the "Hemi" for its hemispherical combustion chambers, the V-8 is the best choice for towing and it offers the quickest acceleration performance.

The 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 produces 420 lb-ft of torque and is coupled to the 8-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 an EPA-rated 21/29/24 mpg is much higher.

Four-wheel drive is available on every model, either part-time or full-time. Tow ratings are shy of the Ford and GM trucks: maximum capacity stands at 10,650 pounds, while GM trucks can hit 11,700 pounds and the F-150 touts 12,200 pounds. Tow ratings change constantly, however, and are as much about lawyers and corporate culture as they are about real capability. If your trailer is anywhere near those upper limits, consider a Ram Heavy Duty or its competitors.

Ride quality may be the smoothest in the class. The electric power steering does not offer much feedback. 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 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.

Safety features remain strong, with 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 an option. The Ram 1500 is rated at four stars overall by the NHTSA, but the IIHS still calls its roof strength and small-overlap crash protection "Marginal."

A big 8.4-inch touchscreen is an option that incorporates Uconnect Access, which tethers the truck to Sprint 3G data service, adding on a host of features including voice recognition, apps, and wi-fi hotspot capability.

The navigation system offers voice-activated features, 3-D terrain imagery, lane guidance, fuel prices, weather reports, sports scores, movie information through Sirius Travel Link. There's also a 7.0-inch configurable gauge cluster available that replaces a conventional gauge cluster and can quickly communicate information with loads of customization and up to three readouts at a time. For example, the driver might configure the transmission temperature gauge to be in the foreground when towing. An auxiliary port is provided, along with ports for USB and SD cards and iPod control via USB. Rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, and a power-sliding rear window with defrost are available.

The RamBox bed is a big decision. It can be locked or unlocked with the rest of the vehicle. A factory spray-in bedliner is available. An integrated gooseneck hitch is also available.

In it's most popular configuration—5.7-liter V-8, four-wheel drive, and an 8-speed automatic—the Ram 1500 manages 15/21/17 mpg.

8

2016 Ram 1500

Styling

The Ram 1500 does the best impression of a big rig, but it can be plush inside.

The Ram is big on style and its aerodynamic big-rig design looks good. Every trim level gets its own grille design—seven at last count—and you might like some better than others.

Special grilles on the 2016 Ram Laramie Limited and Ram Rebel distinguish those models, each a unique design that replaces the traditional crosshair and replaces the Ram logo with the Ram nameplate. The designs are controversial and we are not sure we like them. The Laramie Limited gets more chrome and its unique grille has nostrils, while the Ram Rebel goes with a black "Death Race 2000" look.

Also, the tailgates of some models are adorned with massive chrome nameplates that take highway branding to a new level.

HFE models get aerodynamically designed side steps, a grille with shutters that close when the engine is not hot, a seat between the bed and cab, and a rear lip on the tail gate, all designed to reduce wind resistance and improve fuel economy.

LED taillights and side markers further distinguish upper-level models. Some models have dual exhaust fared into the rear bumper for a finished look.

The Ram 1500 cabin exudes an overall sense of high quality. Upper models feel upscale. Rotary controls for infotainment and climate systems free up space.

Cabins range from the simple and unadorned Tradesman to the luxury of the Laramie Longhorn, which has some of the finest wood grain and contrast stitching available in a vehicle of its kind. The upper trim levels are particularly hospitable for long tows.

8

2016 Ram 1500

Performance

The Ram 1500 stays near the top of our truck list with its smooth ride, responsive steering, and big towing and acceleration performance

The Ram 1500 offers a choice of three engines: a 3.6-liter V-6, a 5.7-liter V-8, and a 3.0-liter V-6 diesel. Most come with an excellent 8-speed automatic transmission, though a less-expensive 6-speed automatic is available.

The 3.6-liter V-6 gas engine is our recommendation for owners who need a truck that can haul stuff, but want good fuel economy. The V-6 generates 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. It is rated to tow up to 6,500 pounds. It will haul a load without much effort, though the engine note moves from a V-8 sound just off idle to a strained V-6 note at higher speeds. The 8-speed automatic works well with the V-6 to keep it in its proper power range without hunting for gears.

