- Base V-6 strikes the right balance
- Efficient turbodiesel V-6
- Functional interior
- Relatively good ride quality
- Rough air suspension at highway speeds
- Rebel's grille is just too much
- $3,000 premium for diesel engine
The 2017 Ram 1500 can hold its own among the Detroit Three thanks to a good powertrain lineup and smart lineup additions.
Perhaps 30 years ago, there was a greater differentiation among full-size trucks, but now we're not so sure.
The 2017 Ram 1500 is proof of that. As the oldest among its competitors, the full-size Ram is no dog. It offers a full complement of solid engines—each its own tool for a specific job, handsome interiors, intuitive features, and increased comfort.
It earns a 6.0 overall rating out of 10, an above-average score that reflects its good feature set, good performance, and handsome style. Like other full-size pickups, it falls in fuel economy and its age is starting to show in its federal safety scores. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
The Ram 1500 ranges from basic to brash on the outside. Work trucks are plain affairs with a simple, black-clad crosshair grille and steel wheels. Ram Rebels sport a black, framed "Death Race 2000" maw and rear badging that's subtle like a stick of dynamite.
Same goes for the interiors that span basic vinyl benches to deep, power adjustable leather buckets. Throughout the range, we wouldn't be afraid to climb aboard in boots and gloves, and the Ram still sports a rough-and-tumble quality that's somewhat endearing.
Last year's engine lineup has remained in the Ram. The base 3.6-liter V-6 is the best balance between capability and fuel economy, and can haul up to 7,600 pounds. It's rated at 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, and is equipped with a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is optional on most models except Sport, Limited, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn versions, where its standard. The engine makes 395 hp and 410 lb-ft and is good for up to 10,500 pounds of towing, dragging any more requires an HD model.
A 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is the efficiency champ and our favorite. It's the only full-size, light-duty oil burner around and its strong 420 lb-ft of pull is enough to forget that it's only rated for 240 hp. It's rated to tow more than 9,000 pounds, and can get up to 30 mpg on the highway. It adds $3,000 more to the bottom line, but over the long life of a pickup, that cost may be justified.
Most engines will be paired to a smooth shifting 8-speed automatic, although a 6-speed is available in some configurations.
Comfort, safety, and features
Three cab configurations—regular cab, extended cab and crew cab—and two bed options—short (5-foot-7) and long (6-foot-4)—are available on most trucks. (Regular cab trucks can be fitted with an 8-foot bed; extended cab models can't have a long bed option.)
Most quad-cab pickups will be driven as substitutes for cars, and can haul up to four adults comfortably. There's plenty of interior space and storage options, and the optional leather buckets up front can be downright luxurious.
We like the layout and configuration of the 1500, although the Ram isn't as opulent as upper trims of Ford or Chevy trucks.
The IIHS has given the Ram mostly "Good" scores, although the feds haven't been as kind. It was rated at four stars overall, with three stars for rollover safety.
Like other modern pickups, the number of trims and layouts can be dizzying and demanding. When combined with axle ratios and a la carte options, the Ram 1500 can be trimmed in thousands of different configurations. That's good for specific needs, but bad for buyers who don't do their homework.
2017 Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 is still function first, but its form isn't bad either.
The Ram 1500 has the most extroverted style of any from the Detroit Three, and every flavor has its own design—some you may like more than others.
The Rebel and Limited models have their own unique grille that replaces the Ram (nee Dodge) crosshair with large Ram nameplates. Those are more controversial, and we're still not sold on the idea—especially the Rebel's "Death Race 2000" look.
(Also, those models' tailgates are festooned with a Ram billboard that takes highway branding to a new level.)
We say the interior and exterior of the Ram 1500 are above average, but stop short of going further. It earns a 7 out of 10 on our style-o-meter. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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.
Somewhere in between is an answer that'll work for most people: Sport and Outdoorsman models have body-colored grilles that look great without being flashy.
Chrome grilles, 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 is comfortable and functional in lower trims, lavish and opulent in higher trims. The common thread throughout is that each Ram is still decidedly a pickup, and every control can still be manhandled with gloves on.
