The new 2013 RAM 1500 may be a little too familiar. With essentially the same silhouette since 1994, what’s so new about it? Bolstered by an already solid base, the folks at RAM wisely chose not to mess with a winning formula. After all, the previous version finished second to the F-150 in our comparison last year. So, with its refined aerodynamics, some elegant new touches and clever technical details, is the 2013 edition simply an evolution of the previous model? Let’s take a closer look.
V6 Pentastar: A winning combination
The widely renowned 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar is new for 2013 and is only paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. This combination produces 305 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 269 lbs-ft of torque at 4,175 rpm. This translates into 42% more power and 13% more torque than the V6 that it’s replacing, not to mention a 20% reduction in fuel consumption. The 2,955 kg (6,500 lbs) towing capacity is the best in the category. Ford’s 3.7-litre tows 2,773 kg (6,100 lbs) while Chevrolet’s 4.3-litre tows 2,455 kg (5,400 lbs).
It’s available with a regular, extended or Crew cab, and with two- or four-wheel drive. On the regular cab version, there’s HFE (High Fuel Efficiency), which includes the stop-start system, an interesting solution for use in an urban setting.
The 4.7-litre V8 with six-speed automatic transmission remains largely unchanged for 2013.
Beginning in 2013, the robust 5.7-litre V8 will feature an eight-speed automatic transmission adapted to the Hemi’s gargantuan torque. It still develops 395 horsepower at 5,600 rpm as well as 407 lbs-ft at 3,950, and compares favourably to its rivals in terms of power and towing capacity. Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 tows 4,546 kg (10,000 lbs) and Chevrolet’s 5.3-litre V8 tows 4,546 kg (10,000 lbs) too. Note, however, that Ford’s 3.5-litre V6 EcoBoost can tow 5,136 kg (11,300 lbs) and the 6.2-litre Chevrolet V8 up to 4,853 kg (10,700 lbs).
Improved energy efficiency, new chassis and air suspension
Fuel economy was improved with the introduction of clever technology, such as like the radiator’s active grille shutter system that, when closed, makes this Ram more aerodynamic. Furthermore, the models equipped with an eight-speed transmission also have a complete engine-transmission thermal management system. These systems improve fuel economy by about 2%.
The new, more rigid, hydroformed frame and the new aluminum lower control arms on the front suspension decrease the vehicle’s weight by 14 kg. Meanwhile, the new, entirely electric, rack-and-pinion steering comes factory standard on the whole line-up. The rear suspension is still the highly efficient multi-link. Arriving with much fanfare for 2013 is the four-wheel air suspension offered on versions with extended and Crew cabs (except HFE). Inflatable bags replace the springs and balance things out while keeping watch over the total weight on board. It has four special operating modes: Aero lowers the vehicle 15 mm on the highway; Off-Road 1 and Off-Road 2 raise the vehicle by 30 and 20 mm (50 mm in total); and Park mode, controlled from either the inside or the keychain, lowers the vehicle by 50 mm. By the way, I can confirm that both off-road modes are very efficient. Note that the 1.9 m (6’4”) is now offered with the Crew cab.
Refined body and sophisticated interior
The classic RAM look remains intact with a slightly reworked front end and new quad headlamp design to improve aerodynamics and lighting. A new aluminum hood helps it shed 12 kg. Inside, the new layout of the materials ranges from plain vinyl to sophisticated high-end leathers. Buyers looking for a vehicle that is both practical and comfortable for the whole family will be pleased; the RAM has something for all tastes and budgets.
A new central dashboard includes the Uconnect screens and ventilation controls. In the bottom section, two rows of buttons control the secondary functions. The most interesting is on the left: a large dial controls the P, R, N and D settings of the eight-speed transmission. Manual shifting is accomplished using two buttons on the steering wheel. It’s a tad confusing at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly and, boy does it ever work! Finally, the 4x4 controls, offered on all models except the HFE, are located under the transmission button. The versions with the six-speed transmission use a traditional stick shift on the steering column or in the central console.
Behind the standard tilt steering wheel, where the on-board computer is housed, there are two large round gauges for speed and rpm, as well as two secondary gauges for the temperature and fuel level. The standard on-board computer is controlled easily using four buttons on the steering wheel. An entirely configurable seven-speed colour screen is also offered.
The manually controlled seats are comfortable, although I would have preferred a little more support on the sides. Power seats are also available. In all cases, the driving position is excellent and the central console adds to the comfort over long distances.
Powernet architecture and the Uconnect system
Powernet, a first for the RAM 1500, provides communication between the vehicle’s electronic components and the new progressive generation of Uconnect radios. It’s the ultimate in the Uconnect line-up: the 8.4A and 8.4AN series with 8.4-inch colour touch-screen that makes the interaction with contemporary technology and supports the creation of a Wi-Fi hotspot in the cabin and even lets you “text” orally.
There’s a tire pressure monitoring system that automatically resynchronizes after a tire rotation and a unified locking system for the doors, the RamBox compartments and the hatch. On option, there’s a backup camera with dynamic guiding lines that move according to your trajectory.
The passive and active security comes courtesy of six airbags and the usual driving aides.
On the road
The new chassis is remarkable, with surprisingly good stability on winding roads. Meanwhile, the power steering is precise and well assisted. On the highway, cruise control is recommended, since it’s easy to find yourself going at a very fast speed. The brakes are easy to apply and have stamina even with a 2,000 kg (4,400 lbs) trailer. However, we weren’t able to test the towing at high speed.
The RAM 1500 sets the bar very high, as the solutions adopted to improve efficiency, comfort and handling are impressive. It’s a big vehicle – there’s no denying it – but at the wheel, you wouldn’t know it. It remains to be seen if the excellent chassis is up to the challenge of Canadian roads.
With an irreproachable appearance and almost indecent levels of finish, it’s easy to understand why more and more and RAM buyers own just one vehicle. Offering a very complete basic equipment level and prices ranging from $26,995 to more than $54,995 MSRP, it’s a safe bet that the sales curve will continue on its upward trend.
|Test model||2013 RAM 1500|
|Trim level||Outdoorsman 4x4 Quad Cab (6.3')|
|Price range||$26,995 - $57,200|
|Price as tested||$40,495|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Fuel economy (city/highway/observed)||15.8 / 10.8 / N/A l/100km|
|Competitive models||Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra|
|Value for price|