2018 Ram 1500 Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz
January 17, 2018

The swagger-heavy 2018 Ram 1500 is the coolest pickup around, even if competitors have eclipsed it in some ways.

Ram has been doing big-rig style on its pickups for a quarter of a century now, but the 2018 Ram 1500 doesn’t have time to stop and blow out the candles. This impressive line of full-size trucks offers a commendable blend of utility and comfort with eye-catching style.

We’ve rated the entire lineup at 6.2 out of 10 points. Rams deliver a cosseting ride and have a trio of terrific engines to choose from, but while their infotainment is up-to-date, they have a troubling safety record. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The race to the top among full-size pickups has prompted the Ram crew to introduce yet another range-topping model: the 2018 Ram 1500 Limited Tungsten, which features an interior lined with upgraded leather, synthetic suede, and real wood trim. Elsewhere, the lineup’s available 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system gains Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a rearview camera is newly standard ahead of a federal mandate, and the Ram Sport model boasts a few styling tweaks.

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Ram 1500s are the lightest-duty models in the lineup; more rugged 2500 and 3500 variants are available for those who need to two or lug far more.

The Ram lineup starts with work-oriented Tradesman trims before working its way through the efficiency-minded HFE to the mainstream Express, SLT, Big Horn/Lone Star, and Sport models. Those who want a little luxe in their truck can start with the stylish Night Edition and head up to the Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, Limited, and Limited Tungsten. The Ram lineup’s crazy uncle is the off-road-ready Ram Rebel, a beefy 4x4 ready for just about anything.

Rams are offered with one of three engines, including a class-exclusive (for now) 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. A 3.6-liter V-6 is standard on most variants, while a 5.7-liter V-8 is available as an extra-cost option on all but the Laramie Longhorn and the Limited trims, where it’s standard.

All three engines are mated exclusively to a terrific 8-speed automatic and almost every trim can be paired to a choice of rear- or one of two four-wheel-drive systems. Lower-spec four-wheel-drive Rams don’t have an automatic setting suitable for use on any pavement surface, but Big Horn/Lone Star and above trims feature such a convenient mode.

The Ram stands apart from full-size truck rivals like the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-Series by utilizing a coil-spring rear suspension setup to provide a smoother ride and more stable handling over bumpy roads. A height-adjustable air suspension is available on all but the Ram HFE for an even plusher ride and a choice of improved ingress/egress or more ground clearance at the touch of a button.

As is the norm for full-size pickups, Rams can be optioned up in too many configurations to count. Among the highlights are a choice of nearly 20 different wheel designs and sizes, an available 7.0-inch screen in the instrument cluster, and several different audio systems that start with a basic AM/FM unit for work-oriented trucks and end with one of the most advanced infotainment setups on the market today.

Where the Ram shows its age—this truck’s basic bones date back to the 2009 model year—is in its safety record. A rearview camera is now standard, as are plenty of airbags, but there’s no automatic emergency braking and both federal and independent testers stop well short of giving these trucks top marks.

7

2018 Ram 1500

Styling

The 2018 Ram 1500 remains gloriously, unabashedly, an American pickup.

Sure, the 2018 Ram 1500 is nearly indistinguishable from a 2009 model, but this truck wears its wrinkles with style. We’ve given it a point above average for both its interior and exterior styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Ram has done a nice job of differentiating the myriad trim configurations it offers, but we’re not totally sold on the belt buckle-style grille on higher-spec variants. The cross-hair design carried over from when the Ram was a Dodge can still be found on mainstream variants, and we think it works best with the high grille, low headlight look. Even the Ram’s tailgate, which has a small integrated spoiler, stands out from the crowd.

Basic Ram Tradesman models have unpainted bumpers and steel wheels; they fit in great at work sites and the like but aren’t tony enough for suburban slogging. That’s where the Express models come in with their standard 20-inch alloy wheels and color-matched bumpers and grilles. Big Horns (sold as Lone Stars in Texas) sub in some chrome, while Laramies are available with a swanky two-tone look.

