The Ram 1500 may come with a choice of three different drivetrains, but if price isn't as much of an object, throw out the base and mid-line versions and Chrysler's HEMI engine will never let you down.
The base V-6 is a 3.7-liter, an old design, wheezy on the go, and not very fuel-efficient. It's coarse enough to relegate itself to stripped-down workhorse duty, leaving Chrysler's solid 4.7-liter V-8 to take its place as the Ram's real base engine. Standard on Outdoorsman and SLT trucks, it's a familiar powerplant that's pegged at 310 horsepower, and acceleration is strong enough to justify its existence.
It's just that, on any given day, we'd prefer and pay for Chrysler's splendid 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. Good for 390 horsepower, the HEMI not only is standard in Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn models, it's the top fuel-economy choice in the lineup, since its cylinder-deactivation technology boosts gas mileage to the top of the lineup at 14/20 mpg (or 13/18 mpg with four-wheel drive), and its HEMI charm ripples through every time you goose the accelerator pedal. Coupled to the same transmission as last year--but recalibrated to select a previously available but unused gear when downshifting in manual-shift mode--the HEMI trucks can reach 60 mph from a dead stop in 6.1 seconds, Chrysler says.
It's not just HEMI grunt that makes the Ram a joy to drive. Hauling and driving are more strong suits of the Ram. Its stiff chassis and rear coil suspension provide a better, more controlled ride than its competitors--and better than any previous Dodge truck. Steering is quick, but numb and devoid of feedback--to be expected in a full-size pickup, but somehow less than the chassis deserves.
A 11,500-pound tow rating puts the Ram Tradesman right near the front of the class, though new models from Ford and Chevy have taken things slightly farther.