Like most other full-size pickup trucks, the Ram 1500 has a multitude of personalities, ranging from the basic $25,000 Tradesman rear-drive, regular-cab work truck, to the $50,000 Laramie Longhorn 4x4. On top of that, the new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel powertrain commands its own $2,850 premium--on top of prices for the HEMI with the eight-speed automatic.
Ram buyers can choose from between ten different trim levels. They include the Tradesman, Express, HFE, SLT, Bighorn/Lone Star (regional packages), Outdoorsman, Sport, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited. Most can be configured with a variety of cab styles and bed lengths, but the HFE--the high fuel-economy model--comes only in the regular-cab, short-bed configuration, while Laramie Longhorns can be ordered only with four full doors.
Trucks can be pretty lightly equipped, since some fleets just don't need nice things like CD players and power windows. The base Ram 1500 only comes with wind-up windows, manual door locks, a vinyl bench seat, a spray-in bedliner, and an AM/FM radio with a USB port. From that baseline, the Ram groups features by model line, with more rugged versions offering the most towing capacity (more than 10,000 pounds) and with luxury lines piling on features like remote start, heated leather seats, a rearview camera, and Chrysler's UConnect systems of infotainment, Bluetooth connectivity, and navigation.
Some of the Ram's nicest touches are small ones, like its steering-wheel audio controls. Chrysler's long fitted convenient radio controls to the backside of its steering wheels, where they make sense--but we wish they'd enable a back-and-forth seek function via their rocker switches.
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.
For the 2013 model year, the Ram 1500 acquired Chrysler's well-thought-out Uconnect package of multimedia and connectivity features. It's the most user-friendly setup in any pickup truck, combining an 8.4-inch touchscreen with that separate display, tucked in between the gauges. 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.
It also has some of the cleanest displays. The available navigation system, for example, has pretty 3D displays, overhead displays of lane guidance, and 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 Ram's Uconnect Access setup takes connectivity to a semi-logical conclusion, by bundling Sprint data service with UConnect. 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 works 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.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.