2013 Ram 1500

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It seems like the entire world is on the edge of a war of some kind but most people ignore it because it’s “over there” and not in our country. Well, truth be told, although no weapons are involved, Ram just fired a powerful salvo that is going to make 2013 pickup truck sales a war like John Rambo would say, “You wouldn’t believe!”

The battlefield’s opponents include such “special forces” as the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.

It doesn’t appear that the average consumer realizes how massive and vital truck sales are to not only the automobile manufacturers but also to the economy. When car sales are swimming around the bottom of the toilet bowl, trucks have basically kept the industry alive.

It’s a competitive market and all three major U.S. manufacturers have a huge stake in it and a basic loyal base. However, after testing the new 2013 Ram 1500 I wouldn’t be surprised to witness a lot of defections from its two main competitors.

Ram became its own nameplate in 2011. Previously it had always been a part of the Dodge family. But because of the ultra-competitiveness of the light truck market it made sense to the Chrysler Group to give Ram its own entity.

Just for starters the 2013 Ram 1500 offers the most fuel-efficient model in its class and more functionality, innovation and interactive technologies than its competition. It also offers more factory-installed exterior options and systems. It’s available in three cab configurations: the two-door Regular Cab, four-door extended Quad Cab and four-door Crew Cab. It also has three box sizes: 5-foot-7, 6-foot-4 and 8-foot. Delving deeper it’s offered in 11 models/packages: ST (fleet only), Tradesman, Express, SLT, Big Horn, Lone Star, Outdoorsman, Sport, R/T, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn.

If you’re used to hauling a lot of things inside your truck you may not want to consider the first choice, as good as it is. I found it a bit tight on storage space. Extra storage is achievable by the optional RamBox cargo management system for lockable and lighted bedside storage. All Ram Crew Cabs have in-floor storage and the Ram HD Mega Cab is the largest cab in the market.

If it’s power you want it’s power you’ll get. For 2013, Ram offers a new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (a Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner) that puts out best-in-class standard 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. This is a boost of 42 percent in horsepower rating and 13 percent more torque, with at least 20% better fuel economy when it is compared to the previous 3.7-liter V-6. Another neat powertrain feature is a class-exclusive eight-speed automatic transmission that’s standard on the V-6 (giving the customer four extra gears from its predecessor). All Ram trucks are either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

As if better fuel mileage isn’t enough the 2013 Ram 1500 adds the pickup truck industry’s first application of stop-start technology. When the vehicle is completely stopped the engine shuts off, which adds about one mile per gallon to the trucks city drive cycle. The driver and passengers won’t notice it, however, because everything else like air conditioning, info display, etc., is still functioning.

When the light changes and the vehicle accelerates the engine comes back to life in what’s supposed to be a seamless transition. (Note: EPA fuel-economy estimates are not yet available.)

By the way, if you feel stifled with “only” 305 horsepower in a V-6 you can select one of two  V-8s and really feel macho. First is the 4.7-liter SOHC 16-valve V-8 that’s listed at 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It’s standard with a six-speed transmission. The other V-8 is the 5.7-liter Hemi that develops a whopping 395 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque. It’s available with a six-speed or an eight-speed transmission.

I put some miles on this setup as well and if cost isn’t the final determiner you’ll have discovered the vehicle that Ponce de Leon was looking for when he “claimed” to be searching for the Fountain of Youth.

All Ram trucks have a massive-looking stance. I would highly recommend that no matter what model is selected, the buyer opts for a running board. It’s a long way up, especially on four-wheel drive models and climbing down isn’t graceful, either. Tire size is normally 17-inch but 20-inch and even 22-inch tires and wheels are also available. I’ve always liked the forward-swept grille that resembles the air intake of the legendary F-86 Sabre Jet.

The ride and quietness of the new Ram are at times astounding. The two models I drove were almost completely devoid of road and wind noise. Plus, on all types of road surfaces there wasn’t that harshness and discomfort one might associate with a “work truck.”

Luxury features abound and it can be loaded up and quite honestly used as a laborer by day and a luxury ride by night. There’s an available navigation system that speaks to you through an 8.4” touchscreen display. There’s also an available 7” full-color multiview customizable display that issues a wealth of vehicle information. I could easily make out data on the screen even while sitting in the passenger seat. The instrument cluster itself is not only functional…it’s beautiful.

The 2013 Ram 1500 offers more than 45 safety and security features, from an array of airbags to advanced technology offensive and defensive technologies. All Ram trucks are covered by a segment-leading 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

If you want a truck then buy a truck; if you want a luxury- and convenience-laden family vehicle then buy one. But if you want both wrapped up in a single entity then the 2013 Ram 1500 is worth shopping.

Speaking of shopping, Ram announced the MSRP for all the vehicles in the 1500 family. It begins at $22,590 and runs up to $47,420. Destination is an additional $995. In other words it’s possible to run the board to a fairly-hefty price point. But as the old adage goes, “you pay for what you get” and the “getting what you pay for” by purchasing the new Ram 1500 makes it a good investment indeed.  

— Al Vinikour