The 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi produces 395 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a choice of 6-speed or 8-speed automatic. Variable valve timing and a cylinder shut-off system are used to improve fuel efficiency, but the Hemi still generates a throaty growl under acceleration. With this engine, a Ram can accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, according to the truck maker. It also offers the highest towing rating of the lineup: 10,650 pounds on a long-bed model with rear-wheel drive. For towing heavy trailers on a regular basis, however, we recommend looking at a Ram Heavy Duty pickup.

The 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 gets the best fuel economy. Rated at just 240 hp, it generates a massive 420 lb-ft of torque. The 8-speed automatic works well with it to produce robust performance, along with some satisfying diesel clatter. The diesel has a tow rating of up to 9,200 pounds. The turbodiesel can thrust a Ram from 0-60 mph in about 8 seconds. However, the turbodiesel costs $3,000 or more than the other engines.

Four-wheel drive is optional on all models. A part-time four-wheel-drive system is standard, but an all-wheel-drive, on-demand system is available for V-8 models.

Ride and handling are quite good for a full-size pickup. The electric steering is 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-sizer.

The Ram has a relaxed, comfortable demeanor underway, though ride quality is greatly affected by the configuration of the model. The front suspension is independent, with coil springs on the rear axle.

An optional air suspension replaces the rear coils with air spring-damper units. This gives the driver a choice of five ride heights (Normal, Aero, Off-road 1, Off-road 2, and Park modes). That allows a high ground clearance when driving off road, along with generous departure and break-over angles. It also enables a lower step-in height. The air suspension smooths rough terrain and levels the truck when hauling or towing. At highway speeds, the HFE suspension goes into its lowest setting for better aerodynamics and hence better fuel economy, but there's less compliance left for bumpy surfaces and uneven textures; we thought it should be softer and more comfortable.

One neat feature is a key-fob button that lets you remotely lower the truck for easier loading and unloading at the rear. Combine the air suspension's versatility in its other modes with the basic setup's smoother everyday ride, and we'd be better convinced to ante up for its $1,500 price premium.

9

2016 Ram 1500

Comfort & Quality

The Ram 1500's high-quality, comfortable cabin has great room; the bed comes with myriad useful features.

The Ram 1500's interior is not much larger or more comfortable than the GMC, Chevy, and Ford trucks in critical dimensions, but it's available with more clever storage options, and its controls are the easiest to interpret and use. Like all of those trucks, it offers a wide range of box and cab configurations.

The Ram 1500 comes in three body styles, the most basic being the two-door Regular Cab, which has a sliver of cargo space behind its bench or optional bucket seats. It's the one seen most often in fleets. Next up is the Quad Cab, which has four front-hinged doors, with full-size openings up front and shorter ones in the rear. The four-door Crew Cab has four real doors, real leg room and head room for rear-seat passengers, and extra thoughtful storage touches.

The back seat is tight in the Quad Cab. A Crew Cab makes the most sense for anyone planning to carry people, but it won't fit in a standard garage. However, Crew Cab models are the best configuration as a car replacement. The back seats are a bit bolt-upright, but there is plenty of leg room and head room.

Every Ram has a wide stance, which can make the standard bench seat seem to stretch on forever. Three adults will fit easily across, with a decent amount of leg support. The seats themselves are wide and flat, doing an honest imitation of their Midwestern roots, for better or worse. Bench seats comes with a large fold-down console that can be used when no middle-seat passenger is present. A bench seat can be a good choice when a dog is in the back seat because the seat provides an unbroken barrier separating it from the front.

The rear seat flips out of the way and a platform flips down in the rear cabin for cargo or dog transport, though this happy picture is somewhat disturbed by center-mounted cupholders that remain in place.

More luxurious are the optional bucket seats. Choosing the bucket seats puts a huge console in the middle, very useful for storage. Padding on the driver's door makes for comfortable elbow resting, a feature expensive sedans don't always get right. The power bucket seats offer lots of adjustment, letting taller drivers lower the seat and tilt the steering column for the best driving position. Power-adjustable pedals are also available.

Inside the Ram, finishes range from nice enough to extravagant, in the Laramie Limited. In the standard interior, everything looks cheaper, including the cloth upholstery and plastic door panel trim. Attention to detail can be seen on upper models, which have leather-covered handgrips with cross-stitched seams. The Ram Rebel has two-tone stitching, anodized red trim, and cleverly designed floor mats with soft fabric that snaps out for foul-weather use.