The Ram Rebel is the most unique of the bunch with its unpainted grille, matte black graphics, and beefy all-terrain rubber wrapped around dark-finish wheels.

Depending on the trim level, the Ram lineup can be ordered in regular cab, extended cab (branded by Ram as Quad Cab), and crew cab variants. Quad and Crew Cab models have front-hinged rear doors; those in the Quad are small, but convenient for tight parking spots, while the Crew Cab is essentially a large SUV in the passenger compartment.

Inside, all Rams share the same basic symmetrical dashboard design. Like the Ram’s exterior, the interior goes from work-truck rugged with rubber floors and low-sheen plastics all the way to dressy chrome and, on the new Limited Tungsten, real wood trim.

Even beneath the swankiness, there’s a pleasantly durable, workman quality to the Ram truck. For instance, every major control can be operated with work gloves on. Try doing that in a BMW 5-Series.

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7

2018 Ram 1500

Performance

A trio of terrific engines are mated to an even better 8-speed automatic transmission in the 2018 Ram 1500.

The 2018 Ram lineup may not have as many engine choices as some rivals, but we like what’s there—and the way it rides and handles. We’ve given it points above average for its engines and transmissions and it narrowly misses out on one for ride quality since rivals have started to catch up. It’s a 7 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The entry to the Ram lineup is a 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated at 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. It’s standard on all but the highest-zoot trucks and it can be paired to rear-wheel drive or one of two four-wheel drive transfer cases, including both part- and full-time units. The base V-6 is a quiet, refined performer that provides surprisingly strong oomph. It’s such a good choice that we’d be hard-pressed to spend the extra coin for the 5.7-liter V-8 unless we planned to tow or spent a lot of time climbing grades.

That V-8 is paired to a version of the same 8-speed automatic. It’s luxury car-refined when it needs to be, but a deep stab at the throttle unleashes 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of thrust accompanied by a guttural snarl that’s as American as gluten-free organic apple pie—hey, it’s 2018, after all.

An Italian-designed 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 is also on offer. It’s a sweet engine with 240 hp backed up by 420 lb-ft available at just 2,000 rpm. The slick-shifting 8-speed is here, too. There’s a hint of diesel clatter from the 3.0-liter, which Ram brands EcoDiesel, but it is largely silent. You’ll occasionally have to fill a diesel exhaust fluid tank that does its best to quell the engine’s emissions, but owners tend to report longer intervals for exhaust fluid than for motor oil.

Rams stand apart from their rivals not just for their engines, but also for their suspensions. Sure, there’s a boxed ladder-frame underneath, but the Ram’s solid rear axle is held in by coils rather than the leaf springs typical to trucks. This provides a smooth, comfortable ride, with little of the rear-end hop endemic to unladen trucks. A costly optional air suspension is available on every model but the efficiency-oriented, but it delivers an even smoother ride around town and five different height settings. Only at highway speeds, when it hunkers down to its lowest level, can it feel a little too firm.

The Ram’s steering is accurate and light, if devoid of feel. It’s more nimble around town than its size would suggest, but even Sport trim levels aren’t exactly canyon carvers. On the highway, the Ram really comes into its own. It tracks arrow straight and doesn’t seem upset by crosswinds.

Ram 1500 towing and off-road

Properly equipped, the Ram lineup is rated to tow up to nearly 10,700 pounds—but that’s for a Tradesman regular cab with the long bed and the optional V-8, admittedly not the most popular model.

A short bed crew cab with the V-8 still tops 10,000 pounds in most configurations, although the Ram’s tow rating is highly dependent on the trim package and the wheel-and-tire setup in addition to the engine and drive wheels.

Away from the pavement, the Ram delivers a comfortable ride and decent capability. Ram Rebel models are the most off-road-ready of the bunch with their standard 33-inch all-terrain tires and optional skid plates, but they lack hill descent control and a locking rear differential.

