2019 Ram 1500 Review

2019 Ram 1500 - Ram's revamp raises expectations.


America knows how to' keep on truck'n.'

The ubiquitous full-size light-duty pickup continues as a sales kingpin here in the States. Brand image, profitability and technology all merge together as America's traditional Big Three automakers have or are in the process of sweeping updates.  

At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Ram trucks became a separate, stand-along brand from the sporty Dodge division in 2009.  Ram Trucks then did its own ameba-like split in 2012 when the Ram Commercial Truck Division morphed into being.

The 2019 model year next-generation redo of FCA's all-important full-size Ram 1500, adds an additional four inches of wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle), contributing to a larger and completely redesigned interior abounding with storage opportunities. The handsome 2019 Ram 1500 made its world debut this past January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

When Ford revamped its half-ton F150 in 2015 (and larger-capacity SuperDuties in 2017), an aluminum-intensive body was introduced.  Ram 1500 carries forward with a traditional, predominantly steel exterior for 2019, save for the tailgate and hood, both aluminum intensive.  A greater degree of aluminum is also found out-of-sight within engine mounts, the steering gear system and the front axle center section.

Ram's frame now includes greater use of high strength steel improving durability, a point of fact Jacob Boven, Ram 1500 Marketing Manager, shared during a packed lunch highlighting the fifth-generation Ram 1500 at the Midwest Automotive Media Association annual Road Rally in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin.  

"High-strength steel is incredibly strong," Boven stated.  "The best way to articulate high strength steel is that it adds a certain rigidity to the truck delivering ride confidence as you don't feel the bumps like you use to."

High-strength steel drops frame weight by 100 pounds while overall weight reduction reaches 225 pounds on average among the seven Ram 1500 trims.

With the advent of popular family-friendly four-door cabs, Ram has quietly shelved regular-length two-door cabs at least for now.  For 2019, Ram 1500 configuration includes four-door Quad Cabs and slightly larger Crew Cabs throughout its seven trim levels (Tradesman, HFE, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn and Limited).  

Bed lengths include a six-foot four-inch variety (available in both Quad and Crew cab configurations) or five-foot seven-inch size (available in Crew Cab exclusively).  Currently, engine selections include one V-6, one V-8. Rear drive (4x2) comes standard in all trims while four-wheel drive (4 x 4) is optional across the board.

The six-cylinder offering, a Pentastar V-6 cranks out 304 horsepower and comes standard with Ram's newly available 'eTorque,'  a 'mild' gas-electric  hybrid system perking up low-speed torque performance and padding fuel economy numbers in part through regenerative braking, a recycling and temporary storage of brake-generated electricity/energy .  Start-stop technology, part of the eTorque experience, gently quiets the engine at prolonged stops, while snapping it back to attention once the right foot lifts off the brake pedal. Ram boasts the widest use of mile hybrid technology in the segment.

A 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 generates 395 horses and comes available with or without eTorque technology.  Ram's V-8 hauls up to 12,750 pounds, for best-in-class V-8 towing. Both engines connect to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A third engine choice, a Ram Eco diesel, arrives later in the 2019 calendar year. No matter if filling the standard 23-gallon tank or optional 33-gallon variety, a capless, self-sealing fuel lead negates the need for a plastic twist cap.

Depending upon the trim chosen, each Ram 1500 incorporates its own distinguished front grille scheme with prominent R-A-M lettering front and center. The crosshair/quad-formation design from generations past has hit the road. All trims include low-tech but highly effective convex wide-angle corner inserts better identifying side blind spots within driver's side outside mirror.

The aluminum tailgate not only includes a damper, gently guiding the hinged door downward rather than a disarming 'thud,' but an electronic latch and lock mechanism allows a tailgate drop via a push of a key-fob button or interior dash button available in the upper three trims.

Our tester for the week, a Big Horn 4 x 4 Crew Cab came in with a $41,895 starting price.  A few scant options include $995 for LED fog and tail lamps, a $795 bed utility group, $195 for protective rear wheelhouse liners and $2,400 'Level Two' equipment group.  The 5.7-liter V-8 engine added $1,195 for a bottom line of $49,120 including a $1,645 destination charge.

The lowest-price Ram 1500, a V-6-powered 4 x2 Quad Cab Tradesman starts at $31,695. At the spectrums opposite end, a 4 x 4 Limited Crew Cab with V-8 Hemi checks in at $57,390 (before popular options). Historically, the Big Horn represented Ram's best-selling trim.

Big Horn's comfortable cloth seating included room for six adults when requested.  With the front middle position used sparingly, the center backrest folds forward and flat, revealing a backside built-in cup holders and convenient storage bin.

The previous generation Ram 1500 enjoyed a prominent 8.4-inch in-dash multi-function screen possessing one of the industry's top user-friendly designs with well-marked buttons, logical tutorials and finger-tip activated volume and preset toggle bars on the steering wheel's back side.  While this 8.4-inch set up continues as standard fare, Ram supersizes the screen to an IMAX-sized (for a traveling vehicle at least) ultra-customizable 12 inches (the segment's largest) available in its top three trims and part of Ram's fourth-generation of Uconnect.

Standard across the board, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing cell phone feeds and interaction with either sized screen. Ram also includes a bevy of portable electronic plug-in portals.  Our Big Horn included two pair of auxiliary/iPad ports in front and back.

Ram's all-new interior took cargo cues from family-friendly Chrysler and Dodge minivans by incorporating lots of neat storage opportunities, adding up to 151 liters of interior storage volume, miles ahead of the pickup pack (in fact, twice as much as its closest rival).

Built-into-the-floor, deep-depth 'Ram bins' flank the second-row's flat load floor at both ends, and grow larger in 2019.  Our Big Horn tester's cloth rear seats folded up in a "V" fashion (with no passengers present, of course), opening up a cavernous, dry interior region for storing and moving cargo.

Push-button start comes standard, and resides high upon the dash far enough away from steering column stalks. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts via an electronic dashboard dial.  Nearby, electronic, on-demand, push buttons shifting from rear-drive to four-wheel drive (high and low), is standard in Big Horn and the top-three trims (Tradesman HFE and Rebel opt for a part-time 4 x 4).

This big rig benefits from Ram's next-generation of electronic steering, which trades in an old-school hydraulic pump for an electronic motor, saving weight and contributing to lighter, quicker steering inputs. At highway speeds, Ram's interior remains surprisingly quiet.

Once again, four-corner air suspension is an available option.  Introduced in 2013, this feature creates the smoothest ride offered in a full-size pickup, ideal for families spending more time on rather than off road. Standard across the spectrum; a link-coil rear suspension contributing to a less-rattled ride and contributing to one of the quietest cabins in its class without sacrificing towing or hauling capabilities.

Returning by popular demand and adding to the strong storage saga; long, lockable exterior "Ram Boxes" framing the upper portion of the side bed in select five-foot seven-inch beds.  

Blind-spot monitoring with trailer extension, extending the reach of the blind-spot view to the rear of the trailer. "It's incredibly intuitive and easy," commented Ram's Boven.  "Go to the center stack and push a button activating trailer extension. After a few small turns to the left or right, the system will automatically detects the length of the trailer. You don't have to be a trailer genius."

2019 Ram 1500 At a Glance
Price as tested: $49,120
Engine:   5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower: 395
Wheelbase: 144.6 inches
Overall Width:  82.1 inches
Overall Length:  232.9 inches
Overall Height:    77.6 inches
Powertrain Warranty: Five year/60,000 miles
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city,  21 mpg highway
Assembly:  Sterling Heights Michigan

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.