Wednesday, November 28, 2018



When Ram designers and engineers sat down four years ago or so to create the next generation half-ton 1500 pickup, they were given a blank sheet of paper and the goal of producing a no-compromise truck that, according to Brad Pinter, 1500 brand manager, would be the strongest and most technologically advanced Ram the company had ever built.

One week in it pretty much convinced me they had more than accomplished their goals with the 2019 Ram 1500.

This is a full-size pickup that even a non-truck guy like myself can appreciate — stunning in looks, powerful in performance, and packed with easy-to-use techno features. It's big, but handles more nimbly than you might think as well.

Apparently, consumers like it. Ram 1500 sales were up over 20 percent for October, accounting for more than half of  total Ram sales in what was a record for the brand that month.

The Ram 1500 comes in several trims for 2019 starting with the base Tradesman and continuing on up the line with HFE, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited.

As has become customary with pickup trucks, you can get the trims in different cab, bed length, and powertrain combinations. The Quad Cab with a 6-foot, 4-inch bed is standard in Tradesman, HFE, Big Horn, Rebel, and Laramie models, and a Crew Cab with a 5-7 box is standard on the Longhorn and Limited trims. The Crew Cab with a 6-4 bed is optional on some trims as well.

Also, 4X2 configuration is standard across the line with 4X4 as an option on all but HFE trim.

The V6 Pentastar engine mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission and feature what Ram calls “eTorque” mild hybrid system is standard with the V6, but yes, the Ram 1500 also has a HEMI.

The 5.7-liter V8 that pumps horsepower up to 395 and torque to 410 pound-feet from the 305/269 on the V6 is available on all but HFE models. It also comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The eTorque system, which Ram says “combines belt-drive motor generator unit with 48-volt battery pack to enable start/stop function, short-term torque assist and brake energy regeneration,” also is available on the HEMI, adding 130 pound-feet of torque for even more pulling power.

The Ram 1500 I had for the week was the Limited Crew Cab 4X4 which with a base of $56,195 starts at the top of the food chain when it comes to price. But there are 10 models offered with a starting price at under $40,000.

Naturally, the Limited comes with a lot of bells and whistles as standard, including the UConnect 4C Nav system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging pad, 9-speaker audio system, wood/leather wrapped and heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, rear under-the-seat storage (actually, there are tons of places to store items, including a huge console bin), heated second-row seats, SiriusXM satellite radio with a one-year subscription, 20-inch wheels, power running boards, LED bed lighting, and automatic high beam headlamp control.

If that's not enough, this one came with optional packages that took the 1500 Limited to even greater heights. The Level 1 Equipment Group (Harman Kardon Premium sound system, adaptive cruise control, advance brake assist and full-speed forward collision warning, ventilated rear seats, parking assist, and surround-view camera added $2,695 to the starting MSRP, but the HEMI engine was the only other option over $1,000. The off-road package adds $795.

All that and the $1,695 destination and delivery cost ran the total to $64,800, which  is another indication of how far pickups have advanced since the day when they were essentially mechanized workhorses with maybe three riders crowded into the front bench seat.

With generous use of leather trim on the inside, including the bucket seats, the Ram 1500 is right at home sashaying up any country club drive.

Passengers will find it spacious and comfortable. Legroom is a generous 40.9 inches up front in both the Quad and Crew Cab and 39.2/39.8 in the back for the Quad and Crew Cab, respectively.

There are also little touches like an adjustable air suspension, keyless go and remote start, blind-spot and cross-traffic warning, and a remote release for the tailgate. The tailgate, by the way, is one of the areas where aluminum was used in construction in place of high-strength steel to shave about 225 pounds off the previous Ram 1500.

Overall, the time those designers and engineers spent filling up that "clean sheet” handed them has paid off in one fine truck, and I am not alone in thinking so.

Most recently, Motor Trend recognized it as its 2019 Truck of the Year. Earlier, Green Car Journal named it its 2019 Green Truck of the Year, and Texas auto writers chose the Ram 1500 as Texas Truck of the Year.

And last summer, the Southern Automotive Media Association even recognized it for one of its awards at its annual Topless in Miami convertible competition for its dual-pane, panoramic sunroof (standard on Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited editions).

What I liked about the 2018 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4: The infotainment display is, in a word, spectacular. The best thing about the double-screen display is that it is very user friendly. The only issue I had was finding the clock, and that was because somebody had turned it off. The power running boards (standard on Limited trim) are a must, and the power liftgate (also standard on the Limited trim) is a nice feature.

What I didn’t like about the 2018 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4: Frankly, there’s nothing not to like here when it comes to a pickup truck.

Would I buy the about the 2018 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4? I have no real need for a pickup truck, especially a full-size one, but if you need one, you’re making a mistake if you don’t stop by a Ram showroom and take one out for a test drive. It is a remarkable truck.

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