Ram offers two different transfer cases. The base system isn’t suitable for use on dry pavement, but the automatic setup included on higher-spec models (other than the Rebel) can be left in set-it-and-forget-it mode.

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2018 Ram 1500

Comfort & Quality

A comfortable cabin and lots of storage options make the 2018 Ram 1500 a good place to whittle away an entire day.

A comfortable interior and some innovative storage options make the 2018 Ram 1500 among the most versatile full-sized pickups around.

We’ve rated them a 7 out of 10 for their comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Admittedly, that score varies highly by model. Lower-spec models like the Tradesman and even up to the Big Horn and Lone Star trim levels have interiors awash in hard plastics with seat fabrics that feel more like cheap couches than classy luxury. But the higher you climb—and the more you spend—the nicer your Ram’s interior. Softer trim panels start to make an appearance at the Laramie trim level. The Laramie Longhorn and the new Limited Tungsten, in particular, provide the most decadent confines with fancy leather upholstery and glossy wood interior panels that wouldn’t be out of place on a luxury car.

A three-piece front bench seat with a massive fold-down center armrest is standard, while individual captain’s chairs and a fixed console are on the options list. Either way, the Ram’s front seat is comfortable and supportive, even over the long haul. We put nearly 1,000 miles on a Ram HFE with the base vinyl-upholstered seat that doesn’t even offer height adjustment and found it to be remarkably supportive.

Rear seat passengers in crew cabs will find similarly good comfort, but Quad Cabs can be a little tight.

In addition to numerous small storage bins scattered about the cabin, Ram offers its pricey—but convenient—Ram Box lockable storage units integrated into the bed’s rails.

The Ram’s bed is available in three lengths, depending on the cab size selected, and it can be ordered bare or with a factory-applied spray-in bedlining.

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2018 Ram 1500

Safety

Safety is not a 2018 Ram 1500 virtue.

More mass doesn’t always equate to better crash-test performance, as the 2018 Ram 1500 illustrates.

Its dated design and lack of advanced safety features relegate it to just a 4 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

A newly standard rearview camera elevates it from last year’s dismal 3 point score, but let’s not give Ram too much credit—rearview cameras will be a federal requirement during calendar year 2018, so the truckmaker isn’t getting too far ahead of itself.

Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control are standard on all Rams. Parking sensors are optional on most trim levels, although they’re standard on higher-end models. Ram isn’t available with modern features like blind-spot monitors, rear-cross traffic alerts, active lane control, or automatic emergency braking.

In both federal and independent crash-testing, the Ram again falls short. The IIHS gives it a “Good” rating for all but the challenging small overlap test, where it scored a disconcerting “Marginal.” The NHTSA rates the truck at four-stars overall—five for frontal crash, four for side-impact, and three for rollover. 

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2018 Ram 1500

Features

A huge lineup with lots of available options ensures that there’s not a strong likelihood of finding two matching 2018 Ram 1500s on a dealer’s lot.

Full-size pickups made the jump from work implements to family cars a while ago, but the 2018 Ram 1500 can be outfitted as luxuriously as a high-end German sedan—at least for a price.

We’ve rated the Ram 1500 lineup at 7 out of 10 points here, tossing in extras for its swanky options, its high degree of customizability, and a terrific available infotainment system that now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It loses a point for its spartan base configuration—roll-up windows, vinyl floors, and a basic AM/FM radio are all you’ll get there. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Not that there’s anything wrong with a basic pickup. Ram’s aptly named Tradesman lineup is aimed directly at fleet and work truck buyers. Plenty of options are on the roster, but none are particularly fancy—but then again, price tags stay fairly low for the Tradesman lineup.

For most consumers, the first step is the Ram Express. Other than painted bumpers and alloy wheels, it’s still pretty basic, but Bluetooth and a 5.0-inch audio system are on the options list.

If fuel efficiency is your thing, the monospec Ram HFE pairs the Quad Cab body with the Sport’s bumpers, side steps, a bed cover, and the Express’ low level of equipment with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel. It’s rated at up to 29 mpg thanks to this skunkworks-style combination of lighter weight and wind-cheating features. The inside story here is that the Ram folks tested every part in the wind tunnel and figured out a just-right combination of kit to eke out impressive fuel economy.  

