30 Days Of 2013 Ram 1500: Build & Configure, Workhorse Edition

May 27, 2013

With an amazing array of cab, bed, drive, and engine options, picking a new pickup can be tough--which features do you really need, and which can you do without, or which do you want to avoid altogether? Fortunately, we've spent enough time with the Ram this month to have a good idea of what works, and how we'd spec a truck for a given task.

But what if there is no given task? What if you just need a general purpose pickup that's up for anything? Then you need this workhorse Ram 1500.

Built with function in mind, these options should yield a pickup that's as capable as it should be without being too much truck for more casual use. It's the truck we'd buy if we had to drive it every day.

First, the engine. While you might think a do-it-all truck requires a V-8, you might be wrong. If your idea of towing starts at 6,000 pounds and goes up from there, or if you frequently tow through hilly or mountainous areas, you'll want the V-8. Otherwise--and that's most of us, even those who tow regularly--the V-6 is amply capable.

When you don't need the towing power, the 305-horsepower, 269 pound-feet V-6 with its 8-speed transmission is a lot easier on the wallet, with up to 25 mpg highway per the EPA. Our most recent observed average over 150 miles, including highway, city, and three hours of off-roading, is a pleasing 17.4 mpg. Before the off-road excursion, the average was 18.9 mpg in mixed driving.

Of course, you'll also want to pick four-wheel drive, as snow, mud, and severe terrain must all be within the do-it-all's repertoire. It will cost you 1 mpg in own, 2 mpg on the highway, and 1 mpg overall, but the extra utility over a rear-drive truck is well worth it.

Four-wheel drive knocks a bit off the top end of the towing capacity, but at 5,850 pounds, the 4x4 crew cab Ram 1500 V-6's capability is still up to the challenge of a car on an open trailer, or a medium-sized boat.

30 Days Of 2013 Ram 1500

30 Days Of 2013 Ram 1500

Next, the cabin. A do-it-all truck will often have to carry more than one or two passengers, so a single cab is out--you'll want the crew cab, most likely. If the need for a rear seat is more occasional, the quad may do.

The trim and fitting even in relatively basic-package trucks is sturdy and appealing in design, if utilitarian. The SLT package with the V-6 is an attractive, but still understated truck. There's also a wide range of paint colors options at not additional cost.

On the tech front, we chose Uconnect 8.4A for the upgraded display and improved infotainment features, including apps, WiFi hotspot, and more. The connectivity offered by the system is a handy tool whether you're running to the grocery store or towing through unfamiliar territory.

Adding the Uconnect 8.4A system ($505) requires addition of either of the $1,395 Big Horn or Lonestar packages. With this upgrade, you get nicer seats, nicer wheels, and better tires. If you love to listen to your tunes on the road, the $300, nine-speaker Alpine Surround Sound system is a good companion. With these comes the Luxury Group, which includes conveniences such as power-folding mirrors, auto-dimming center and side rear view mirrors, universal garage-door opener, and a number of other upgrades.

The ParkSense rear back-up camera and assist system is another very useful feature, enhancing not just ease of use, but also safety. It's a $250 option. The standard truck requires a $195 upgrade to include a single-disc remote CD player, but our music hasn't been on CDs in years, so we'll just use the built-in phone (Bluetooth), SD, and USB connections for media access.

As for exterior options, the standard Express comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, a basic chrome body trim package, making for a strong, simple look. It's an honest truck.

To be a real do-it-all, this truck must also tow as capably as its engine will allow, so we choose the Class IV hitch and trailer brake control upgrades, for a total of $565. A nice feature in any tow vehicle--and welcome aid for more severe off-roading--is a self-leveling, height-adjustable air suspension. Having spent time on-road and off with the system, we're ticking its $1,595 box. As a bonus, it can also lower the truck at highway speeds to improve gas mileage.

For best traction, whether in two-wheel-drive mode and towing or in 4WD-low, the anti-spin differential rear axle ($325) is a must. The standard 3.55:1 rear end ratio is a good compromise between towing torque and everyday mileage.

Otherwise, you're largely down to style--and in a workhorse than can do a bit of everything, we don't feel the need for a lot of chrome and accessories. If you do, however, there are rails, steps, and more to add.

The grand total for this truck, as configured for the 72201 zip code our 30-day Ram 1500 test vehicle is in this week, is $37,680. That's not exactly inexpensive, but for the capability it's a fair price.

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