2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Introduction
Being the “other” American pickup truck offering is a status the Dodge Ram pickups have either enjoyed or endured (depending upon your perspective) for quite some time. Perennially bested in sales by the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado, to compete, the Dodge pickup trucks went higher profile in 1994. Back then; in the midst of the design revolution at Chrysler, the pickup’s product management team approved the now ubiquitous Dodge “Big Rig” look — mimicking Peterbilt’s long nose styling language.
With the introduction of that model, the Dodge offering became a more prominent aspect of the American pickup truck market. Starting this year, the Dodge name has been dropped from Chrysler’s pickups. Where they used to be referred to as Dodge Ram models, the Dodge name has been reserved for the car line, while the truck line has been renamed Ram.
In other words, Ram is now a standalone brand of Chrysler Group, just as is Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and SRT. Thus, this all-new iteration of Chrysler Group’s pickup is being marketed as the Ram 1500. That said, as the first all-new model to fly the Ram flag, this new 1500 series pickup bodes extremely well for the fledgling enterprise.
According to Fred Diaz, president and CEO of Ram; “The new 2013 RAM 1500 is the most capable, best-looking half-ton pickup in the world and delivers best-in-class fuel efficiency, new technology, and new features — while upgrading the interior and exterior. With best-in-class towing and payload, best-in-class ride and handling, and best-in-class aerodynamics, the 2013 Ram 1500 delivers unmatched content, performance and capability.”
Of course, it’s his job to say that.
It’s ours to say whether he’s right or wrong.
The good news is he’s right.
And, the 2013 Ram 1500 has been racking up Truck of The Year awards left and right.
Available in Regular-, Quad- and Crew-cab configurations, with either four-wheel drive or two-wheel drive and both long and short truck boxes, Ram 1500 trim levels range from the basic Tradesman package up through SLT, Sport, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and the ultra luxurious Laramie Limited package. 2013 Ram 1500 Tradesman pricing starts at $23,585 (including the $995 destination charge). Laramie trimmed models start at $39,610 with destination.2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Design
The look of the truck is more evolution than revolution. You have to look closely to see the differences between the 2012 and 2013 models if you don’t have them side-by-side.
For 2013, the grille is larger and features a unique treatment for each different version of the pickup. The halogen/LED lighting suite is designed to produce more throw and a broader spread. The taillights incorporate LEDs too. The model designation on the doors has been laid out vertically rather than horizontally to make it easier for contractors and businesses to mount their signs.
The top of the line Laramie model features plush leather and burl walnut unintentionally created by ranchers using trees as fence posts for barbed wire. Eventually, the trees grow over the rusting metal wire, creating a unique swirl coloring pattern and tone.2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
The Regular Cab Ram 1500 offers seating for three and can be configured with either a six-foot-four-inch or an eight-foot cargo bed. The extended Quad Cab seats six and is paired only with the six-foot-four-inch bed. The Crew Cab also seats six, but significantly expands rear-seat legroom. This version of the Ram 1500 can be had with either a five- seven or the six-four beds.
Standard fare on the Tradesman includes 17-inch steel wheels, black bumpers/grille, automatic headlights, a locking tailgate, a sprayed-in bedliner, vinyl floor covering, air-conditioning, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, vinyl upholstery, and a folding rear bench seat for extended-cab models. Standard kit also includes a tilt-only steering wheel, cruise control, power windows on Quad Cab and Crew Cab models, and a six-speaker sound system with auxiliary/iPod/USB audio input jacks.
By the time you get to the Laramie Limited, you’re looking at all the stuff the Tradesman has plus a monotone paint job accented with chrome side-step bars, to ease access. The innovative RamBox storage system (standard on Laramie—optional for other trims) includes lockable bins in the sidewalls of the bedside, an adjustable cargo tie-down system, and a bed extender. Laramie also comes with automatic windshield wipers, automatic high beams, keyless ignition and entry, and of course plush leather seating.
But that’s just the beginning.
Laramie Limited is further differentiated from other Ram 1500 models with its standard rear parking camera, additional exterior chrome trim, power-adjustable pedals, plus driver memory functions for the seats, mirrors and audio system. There’s a six-way power adjustable passenger seat with heat and ventilation, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 115-volt power outlet, an 8.4-inch video display in the dash and of course, an upgraded sound system complemented by a subwoofer.
But wait, there’s even more.
Laramie Limited also features remote start, rear parking sensors, a leather and wood steering wheel, heated leather second-row seats, HD radio and a navigation system delivering real-time traffic, sports and movie information.
Much of this kit is available as options on the lower level models, or as part of their bundles. But the most “economical” way to get all of this in one Ram is to go Laramie Limited.
Although, frankly, one wonders just how necessary it is to have all of this stuff on a pickup truck. For our money, we’d stop somewhere south of the full boat Laramie Limited. As nice as it is, $45K+ starts to feel just a bit spendy for a pickup truck in our eyes.2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
On the features/technology/ergonomics front, all of the secondary controls have been grouped by function, making them much easier to locate. While this sounds like such a logical thing, many manufacturers overlook it. Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system has also been applied to the new Ram truck and uses an 8.4-inch touchscreen interface—in addition to the redundant controls for each incorporated system. Additionally, TFT (thin-film transistor) technology has been incorporated into the instrument cluster—enabling instant reconfigurability of the instrumentation and the information provided—depending upon the operating mode selected.
