- 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
- Air suspension limits compliance on road
- Safety is still a liability
- Towing ratings have fallen over time
- In-car data services have least coverage
The 2015 Ram 1500 is a half-ton favorite, with fuel economy and ride comfort being its main strengths once again.
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 20/29 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 10,650 pounds, while GM trucks can hit 11,700 pounds and the F-150, 12,200 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.
2015 Ram 1500
It's a softy inside, but the Ram 1500 strikes a tough sheetmetal pose.
The Ram has put a big emphasis on style since the 1994 model debuted with the big-rig look. The look has continued evolving, keeping the unique shape and updating it for better aerodynamics, while adding nice all around the truck.
Like any of the big trucks, the Ram's looks shift subtly as it moves between trim levels. There are five different grilles in all, each with its own texture and finish, even its own name. The rear taillamps are available with LED lighting, as are the side-marker lights. And some trims have dual exhaust fared into the rear bumper for a very finished look.
The Ram 1500's cabin was reworked for 2013 even though it really didn't need to be. Its overall sense of high quality and upscale flavor were upgraded to an even higher level, making it even more attractive and desirable. New rotary controls for infotainment and climate systems cleaned up the center stack and freed up more space, and a digital cluster replaced some instruments on some models--and even get softly rendered numerals, so attentive are the details.
Those with simpler tastes have plenty of options in the Ram 1500 range, from the simple and unadorned Tradesman to the extreme luxury of the Laramie Longhorn, which has some of the finest wood grain and contrast stitching available in a vehicle of its kind.
2015 Ram 1500
The Ram's ride and steering are among the best in big trucks; the wide span of powertrains suits just about every need.
Choice is king when configuring a modern pickup truck, and the Ram 1500 offers as much differentiation as any, with the only diesel available in a light-duty pickup, strong gas engines, and an eight-speed automatic.
The Ram's base V-6 is still the best choice for any truck user that needs an open bed more than they need a towing appliance. The 3.6-liter V-6 puts out 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, and comes linked with an eight-speed automatic transmission. With max towing of 6,500 pounds, the six-cylinder Ram's one of the lightest-duty propositions in full-size trucks. It'll haul without much effort, though the engine note moves from a V-8-like sound just off idle to a more strained one once it climbs to highway speed. And though it takes a few tries to reach for a rotary shift knob and not a shift lever, the eight-speed automatic really makes the V-6 a relevant choice; it doesn't hunt endlessly or needlessly for the right gear.
If fuel economy were no object, the HEMI-powered Ram 1500 would be the easiest choice. It comes standard on the base-level Ram, the work-truck-like Tradesman. The barrel-chested eight makes 395 horsepower and 407 pound-feet, thanks both to variable valve timing (VVT) and a cylinder shut-off system, and connects to either a six-speed automatic or the new eight-speed gearbox. All that fuel-friendly gear does nothing to quell the V-8's throaty growl, thankfully. Brawny power enables 0-60 mph acceleration as quick as 6.7 seconds as well as the highest towing rating of the lineup--10,650 pounds in long-bed, rear-drive form.
The new efficiency leader in Ram trucks (and all half-tons, for that matter) is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 with only 240 horsepower (diesels are typically low on power) but 420 pound-feet of torque, and it's hooked up with that excellent eight-speed automatic for torquey performance and a little of the characteristic diesel clatter to go with it. Those extra gears slice and dice its narrow powerband into thousand-rpm increments for excellent around-town flexibility that gets strained, just like the gas engine, once you're passing any legal highway speed. Rated at 9,200 pounds towing max, the turbodiesel delivers unladen 0-60 mph times in the 8-second range, and with it comes Chrysler's promise of highway fuel economy up to 29 mpg. Stronger performance and better economy will cost from $3,000 to $4,000 more than other comparably equipped Rams.
Four-wheel drive is available across the Ram 1500 lineup. On any model, a part-time system is the basic setup, while Ram's on-demand system, offered only on HEMI-engined trucks, takes care of the switching for you at all times.
