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  • First Drive: 2019 Ram 1500

    Posted on March 27th, 2018 ninarussin

    Light-duty pickups focus on style and functionality

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

    2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

    Since Ram split off from Dodge in 2009, the brand has experienced a major growth spurt, with annual sales jumping from 260,000 to 700,000 units last year. Product planners hope that the newest generation of light-duty pickups tagged for the 2019 model year will maintain the momentum, with increased towing and hauling capacity, new styling and upgraded interiors.

    Pricing for the base Tradesman work model starts at $31,695 excluding delivery, while the upscale Limited grade is priced from $53,890. Base MSRP for the off-road oriented Rebel is $43,995.

    Buyers can choose between the newest-generation Pentastar V-6 and Hemi V-8 engines. Mild hybrid technology improves fuel economy as well as the performance of the auto-stop feature.

    Family-friendly

    2019 Ram 1500 Limited

    2019 Ram 1500 Limited

    Since many truck owners now use their pickups as primary vehicles, the new Ram crew cabs feature larger interiors, with second-row seats that recline up to eight degrees and-also flip up stadium style for additional storage. New infotainment technology includes an available 12-inch radio with the latest digital technology from Sirius, 4G LTE Wi Fi hotspot, Harman Kardon 900-watt audio system and multiple USB and 12-volt plug-ins.

    Exterior designers have completed the transition to the new grille design, replacing the former Ram’s head with crossbars with a new RAM emblem. Three headlamp styles include base halogens on the Tradesman, chrome-surround LEDs on upscale models and mid-level LEDs for the Rebel. There are 15 new wheel designs ranging from steel wheels to 22-inch alloy rims.

    A new rear bumper has a two-step feature for easier access, while a dampened tailgate function keeps that hardware from getting damaged. Blind spot monitoring integrated into the tail lamps functions for both the truck and a trailer.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman

    2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman

    At a recent media event, I had the opportunity to drive the Tradesman Crew Cab 4X4 on roads around Scottsdale, Arizona as well as the Bush Highway to the east. I also drove the Rebel on a mild off-road course in the area that included some hills and sand washes.

    While it is one of the less expensive models in the lineup, the Tradesman is a well-equipped truck, with ample power from the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine. The engine produces 395-horsepower and up to 410 pound-feet of torque for maximum hauling capability. The eight-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears, with no obvious shift shock under normal driving conditions.

    Two of the most noticeable differences in light-duty pickups over the past decade have come in the areas of ride comfort and interior fit and finish. Ram 1500s equipped with the optional Hemi engine get new active tune mass modules mounted on the side frames work with the interior active noise cancellation to minimize ambient noises that travel through the chassis.

    2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman

    2019 Ram 1500 Tradesman

    Optional air suspension on the test truck gives the pickup the ride comfort of a passenger sedan and-also includes load-leveling capability. A new technology called frequency response damping modifies shock damping during cornering and braking for firmer response and softer response over rough roads.

    Use of high-strength steel throughout the chassis makes the truck more rigid for improved steering feedback. Engineers minimized weight gain by making the hood and tailgate out of lightweight aluminum.

    Visibility around the truck perimeter is surprisingly good. As part of the drive I was helping a videographer to film a segment: an activity that involved a lot of back and forth with tight turns. The standard rearview camera eliminates blind spots around the rear pillars and beneath the rear glass.

    Adding inches to the truck’s wheelbase, while great for interior space, does affect its turning radius. The turning diameter for the quad cab with the short cargo bed is 46.2-inches; 48.7-inches when equipped with the long bed. What that means is that U-turns are rarely an option except on very wide roads. I found myself doing a lot of three-point turns.

    Ventilated disc brakes up front and solid rotors in the rear give the pickups plenty of stopping power.

    Off-road capability

    2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

    2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

    I spent a few minutes behind the wheel of the new Ram Rebel on a mild off-road course that included some deep sand washes and a few pitchy hills. Having been behind the wheel of the Rebel before, I can comfortably say that it’s capable of much more challenging terrain. Unique suspension components, additional ground clearance, skid plates that protect sensitive chassis components, special wheels and tires are just a few of the features that give the Rebel its off-road chops.

    The truck’s only limitation is its rather long wheelbase that can make trails with tight turns a challenge.

    Versatile interior

    2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn – Black Diesel Interior

    2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn – Black Diesel Interior

    The cloth interior on the Tradesman is more practical for buyers with active lifestyles and frankly, more comfortable in the hot southwestern summers. Being a lower trim level the test truck did not come with the optional 12-inch radio. However, I found both the gauge cluster and center stack screen easy to read in bright sunlight.

    A rotary shift knob in place of the traditional shift lever opens-up space in the center console for storage. The center console bin has multiple sections for storing large items such as laptops as well as smaller electronic devices. Multiple USB and 12-volt plug-ins allow all six occupants to connect.

    I found the driver’s seat comfortable and easy to adjust for a clear forward view, with plenty of lower lumbar support.

    The flip-up rear seat is a great feature for cyclists who might want to stash their bikes inside the cab during a rain storm or when parking in a city center.

    Standard safety

    All models come with six airbags, antilock brakes, stability control with roll mitigation, hill start assist, an electric parking brake and rearview camera.

    Like: A stylish and well-equipped light-duty pickup truck with enhanced towing and hauling capacity, excellent fit and finish and new infotainment technology.

    Dislike: Longer wheelbase negatively impacts the truck’s turning radius.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Ram
    Model: 1500 Crew Cab Tradesman 4X4
    Year: 2019
    Base price: $31,695
    As tested: N/A
    Horsepower (optional hemi V-8): 395 HP @ 5600 rpm
    Torque: 410 lbs.-ft. @ 3950 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: Yes
    Towing: Yes
    Fuel economy: N/A

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