2017 Ram 1500
There isn't a bad pick among the bunch, we just wish the diesel wasn't so much more expensive.
Three engine choices are available in Ram 1500 models, which range from budget friendly to beastly. Most are paired to an excellent 8-speed automatic and can be fit to part-time or on-demand four-wheel-drive systems.
The Ram scores above average on our performance scale for its good engines and transmissions, which help it climb to a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The base 3.6-liter V-6 is our pick for shoppers looking for a good balance between fuel economy and capability. The V-6 makes 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque and is rated to tow up to 7,600 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 makes 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque and can be paired with a 6- or 8-speed automatic. Variable valve timing and a cylinder shut-off system are used to improve fuel efficiency, but the engine still generates a throaty growl under acceleration. The big V-8 is predictably the towing champ: up to 10,700 pounds in certain configurations, but hauling a load any heavier than that and we'd recommend looking at a heavy-duty truck instead. The V-8 is the most popular engine choice, according to Ram, and it's not a bad pick for anyone not willing to spring for the diesel.
The 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is the mileage champ and the best available engine choice, if you ask us. The engine is rated at just 240 hp, but its prodigious pulling power of 420 lb-ft of torque is enough to fool anyone that it's the brawniest of the bunch. It's rated to tow up to 9,200 pounds and can manage highway fuel economy in the high-20s, but doesn't come cheaply; Ram asks $3,000 more for the diesel engine. That additional cost may be justified over a long life of a pickup truck, but the initial pill can be too much for many to swallow.
One caveat: The EPA alleges that the EcoDiesel engine may have cheated its emissions testing. An investigation is ongoing, although the outcome is not yet clear.
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.
The Ram's ride and handling are quite good for a full-size pickup, but nosedive and steering feel are still about what you'd expect from a truck. 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 that give drivers 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.
2017 Ram 1500
Comfort & Quality
No one will mistake it for a luxury car, but the Ram is still a comfortable place to be.
The Ram 1500's interior is on par with others from Chevy and Ford in critical dimensions, but features more storage and cubbies, and its controls are the easiest to interpret and use. Like all trucks, there's a broad spectrum of cab and bed configurations, and varying levels of comfort found in its cabin.
We gave it a 7 out of 10 for good front seats and exceptional utility that only a truck can provide. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The most basic trucks are two-door, regular cab models that have a sliver of in-cab storage space behind the bench or optional cloth bucket seats. Nominally relegated to work-truck detail, regular cabs can skimp on interior storage and comfort in favor of price.
Next up are four-door, Quad Cab models that have four front-hinged doors, but aren't ideal for carrying four adults for long distances. They're essentially extended-cab versions of the Ram 1500 and have more interior storage capacity, but only one long (6-foot-4) box configuration.
Bigger four-door, full-size pickups are called Crew Cabs and are the most popular size for the Ram. Offered in short (5-foot-7) or long (6-foot-4) bed configurations, the Crew Cab models make sense for most looking to carry four adults in their trucks. They may be the best replacement for a standard car, but most long-bed versions won't fit inside standard garages.
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 can flip out of the way and a platform flips down in the rear cabin for cargo or dog transport, though the cupholders remain in place, and can be an encumbrance.
Optional bucket seats can replace front benches and place a huge center console in the middle that can swallow huge devices, file folders, or small bags. 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.
The Ram's interior ranges from plain to palatial, with attention to detail in top-range models that you'd expect in luxury sedans. For example, Laramie Longhorn Limited models sport cross-stitched leather-covered handgrips and Rebels have two-tone red trim stitching and soft fabric floor mats that can be removed in foul-weather.
It's an arms race for pickup buyers between Ram, General Motors, and Ford, and while the latter two have gone beyond luxury with upper trims, the Ram exhibits a rough-and-tumble nature that's still endearing to us.
Gas-powered Ram models can be quiet down on the road, but diesel versions of the Ram still have a fair amount of clatter. Four-corner air suspension helps smooth over choppy terrain, and even unladen trucks offer a relatively smooth ride.
2017 Ram 1500
Safety ratings are in, and they're mixed.
Last year, the IIHS comprehensively rated the top-selling pickups in the U.S. for safety for the first time.