The Ram SLT is positioned as the volume model with its cloth upholstery, carpeted interior, and optional 8.4-inch infotainment system that can be upgraded to built-in navigation by a dealer.

Buyers in Texas can opt for the Ram Lone Star, a nod to the state’s unusually large share of the truck market. The secret’s out, though: if you’re in the other 49 states, the Ram Big Horn is the same thing, except with different badges. Lone Star/Big Horn means 20-inch alloy wheels, the 8.4-inch infotainment screen, leather around the steering wheel, a power driver’s seat, and the option to switch out the front bench seat for dual captain’s chairs with a center console.

The Ram Sport and Night Edition trim levels have their own special styling touches but bring little else to the table.

Next up is the Ram Rebel, the off-roader of the bunch. In addition to its brute looks, beefed up Bilstein suspension, and all-terrain tires, it features heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a power passenger seat.

The Ram Laramie comes standard with leather upholstery and is available with two-tone paint. It also includes ventilated front seats, faux wood trim inside, and an 11-speaker audio system. Ram Laramie Longhorns go a step further with western-style upgraded leather, front and rear parking sensors, keyless ignition, and standard navigation. The Ram Limited mostly mirrors the Laramie Longhorn, except that it has a more urbane look with available black leather and shiny chrome wheels.

New this year is the range-topping Limited Tungsten with an interior with hints of dark blue, lots of extra badging, 20-inch alloy wheels, and real wood trim inside.

Among the myriad options available on almost every trim level are features like trailer towing kits, a moonroof, a CD player, and the nifty Ram Box cargo storage system integrated into these trucks’ bed sides.

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2018 Ram 1500

Fuel Economy

Led by the 29 mpg highway 2018 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, this is one fuel-efficient lineup of full-size trucks.

The 2018 Ram 1500 can be remarkably miserly; it can also guzzle if you’re not careful. Fortunately, Ram offers buyers several choices.

We’ve based our 5 out of 10 score on the 5.7-liter V-8 with four-wheel drive, which Ram says is the most popular configuration. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 5.7-liter is predictably thirstier than the base V-6—and it requires midgrade fuel. It’s rated at 15 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 combined with the optional four-wheel drive; 1 mpg higher with rear-drive.

The V-6 comes in at 16/23/19 mpg. Stick with rear-wheel drive and you’ll see 17/25/20 mpg, according to the EPA’s test. Unlike the V-8, the V-6 runs on regular unleaded.

Opt for the available 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6, and the Ram’s EPA figures come in at 22/29/24 mpg with rear-wheel drive and 19/27/22 mpg with four-wheel drive.

The miser of the group is clearly the Ram EcoDiesel. It was briefly banned from sale while the EPA and Ram parent FCA worked out some details regarding its emissions system, but it’s back on the market for 2018. There are two stories here—Ram HFE and all other Rams.

HFE stands for High Fuel Efficiency, and it’s applied to a monospec Ram that combines the automaker’s most aerodynamic body configuration (Quad Cab, short bed) with some special tweaks like the Ram Sport’s front bumper, 20-inch alloy wheels, side steps, and a tonneau cover. Those add-ons aren’t for looks; Ram says that they subjected the truck to extensive wind tunnel testing and found that that oddball combination of features (combined with a very low level of standard equipment to save weight) results in up to 29 mpg on the highway. We’ve actually seen higher without trying to hypermile.

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$27,095
MSRP based on Tradesman 4x2 Regular Cab 6'4" Box
 
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6.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 4
Features 7
Fuel Economy 5
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2018 Ram 1500 Pricing Insights

  • 2018 RAM 1500 supplies improving; 2017s still on sale
  • Rebates up to $6,250 on 2018s; $5,250 on 2017s
  • Lease a 2018 from $319 for 36 months
  • Get 0% APR for up to 72 months
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