2013 RAM 1500 Crew CabPosted on June 3rd, 2013
Refined pickup claims gas-mileage bragging rights
By Bob Golfen
Ram upped the ante this year in the full-size pickup-truck competition, adding best-in-class fuel economy to traditional worksite boasts about payload, towing capacity and durability.
For 2013, Ram 1500 was fitted with Chrysler’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that generates 305 horsepower, and which helps the two-wheel-drive versions of the half-ton pickup hit an EPA-estimated 17 city and 25 highway.
That’s quite a feat for a vehicle that weighs two-and-a-half tons and must punch a huge hole through the air at highway speeds. Towing capacity is also impressive at 6,500 pounds.
The V6 engine doesn’t accomplish the mileage numbers completely on its own. Ram’s fuel efficiency is also boosted by a sophisticated eight-speed transmission, sleeker aerodynamics and a reduction in weight. The V6 is more efficient with improved fuel injection and a stop/start system, which turns off the engine when the truck is standing still instead of wastefully idling.
Ram boasts that the new 3.6 liter has 42 percent more horsepower, 13 percent more torque and 20 percent better fuel economy than the old 3.7-liter V6 that it replaced.
Ram still offers the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with its booming 395 horsepower and 407 foot-pounds, which the truck maker says offers top fuel economy for V8-powered pickups, though significantly lower than its own V6 models. Naturally, four-wheel-drive versions with either engine get slightly lower fuel mileage.
The base, regular-cab Ram 1500 starts off at $23,585, while the well-equipped SLT Crew Cab that I drove had a starting price of $33,820. With a premium interior, Uconnect audio/navigation/accessibility package and a few other safety and convenience options, the bottom line came out to $38,990.
Ram’s newfound fuel efficiency, as well as its overall driving refinement, makes it a practical adventure truck for active people with stuff to carry, such as bikes, kayaks or camping supplies. Plus, a back seat that is spacious and comfortable. The unique RamBox side bins add roomy, lockable outside stowage.
Ram’s upgraded economy is a direct challenge to Ford’s F-150, whose best-selling model since 2011 has been powered by the EcoBoost turbocharged V6 rather than the customary V8. The popular success of the turbo-V6 pickups was something of a watershed moment for truck folks, who have long favored big, ole V8 engines.
Now Ram follows suit, although its mileage tops the F-150, which has an EPA rating of 16 city and 22 highway for the base two-wheel drive version.
Chevrolet/GMC pickups with 2WD and powered by the warhorse 4.3-liter V6 engines get 15 city and 20 highway, according to the EPA. The Toyota Tundra V6 gets similar mileage at 16 city and 20 highway, while Nissan’s modest-selling Titan comes with a V8 only.
Coming soon: a V6-diesel option for Ram 1500, the first of its kind in the U.S.
Despite its size and heft, the 1500 proved quite maneuverable and easy to drive, although its looming bigness takes some getting used to for someone not accustomed to full-size trucks. In Arizona, which is bona fide truck country, Ram and other big pickups are everywhere you look; lots of people (OK, mostly guys) use them as personal transportation and family haulers, rather than work trucks. So my brawny test truck fit right in.
And the fuel mileage was indeed impressive, averaging better than 21 mpg in a mix of driving, according to the trip computer. The V6 is no slug, either, providing decent if not sparkling acceleration. The nod still goes to F-150 for its stronger turbo-V6 engine response.
The latest Ram doesn’t look all that much different from when the all-new version debuted as a 2009 model, with the same big-rig look that has proven so popular over the years. For the 2013 Ram, subtle wind-cheating body refinements have been added throughout, including active grille shutters that close off excessive airflow at highway speeds.
The body appears cleaner and smoother because of the aerodynamic efforts, and the sidesteps stretch from wheelwell to wheelwell for the sake of a lower drag coefficient, which Ram says comes to an impressive (for a pickup truck) rating of 0.36.
There’s also an optional air suspension that’s calibrated to raise or lower the ride height for optimal efficiency, although the test truck was not so equipped.
The upgraded interior in the test pickup was plush, comfortable and very roomy with space for six. The dashboard is big and broad, with clearly laid-out gauges and controls. A new dash-mounted rotary dial controls the transmission, which is a nice touch that eliminates the intrusiveness of a floor- or column-mounted shifter.
The latest sales figures for new vehicle in the U.S. show pickup trucks on the upswing, credited to the rise in construction as the economy heals. So Ram is right where it needs to be.
While Ford F-150 is the undisputed champion among trucks ‘ or any other vehicle ‘ with GM pickups close behind, Ram has been closing the gap with its redesigned models that have raised the bar for refinement and, now, fuel mileage.
Likes: Fuel economy, roomy interior, overall drivability.
Dislikes: Gigantic size and weight.
Model: 1500 SLT Crew Cab 4X2
Base price: $33,820.
As tested: $38,990.
Engine: 3.6-liter V6.
Horsepower: 305 hp @ 6,400 rpm.
Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 4,175 rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Zero to 60: NA.
Wheelbase: 140.5 inches.
Curb weight: 5,185.
Side-curtain airbags: Yes.
First-aid kit: NA
Bicycle friendly: Yes.
Off-road: In moderation.
Towing: 6,500 pounds.
Fuel economy: 17/25 mpg.
Bob Golfen is a veteran automotive writer and editor, formerly with The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com. Reach him by email at email@example.com, Luxury Offroad 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, Ram, standard safety
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