Ram's 1500, the relative oldest of the bunch, escaped with mostly "Good" ratings except in the small-overlap front crash and rollover protection, where it earned a "Marginal" score.
That's the good news. The bad news? The feds weren't as kind and gave the Ram a four-star overall score, including three stars for rollover protection in four-wheel-drive models.
It's those results and lack of standard rearview camera that nets the 1500 a 3 out 10 on our safety score. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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 assistants are available, but no blind-spot monitors are offered. All trucks come equipped with the standard complement of front and side curtain airbags.
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.
2017 Ram 1500
Features and trim levels abound in the Ram, just pack a lunch before you begin to order—you'll be a while.
Like most modern pickups, the Ram 1500 comes in countless configurations and specifications, ranging from work-focused to downright lavish trucks.
Its excellent range for customization and good optional equipment are reasons the Ram 1500 earns a 7 out of 10 on our ratings scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Three cab configurations are available with three bed sizes. Regular cab trucks can be fitted with a long (8 feet) or short (6-foot-4) boxes. Four-door trucks, called Crew Cabs, can be fit with long (6-foot-4) or short (5-foot-7) boxes, while extended-cab models, called Quad Cab, come only with a long (6-foot-4) box.
Starting with Tradesman work trucks, the Ram 1500 can be trimmed into Express, SLT, HFE, Big Horn, Lone Star, Sport, Rebel, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn Limited packages with varying levels of comfort or utility. Ram folded the R/T models and their 22-inch wheels into the Sport lineup.
Tradesman trucks come sparsely equipped with only the bare essentials: vinyl seats, manual windows and locks, 17-inch wheels, and an AM/FM radio.
Spring for a top-of-the-line Laramie Longhorn Limited truck and an 8.4-inch touchscreen, leather upholstery, chrome everywhere, power adjustable heated seats, 20-inch wheels, 7.0-inch configurable gauge display, rearview camera, Bluetooth, and navigation are standard.
Predictably, all 11 trims have varying levels of equipment and options to suit individual buyers.
For 2017, Ram has added a Night package to Sport-trimmed trucks that adds a blacked-out grille, big 20-inch wheels, flat-black lettering, and yup, a black stamped Ram badge on the tailgate.
Some of our favorite features for trucks are found in the 1500, including integrated storage bins that Ram calls "RamBox" (on 5-foot-4 and 6-foot-7 beds only), and the 7.0-inch multifunction instrument cluster.
Chrysler's UConnect multimedia and connectivity system is aging, but still among the best in the industry. Its configurable display and easy readout make it clear and hassle-free, but the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support is frustrating. The 8.4-inch touchscreen is optional on SLT models, standard on Big Horn trucks and higher. The 5.0-inch touchscreen that's standard on SLT and optional on Tradesman and Express trucks is helpful, but a little small in the big truck.
The Ram's cargo camera is handy, same goes for the in-cab wi-fi broadcasted from a built-in hotspot that uses Sprint's data network that requires a monthly subscription after a free trial. Mobile apps let drivers lock or unlock or start their Ram with their phones.
2017 Ram 1500
30 mpg in a full-size pickup? It's possible. But even base models manage respectable numbers.
With an 8-speed automatic that coerces a thirsty Hemi V-8 into 17 mpg combined, we think most buyers will be somewhat surprised by the Ram's fuel efficiency. That rating is good enough for a 5 and the basis for our rating. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The EPA is taking a longer look at the diesel, so official numbers for 2017 aren't yet in.
The base 3.6-liter V-6 is rated at 17 mpg city, 25 highway, 20 combined in rear-drive configuration. Adding four-wheel drive drops that to 16/23/19 mpg.
The bigger 5.7-liter V-8 is the volume engine and its rated at 15/21/17 mpg with four-wheel drive. (Rear-drive models gain 1 mpg on the highway.)
That diesel was tops last year, and rated at 21/29/24 mpg in HFE models, 19/27/22 mpg in four-wheel-drive versions.
The most efficient versions of the Chevy Silverado and Ford F-150 top out at 20 and 22 mpg respectively.