2013 Ram 1500Posted on August 24th, 2012
Light-duty pickups get leaner, meaner and smarter
By Nina Russin
The all-new 2013 Ram 1500 series is the second generation of light duty pickup trucks to roll out since the brand split with its long-time partner, Dodge. Dividing the brands in the fall of 2009 made Ram Chrysler’s second pure-truck brand. While Jeep focuses on adventurous lifestyles, Ram is all about work.
Ram’s aggressive styling and innovative cargo features have made it one of the top-selling truck brands. As fuel prices rise and car budgets shrink, the new Ram series offers buyers better fuel economy, enhanced connectivity and new cargo options. At the same time, Ram is keeping MSRPs commensurate with comparable outgoing models.
Pricing for 2013 models ranges from $22,590 for the rear-wheel drive Tradesman to $47,420 for the four-wheel drive Laramie Longhorn crew cab. MSRPs do not include the $995 destination charge.
Adjustable air suspension on 2013 models can change ride height according to the terrain, and has built-in load leveling. The base Pentastar V-6 engine which debuted in the current Jeep Grand Cherokee is more fuel efficient. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is three seconds faster than the 3.7-liter block it replaces.
The engine and all-new eight-speed automatic transmission are 76 pounds lighter than the components they replace. Using high-strength steel throughout the chassis shaved off another thirty pounds.
A high fuel efficiency model combines the new V-6 powertrain with electric power steering, engine off-at-idle, low rolling resistance tires, redesigned side steps and a rear tonneau cover to yield 18/25 mile-per-gallon fuel economy according to the EPA. In the first quarter of 2013, the new eight-speed automatic becomes available with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, improving that powertrain’s gas mileage as well.
A new thermal management system heats up the engine and transmission faster, reducing fluid viscosity and improving gas mileage. Active shutters in the front of the car regulate air through the engine bay to cool it more efficiently. A redesigned front air dam is taller than the one on the outgoing model, and built out of flexible materials to resist damage during off-road driving.
Buyers can choose between the new V-6 or two V-8 engines, regular, quad and crew cab models with rear or four-wheel drive, short or long cargo boxes, and six trim levels: Tradesman, Express, SLT, R/T, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn.
Test drive in Tennessee
At a recent media event in Nashville, I had the chance to get behind the wheel of both the V-6 and Hemi V-8 Ram 150 on surface streets, highways and rural roads. I also took the V-8 model on an obstacle course which demonstrated the difference the two additional inches of ground clearance makes on uneven terrain.
Although the Hemi engine’s abundance of power has undeniable appeal, the new Pentastar V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission deserve a serious look among buyers who don’t plan to haul heavy loads. The 305-horsepower engine accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 7.5 seconds, and can tow up to 6500 pounds.
The new air suspension gives the full-sized truck passenger car handling. The air suspension can make the truck “kneel down” at a stop, lowering the chassis two inches below ride height. This makes access and egress much easier, especially on models without running boards.
At speeds over 62 miles-per-hour, the suspension automatically goes into an aero mode, lowering the chassis slightly for better gas mileage. There are two off-road modes, which raise the truck 1.2-inches or two inches above normal ride height in order to clear obstacles. The suspension also has a self-leveling feature which keeps the chassis flat when the truck is hauling a heavy payload or towing a trailer.
An electric power steering system saves weight and reduces parasitic power loss as compared to the hydraulic unit it replaces. Engineers tuned the system for improved on-center response on the highway. I found the steering in both trucks provided plenty of low-speed assist, with a pleasantly heavy feel at speed. Parking on the street was surprisingly easy for a big truck. The turning diameter for the four-wheel drive short bed truck with 20-inch tires is 39.8 feet.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the truck in a firm, linear fashion.
Minimizing wind noise is a challenge on a high-profile vehicle with two-box architecture. Over the past four years, Ram has significantly raised its fit and finish quality both inside and outside the vehicle. The new ram interior is as quiet as a passenger car, enabling two rows of passengers to converse on the highway or enjoy the sound system.
Visibility around the perimeter is quite good. Convex inserts on the outside mirrors make it easier to monitor vehicles to either side. The rearview camera provides a wide-angle view to the back, eliminating blind spots below the driver’s sightline. The camera also provides a view of the trailer hitch area.
A wide range of interior options give the Ram the ability to hold up to five adult passengers. While some customers might enjoy the leather interior, I like the cloth with rubber floor mats. Both are easy to clean out after a hard day on the trails.
All Chrysler brands benefit from years of experience designing minivan interiors. For that reason, Ram trucks have some of the most innovative interior packaging designs on the market. A couple of examples on the new model include a dual glovebox, bottle holder inserts in the door pockets, and a large center console bin which can easily hold an iPad.
A 115-volt outlet at the base of the center stack enables the front passenger to plug in a computer. A new 8.4 Uconnect system available on 2013 Ram models makes the truck a roving hot spot with downloadable apps.
Buyers can also add Uconnect access, which works by pressing buttons on the rearview mirror. The Uconnect button connects the driver with a remote switchboard for roadside. The emergency button notifies the police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision.
Although not all of the apps were functional at the time of vehicle launch, the functions which were live, including lists of nearby gas stations with gasoline prices, worked well.
The available navigation system is easy to program, with large bright graphics. Temperature and audio controls are easy to access and intuitive to use.
The rear of the crew cab passenger bay is surprisingly spacious. Although I didn’t have a chance to try it, the second-row area appears to have enough room between the front seatbacks and second-row seats to stash a road bike in a pinch, assuming the wheels are removed. Handles on both A and B pillars ease access and egress to both rows of seating.
A better cargo box
By extending the running boards all the way back to the cargo box, engineers not only enhanced the Ram’s aerodynamic profile; they made it much easier to access the cargo area from the sides. A single key fob locks both the tailgate and optional RamBox storage bays. A bed extender gives the short bed room for longer items without adding to the truck’s overall length.
The Ram 1500 pickup comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, trailer sway control, traction and electronic stability control. Hill start assist prevents the truck from sliding backwards when the driver accelerates on a steep grade from a stop.
All-new Ram 1500 series trucks roll into dealerships this October.
Like: Dodge has once again raised the bar for its light-duty pickup trucks with a more fuel-efficient powertrain, new air suspension and connectivity options. The new trucks combine true workhorse capability with the comfort of a passenger car.
Model: 1500 Series
Base price: $36,740 (4X4 Crew SLT); $43,615 (4X4 Crew Laramie)
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 305 Hp @ 6400 rpm (V-6); 395 Hp @ 5600 rpm (Hemi V-8)
Torque: 269 lbs.-ft @ 4175 rpm (V-6); 407 lbs.-ft. @ 3950 rpm (Hemi V-8)
Zero-to-sixty: 7.5 seconds (V-6)
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway*
Comment: Fuel economy listed is for the V-6 High Fuel Efficiency model
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