A rotary shift knob is used to control the automatic transmission. Twisting it switches from "Park" to "Drive." It is more space-efficient and is designed to be easy to use when wearing work gloves, but we sometimes miss having a traditional column shifter.

Cubby space for storage is abundant. Bins can be found above the center stack and ahead of the center console, along with big cupholders, large door pockets, and other trays. Stowage beneath the middle front bench seat is available on some models, and the bench seat's large center section folds down to become another storage spot and armrest. The center console on bucket-seat models holds an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, and there are charge ports everywhere.

Interior quality is in keeping with the class. The dash is well-designed and attractive, even before the Longhorn's distinctive walnut trim is applied. The Ram seems to get better attention to detail and quality than the other pickups, though the Ford F-150 is comparable, especially with the King Ranch and Harley editions, as are the Chevrolet Silverado High Country and GMC Sierra Denali. Road and wind noise are at very low levels for a full-size truck. Still, the EcoDiesel transmits the appropriate level of clatter.

Truck beds come in different lengths to suit varying needs. Regular Cabs come with 6-foot-4 or 8-foot beds; Crew Cabs come with 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-4 beds. Quad Cabs come with 6-foot-4 beds. A factory spray-in bedliner is available. The available Ram Box provides storage opportunities in the fenders, and it can be locked remotely, using the key fob. Upper trims have two glove boxes, which are stacked on top of each other.

6

2016 Ram 1500

Safety

The Ram 1500 has mixed scores after a thorough test by the IIHS.

The 2016 Ram 1500 has received mixed scores from both major U.S. testing agencies. In the IIHS' comprehensive testing, the Ram managed "Good" scores in most crashes, except the small overlap crash and roof strength tests, where it earned a worrisome "Marginal" score.

Federal safety officials gave the 2016 Ram 1500 four stars out of five overall. That included five stars in side crash, four stars in frontal crash and three stars in rollover.

All Ram 1500 models come with airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, hill-start assist (which maintains braking until the gas is pressed when starting on an uphill), and trailer-sway control (which uses the brakes and stability control to mitigate the wagging effect induced when towing).

Front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are available. Laramie and Longhorn editions have power-adjustable pedals, to allow for drivers of different heights. Blind-spot monitors aren't offered, but large, folding side mirrors designed for trailering enhance visibility, which is mostly excellent. We recommend opting for the big screen, navigation, and the rearview camera both to aid in seeing objects when backing up and as an aid to hooking up a trailer.

10

2016 Ram 1500

Features

Big on convenience, the Ram 1500's cabin can tote a great infotainment interface, wood and leather trim, and in-truck wi-fi.

The range of features and configurations available means a Ram 1500 can be ordered to suit the needs and wants of every buyer, but it also means a lot of choices need to be made.

Crew Cab, Quad Cab, and Regular Cab versions are available. Beds measure 8 feet; 6 feet 4 inches; and 5 feet 7 inches. Ram Box beds are available that provide storage options for stowing cargo on the sides of the bed, in lockable containers.
The 2016 Ram 1500 comes in Tradesman, Express, HFE, SLT, Bighorn, Lone Star, Outdoorsman, Sport, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, Limited, and Laramie Limited trim levels.

The Tradesman has a vinyl bench seat, manual windows and locks, a spray-in bedliner, and an AM/FM radio with a USB port. The luxury lines are loaded with leather upholstery, heated seats, rearview camera, Uconnect, Bluetooth, and navigation. Towing and hauling capabilities vary.

Features available include a DVD player for front- and rear-seat passengers; satellite radio; special interior trim, including real wood trim harvested from fallen fenceposts, burred by barbed wire. The R/T features 22-inch wheels and tires and a special front air dam along with a 4.10 axle ratio and a limited-slip rear differential.

Chrysler's UConnect multimedia and connectivity system is the most user-friendly setup in any pickup truck, combining an 8.4-inch center touchscreen with a configurable gauge display. Via voice commands or steering-wheel controls or Uconnect's touchscreen, the Ram opens up clear channels of on-the-go communication, with quick responses to taps on its screen and easily comprehended functions.

