Ram 1500 — Pickup truck perfection

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Over the years the pickup truck has evolved from a work vehicle into mainstream family lifestyle transportation. The all-new 2019 Ram 1500 is the culmination of that trend offering a high-quality, luxury-infused people hauler while retaining a rugged no-nonsense work ethic that performs quite well at worksites across the country.

Longer, wider and lighter, the hot-selling Ram boosts a 20 percent increase in both payload capacity and tow rate. Add a new mild-hybrid system for improved fuel economy; upgrades in engineering, ride and handling, comfort, safety, technology; and its fresh new looks inside and out, and you get the most radical transformation since 1994. That’s when the “Big Rig” Dodge Ram was launched with its interpretation of the 18-wheeler cab look.

The Ram has been redesigned to better compete with rivals, and in many areas such as ride quality and interior design and execution the Ram has become the industry benchmark.

Every Ram 1500 features an impressive ride thanks to a rear suspension that uses standard coil springs or optional air springs, unlike the traditional leaf-spring setup found on domestic competitors. Models equipped with the air suspension even have adjustable ride heights that aid fuel efficiency and off-road ability. Inside, the crown jewel is the available 12-inch fully configurable touchscreen that can display the navigation map across the entire screen, or be divided in half to operate two different applications at once.

What has not changed with the 2019 Ram is the myriad of choices in trim levels, cab and bed configurations, special packages and special editions. Most Ram 1500s come standard as a Quad Cab that can seat up to six passengers. Gone is the standard single-seat cab. It also comes with three-quarter-size rear doors and a standard bed size of 6 feet 4 inches. The optional Crew Cab increases rear-seat legroom and full-size rear doors and offers either the standard bed or a short bed measuring 5 feet 7 inches.

The Ram 1500 offers six trim levels — Tradesman, Big Horn (called the Lone Star in Texas), Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn and Limited. Standard on all trims is a 3.6-liter V6 with 305 horsepower, 269 pound-feet of torque and the mild e-Torque hybrid system. Optional on all is a 5.7-liter V8 Hemi engine with 395 horsepower, 410 lb-ft of torque. Both engines pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission, a 3.21 axle ratio, and rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is available. Lower axle ratios (3.55 and 3.92) are also available on most models.

Our test truck was a Laramie rear-wheel drive Quad Cab with the Hemi V-8. We found that the big V-8 has rewarding performance capable of pulling the 5,000-plus--pound truck from 0-to-60 in a scant 6.1 seconds. For comparison purposes and to display the truck's superb ability to merge into fast-moving traffic or quickly and effectively pass a slower moving vehicle on a two-lane road, it has a quarter mile time of 14.7 seconds at 97 mph.

With the supple ride and a cabin devoid of most road and wind noise, the interior is a relaxing and pleasing place to spend hours on the road. In addition to the aforementioned big infotainment screen, the Ram can be purchased with two additional center stack designs including the standard five-inch display or an 8.4-inch display. However, once using the 12-inch screen, it’s nearly impossible to retreat to the smaller screens. A 360-degree surround-view camera is also be available to help when parking such a big truck or when backing to hook up a trailer.

A fourth-generation Uconnect infotainment system includes Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Wi-Fi hotspot capability. A 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system is optional, delivering 900-watts with a 10-inch subwoofer.

Safety-wise, the new Ram offers forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control.

A bare-bones Tradesman starts at $33,340. For the budget conscience who want a solid truck that can be loaded with as many options as the budget will stand, we recommend the Big Horn Quad Cab 4X2 with the V-6 engine starting at $37,340. Prices reach skyward for the luxury-infused Longhorn Crew Cab 4X4 starting at $56,835 including a $1,695 destination charge.

Our Laramie 4X2 with the V-8 came in at $54,480 after adding in such desirable options as the Level 2 Equipment Group ($3,595), Uconnect with the 12-inch display ($1,095), the 5.7-liter V-8 with eTorque ($2,645), and the Advanced Safety package ($1,595).

Overall the new Ram is superb by any measure whether as a workhorse or an everyday commuter — and for weekend hobbies and activities.

Base price: $33,340; as driven, $54,480
Engine: 5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower: 395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 410 pound-feet @ 3,950 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 140.5 inches
Length: 228.9 inches
Curb weight: 5,111 pounds
Turning circle: 45.1 feet
Cargo capacity: 42.2 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 11,370 pounds
Fuel capacity: 33 gallons (optional tank)
EPA rating: 17 city, 23 highway, 19 combined
0-60: 6.1 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Nissan Titan

The Good
• Exceptionally smooth ride
• Excellent towing capability
• State-of-the-art interior
• Good gas mileage with hybrid power system

The Bad
• Some safety equipment limited to higher trims

The Ugly
• Ever increasing pricetag

Jim Prueter contributed to this review