It's not just HEMI grunt that makes the Ram a joy to drive. Hauling and towing are other strong suits, but in the past few years, ride and handling--the truck variety--have won us over, too. The Ram's steering is now electric, and it's 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 ride quality's now even more dependent on how you outfit your truck. The chassis and suspension include standard control-arm front independent suspension and coil springs on the rear axle, giving the Ram a relaxed, comfortable demeanor, even in stiffly sprung unladen 4x4 models.
An air suspension is also available, replacing the rear coils with air spring-damper units. It's similar to the setup found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which itself shares roots with the Mercedes M- and GL-Classes. The suspension offers five ride heights (normal, aero, off-road 1, off-road 2, and park mode), and enables best-in-class ground clearance, step-in height, and departure/breakover angles. The system does a good job smoothing things out over rough terrain and when towing or hauling, but could use a little more softness in its most dynamic setup; at highway speeds, the 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. 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.
2015 Ram 1500
Comfort & Quality
Quality is at an all-time high, and passenger comfort excels--at least in crew cabs.
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 solutions, and its controls are the easiest to interpret and use. Like all of those trucks, it offers a wide range of box and cab configuration options.
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 makes the most sense for anyone planning to carry people; it has four real doors, real leg and head room for rear-seat passengers, and extra thoughtful storage touches.
Every Ram has a wide stance, which can make its base 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. When the bucket seat option's picked, the Ram gets a center console between those seats; it doesn't just separate front passengers, it puts a nightstand-sized berm between them. There's a nicely padded section on the driver's door that's perfect as an elbow-resting space, something some $75,000 luxury sedans don't get right. Bench-seat trucks get a large fold-down console that can be used when no middle-seat passenger is present.
On those bucket seats with power adjustment, the range of movement is very good, typically allowing tall drivers to move the seat lower than in other vehicles--just as important as tilt steering in setting up a good driving position. Adjustable pedals are offered on expensive models, if the driver's short of leg.
We're still at odds sometimes with the eight-speed automatic's rotary shift knob. It's supposed to be easy to use with work gloves, and easier to fit in across a wide range of seating options and layouts, but we still find ourselves reaching for a ghost shift lever at times. This likely would become normal with everyday driving.
In the rear seat on Crew Cab Rams, there's little of the bolt-upright seating position that still afflicts the GM trucks, even after their recent redesign. The Ram offers up abundant leg and head room.
There's plenty of storage space inside the Ram 1500. If you can't find a place to store something. you're not looking hard enough. There's a storage bin on top of the center stack, one ahead of the center console, huge cupholders, deep door pockets, and trays for change and pens and anything you'll need to use safely on the road. There's even a stow area under the middle front bench seat on some versions, big enough to hold a pie, and the bench seat's large center section folds down to become another storage spot and armrest. Under-floor storage bins supplement the optional, lockable Ram Box that can be integrated into the rear fenders, and locked by remote from the key fob. Fancier trim levels even include two glove boxes, stacked one on top of the other.
Noise suppression is admirable inside the Ram, with both road and wind noise held to very low levels for the full-size pickup class, and just the right amount of diesel clatter in the EcoDiesel version. Interior quality and feel are as good as or better than any other truck on the market, with the redesigned dash a standout in the class, even before the Longhorn's distinctive walnut trim is applied. There's just more attention to detail and trim quality in the Ram than in almost every other full-size truck, though Ford's F-150 is certainly in the same league, especially with its King Ranch and Harley editions, as are the latest GMC Sierra Denali and Chevy Silverado High Country full-sizers. It should be noted that we haven't yet experienced the 2015 F-150's new interior, but its design appears to be very similar to its predecessor's.
The variety of truck beds available is as important to commercial buyers as to individuals. Regular-cab Rams can be had with 6.4-foot and 8-foot beds, while the Crew Cab models come with a 5.7-foot or a 6.4-foot bed--the latter, the only bed on the Quad Cab. A factory-applied spray-in bedliner is available on most versions, and goes a long way to protect the finish for anyone who plans to haul.