The Ram has some of the cleanest display layouts. For example, the navigation system has handsome 3-D graphics and overhead displays of lane guidance. It connects with Sirius TravelLink for gas prices, weather information, sports scores, and movie times. The system also offers text-to-voice translation with a fixed set of responses available at fingertip or voice control.

The big 8.4-inch touchscreen is nice, and it has some drag and drop features that are easy to use. The standard screen is small.

The cargo camera is a handy feature, allowing the driver to visually check the bed of the truck, and it's easy to switch views back to the regular rearview camera. That saves considerable effort when hooking up a trailer.

The Ram's Uconnect Access bundles Sprint data service and includes wi-fi hotspot capability and voice recognition. Mobile apps let drivers lock or unlock or start their Ram with their phones.

Also available is a 7.0-inch LCD in the gauge cluster flanked by gauges that can display radio stations, trailer-towing status, and navigation data. The trip computer is displayed at the edges. The gauge cluster has steering-wheel controls. The 8-speed transmission uses a rotary knob to switch gears, though some models use a traditional console or column shifter. Buttons on the steering wheel are used to change gears.

5

2016 Ram 1500

Fuel Economy

The Ram earns outstanding EPA ratings from its available diesel engine, and very good ratings from its base 3.6-liter V-6.

The Ram does well in the fuel economy department and its engines are emissions-compliant for all 50 states.

The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 delivers best-in-class fuel economy with 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined for the HFE versions, which get active grille shutters and a stop-start idle feature and come only as a regular-cab, short-bed with rear-wheel drive. The diesel is rated 20/28/23 mpg on non-HFE models, 19/27/22 mpg with four-wheel drive.

The gasoline-powered 3.6-liter V-6 is rated 18/25/21 mpg on HFE versions,17/25/20 mpg on longer models, 16/23/19 mpg with four-wheel drive.

Ram's most popular powertrain configuration for the 1500—the 5.7-liter V-8 paired to an 8-speed automatic and four-wheel drive—manages 15/21/17 mpg. Other powertrain configurations for the Hemi V-8 vary slightly from there.

The 6-speed automatic loses 2 mpg compared with similar 8-speed versions.

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April 16, 2017
2016 Ram 1500 4WD Crew Cab 140.5" Laramie

Great truck but highly vulnerable to radio/ navigation system theft

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I really like the truck nice truck, and gas mileage not bad for a full size pick up. The ride is good more like a car. Big issue is the factory radio/ navigation sustem is vulnerable to theft. The thefts break... + More »
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January 30, 2017
2016 Ram 1500 4WD Crew Cab 140.5" Laramie

Outstanding truck!

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While I've owned a number of SUVs in various sizes, I've never owned a pick-up and now I'm asking..."what took me so long?" I just recently logged the 1st 10k miles on this truck and I'm extremely pleased with... + More »
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October 27, 2016
2016 Ram 1500 2WD Crew Cab 140.5" SLT

Amazing gas mileage!!!!

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Only had one week!All is well so far.Averaging 20 miles to the gallon!3.6 has good power.Will keep you posted!
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October 22, 2016
2016 Ram 1500 4WD Crew Cab 140.5" Big Horn

Excellent economical truck at 150,000 miles.

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Great truck. Daily driver with occasional heavy hauling. V6 w 8speed does well with load.. Upgraded to Ecodiesel Replacement bought awaiting delivery
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October 18, 2016
2016 Ram 1500 4WD Crew Cab 140.5" Laramie

fantastic Truck and very good fuel milage

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I bought a 2106 Ram 1500 w/the eco Diesel and am not disappointed. I get about 28 MPG on the highway and around 22 MPG in town. Very comfortable and the best riding truck on the market
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March 9, 2016
2016 Ram 1500 4WD Crew Cab 149" Longhorn Limited

Absolute Dream To Own And Drive

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I was a Ford man for my entire life. But when Ram introduced the diesel engine in the 1500 I had to try it out. I bought my truck that night two months ago and have not regretted the decision for a minute. The... + More »
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February 9, 2016
2016 Ram 1500 4WD Crew Cab 149" Longhorn Limited

Rides like a luxury car from the 70s

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Your testers have written that the ride on the highway is harsh with air ride. That's operator error! The default setting is for the truck to lower itself at speeds over 60. With less travel in the suspension... + More »
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