A new electrical architecture was developed for the Ram to enable the new electronic feature-set. High and low-speed data networks are employed for both comfort and convenience features, as well as to improve the truck’s performance. The Ram is also capable of functioning as a Wi-Fi hot spot. Available Smartphone applications include remote lock and unlocking of the truck. Speaking of locking the truck, the new Ram has a central locking system like that applied to better luxury cars. Locking the Ram’s doors also locks the storage bins in the walls of the pickup box, in addition to the fuel-filler and the tailgate.2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings
On the safety and security front, the Ram 1500 offers standard front airbags, front and rear side-curtain air bags, seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags, knee bolsters, and seat-belt pretensioners. The 2013 Ram 1500 also uses electronic stability control, which incorporates traction control and trailer-sway control. Additionally, the truck is fitted with Hill-start Assist and an anti-lock brake system.
Optional safety and security gear includes remote central locking, which also incorporates the RamBox cargo management system as well as the aforementioned tailgate power locks. The remote start option works from up to 300 feet away. Door controls, illuminated entry, engine immobilizer and panic alert are standard features with the Keyless Enter ’n Go system. Auto rain-sensing wipers and the Ram SmartBeam headlamp system round out the safety and security offerings.
As of this writing, the IIHS (Insurance institute for Highway Safety had yet to rank the Ram 1500. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Ram 1500 four stars (out of five) across the board in its crash test rankings.2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Engine & Fuel Economy
Two engines are offered; a 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter which generates 269 ft-lbs of torque and will tow 6,500 pounds. A 395-horsepower, 5.7-liter HEMI V8, pumping out 407 ft-lbs of torque is the other offering. Towing capacity with this engine is expected to be in the 9,000-pound range. An eight-speed automatic transmission is paired with both powerplants, which is a first for a Chrysler with a V8.
Controlled by a rotary dial on the dash, rather than a conventional shift lever on the center console, the transmission is a big part of the fuel economy gains. It also features a thermal management system to get it up to operating temperature more quickly in order to reduce friction, improving its longevity as well as its ability to increase fuel efficiency.
The Ram product team say they were after four key areas of improvement; design, technology, features, and fuel economy. During our time with the new truck, we can certainly confirm they nailed the first three, to quantify the last one; we’ll have to spend a bit more time with the product. But until then, the EPA estimates 17-mpg city/25 mpg highway. Which, for a vehicle the size of this new Ram is quite remarkable. There is also a high fuel efficiency (HFE) version of the truck equipped with a stop-start function in addition to other fuel saving measures. That version of the Ram 1500 returns 18-mpg city and 25 on the highway.
The 3.6-liter V6 gives the Ram up to a 6,500-pound towing capacity. With the V8, it goes up to a potential of 9,250 pounds when properly equipped. The Ram’s maximum payload is quoted at 1,620 pounds.2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
On the road, the 3.6-liter V6 is so powerful and velvety we thought it was the V8, until we were informed otherwise. Then, when we drove the V8, it was like wow! This thing’s got a lot of kick. Additionally, the Ram 1500 has a very smooth ride, thanks to the new air suspension system—which also features a load leveling function.
Surprisingly, to be as big as it is, the Ram 1500 really does drive like a car. It is comfortable and refined, as well as very quiet. To be as big as it is, the Ram 1500 also handles quite nicely. It’s reasonably handy around town, and even on narrow two-lane roads, it feels secure.
The 1500’s steering is very accurate; the truck doesn’t wander about demanding constant steering corrections. Further, the Ram stays pretty flat when asked to change directions quickly. Completing the pleasurable experience of piloting the pickup, its braking system is more than up to the task of providing confident stops in reasonably short distances.
The new eight-speed automatic transmission always finds the right gear for the situation. With so many ratios to choose from, hunting for the right gear is never a problem, even when pulling heavy loads up long hills. The transmission is both competent and precise in its delivery of the Ram’s power.
Powerful, smooth, and quiet; this Ram represents the nicest pickup truck driving experience we’ve ever witnessed.2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
In fact, the 2013 Ram 1500 is also the quietest pickup truck we’ve ever driven. A technological tour de force, the truck represents an outstanding achievement in improvement over an already fine product.
pickup trucks remain the one segment in which American automakers still enjoy near total dominance over the marketplace. With this new RAM 1500 being as good as it is, we can guarantee the product teams and engineering staffs at Ford and Chevy are burning the midnight oil in an effort to maintain their traditional supremacy in this segment.
However, until they come out with all-new models specifically designed to trump Chrysler Group’s Ram, this is the truck to have. And, Ram has yet to introduce the Cummins powered diesel models, which have traditionally been Chrysler’s ace-in-the-hole in the pickup truck department.
Quite frankly, the 2013 Ram 1500 is the best truck of its type on the road today.
Is a good time to be a Ram.2013 Ram 1500 Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• Comprehensively equipped
• Highly fuel-efficient
• Crisp, dynamic styling
• Powerful, quiet and smooth
• Restyle is subtle, rather than radical
• Laramiepotentially a bit too tech laden for its own good
• No diesel model yet
• Higher trimmed models can get pretty expensive