Pickup trucks are more popular than ever and the market for them is about to get even hotter and more competitive for the 2019 model year. Ford raised the stakes this year with a refresh of the industry’s top-selling F-150. Chevrolet has already previewed an all-new Silverado, and GMC has an all-new Sierra. Further, Ram has just introduced its totally redesigned 15th generation Ram 1500.
Longer, wider and lighter, the hot-selling Ram also isn’t shy about boasting 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 and transformation since 1994. That’s when the “Big Rig” Dodge Ram was launched with its interpretation of the 18-wheeler cab look.
That design proved the right move and helped sales jump from about 75,000 to more than 125,000 in its first year. Since Ram split off from the Dodge brand in 2009 as a stand-alone nameplate, sales have grown from 260,000 to over 500,000 for the 2017 model year.
While not the best-selling pickup – that honor goes to Ford F-150 – Ram 1500 does enjoy “the highest owner loyalty in the pickup segment” according to Jim Morrison, head of Ram brand for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
Gone from the new Ram is the signature crosshair grille in favor of full frontal chrome sophistication and contemporary design. The new aluminum hood styling is designed to push air over and away from the windshield, improving aerodynamics as well as visual appeal. Drag coefficient is now a segment-leading .357, down from .360.
There’s also a four-inch increase in cab length that especially shows up in rear seat legroom, which grows from 40.3 inches to 45.2 inches on crew-cab models. Those seats also slide fore and aft, recline up to eight degrees and fold upright for a fully flat floor, making the rear cab area useful for inside storage rather than or in addition to the rear cargo bed. An optional dual pane panoramic sunroof expands over both rows of seats.
Need more room? There are storage areas beneath the rear seats and the available RamBox, which is lockable and has been redone with better lids and an AC power outlet on the driver’s side box. RamBox is only available on the shorter-bed crew cab.
According to Ryan Nagode, Chief of Interior Design for Ram, the goal of designing the new interior was to “design the best interior of any truck on the market.” The crown jewel of that new design is the available 12-inch fully configurable touchscreen that can display the navigation map across the entire 12-inch screen, or be divided in half to operate two different applications at once. Two additional center stack designs include 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 will also be available, which helps 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 will be optional, delivering 900-watts with a 10-inch subwoofer.
The 2019 Ram 1500 is available in Crew Cab and Quad Cab configurations with six trim levels offered: Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Limited. Rebel is the off-road-specific model. At introduction, the 2019 will only be available with two different bed lengths, leaving out the eight-foot bed for now. Additionally, it is only offered in two different cab lengths. For those who want a regular cab version of the Ram 1500 you’ll have to buy the previous generation.
Initially, only a 395-horsepower, 310 lb-ft torque 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine will be available. Shortly thereafter comes the 305-horsepower, 269 lb-ft torque Pentastar V-6 that will feature the standard eTorque mild hybrid system with automatic stop-start technology. It also adds up to 90-lb-ft of additional torque. At a later date, the eTorque system will be added to the 395-horsepower Hemi engine, adding up to an additional 130 lb-ft torque. An updated, more fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic transmission is paired with both engines. Both rear and four-wheel drive are offered.
We also expect to see the 3.0-Liter eco diesel to return and should be very close to the 240-horsepower diesel currently offered in the Ram 1500. As of this writing, we do not have exact dates for either the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 or the 3.0-liter diesel availability.
The Ram 1500 we mostly drove was the Laramie Longhorn powered by the Hemi V-8 engine. We immediately noticed the improved ride quality in a truck that was already the most comfortable of any full-sized truck. The Hemi proves to be an excellent engine, delivering powerful acceleration and passing capabilities.
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. It has not been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the non-profit, independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at the time of this review.
Overall the new Ram is superb by any measure. To be sure, pickup trucks are the workhorses of modern America and built to handle that assignment with aplomb. But the new Ram goes well beyond and appeals to the “never-never” (never haul, never tow) audience to become everyday commuter transportation and for weekend hobbies and activities. Whether you swing a hammer, tow a boat, horse trailer, or just enjoy driving a truck, the new Ram will exceed all your needs and expectations in a refined, comfortable and even luxuriously opulent way.
2019 Ram 1500 is available in Crew Cab and Quad Cab configurations with six trim levels: Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn and Limited.
Base price ranges from $33,340 to $59,335.
Fuel Economy (city/highway): 15/22
What I loved: Smoothest, quietest full-sized pickup on the market; advanced integrated technology, safety, and driver assist features; upper trim models equipped with luxury car-like interiors.