2015 Ram 1500
The Ram's crash-test scores are mediocre, even for a big pickup.
Crash-test results could stand some improvement in the Ram 1500. The Ram does offer a solid complement of safety gear, especially for a pickup.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Ram 1500 reassuring scores. The 2015 model receives four stars overall, as well as five stars in side crash; the four-star frontal rating and three-star rollover score as they did in 2014.
The most recent Ram 1500 earns some 'good' ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)—again, 2014 scores haven't been officially carried over to 2015 yet. The IIHS has yet to put the Ram through its side-impact tests, though, and when it comes to roof-crush strength, the Ram is rated as 'marginal,' with final numbers coming in below some passenger cars.
The 2015 Ram 1500 includes the usual airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction and stability control. Every trim line also gets standard hill-start assist, which maintains braking until the gas is pressed when starting on an uphill, as well as trailer-sway control, which uses the brakes and stability control to mitigate the wagging effect induced when towing.
On the features list, all models offer a rearview camera either as an option or as standard equipment; front and rear parking sensors are available or standard on all body styles except the regular-cab versions. The more expensive Laramie and Longhorn editions also offer adjustable pedals, a boon to shorter drivers in particular. Blind-spot detectors aren't offered, but large, folding side mirrors designed for trailering enhance visibility, which is mostly excellent--though we still recommend the rearview camera due to the Ram's high tailgate.
2015 Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 has more luxury features than some luxury cars: in-car data, reconfigurable gauges, and plush leather are mid-line gear.
The Ram 1500 can be outfitted to meet a wide range of needs, from the basic single-cab Tradesman work truck on up to a luxury-lined $50,000 Laramie Longhorn 4x4.
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 has 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.
The EcoDiesel powertrain is the most expensive, commanding its own $2,850 premium on top of prices for the HEMI with the eight-speed automatic. The least-expensive Ram 1500 comes with a standard HEMI V-8 and six-speed automatic, while other trims start with the V-6 and eight-speed.
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. The rear end and limited-slip are also available separately on most other trucks.
The Ram now includes Chrysler's UConnect multimedia and connectivity package. It's the most user-friendly setup in any pickup truck, combining an 8.4-inch center touchscreen with a reconfigurable 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.
It also has some of the cleanest display layouts. The available navigation system, for example, has pretty 3D 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 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 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.
Some Ram 1500 pickups also get a 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 information. Trip-computer info is shown at the corners. The reconfigurable gauge cluster has useful fingertip controls on the steering wheel, and the eight-speed 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-shift controls.
2015 Ram 1500
The EcoDiesel's a good complement to a Ram lineup that already had the best V-6 fuel economy--though the new F-150 will test those claims.
Ram's V-6 engine options put it at the very top of the fuel-economy rankings for full-size trucks--for now, at least, until the Ford F-150 gets a complete set of EPA ratings.
Not all versions are so frugal. The HEMI V-8 Rams are now offered with either a new eight-speed automatic, or the older six-speed unit that goes into work and utility versions of the truck. When outfitted with rear-wheel drive and the eight-speed gearbox, the V-8 Ram is rated at 15/22 mpg; with the six-speed it's 14/20 mpg. Four-wheel drive pulls the eight-speed model down to 15/21 mpg--not much worse than the V-6 F-150--and the six-speed, to 13/19 mpg.
The top of the efficiency charts belong to the EcoDiesel 3.0-liter V-6. With rear-wheel drive it achieves 20/29 mpg, while four-wheel drive drops the ratings slightly to 19/27 mpg.
The Ram 1500 fitted with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic (and rear-wheel drive) achieves gas-mileage ratings of 17 miles per gallon city, 25 miles per gallon highway. In HFE trim, the rear-drive Ram V-6 adds active grille shutters and stop/start, to boost city gas mileage to 18 mpg. With four-wheel drive, the V-6 Ram returns ratings of 16/23 mpg.