2019 Ram 1500 Preview

The current-generation Ram 1500 has been around since the fall of 2008. That’s a long period for a life cycle of a vehicle, especially one that has to satisfy the wants and needs of so many people. The fact that it’s still selling like hot cakes is proof that the company designed a brilliant pickup truck—despite the financial and organisational torment it was going through. Remember, the North American automotive industry hit a brick wall in 2007, at about the same time that DaimlerChrysler sold the Chrysler Group to Cerberus Capital Management.

Almost ten years later, the Ram 1500 and Ram HD racked up almost 100,000 sales in 2017 in Canada. That’s a huge amount of trucks, but it was high time to give the light-duty pickup a redesign.

And a full redesign it got. Even the Ram logo is new.

The 2019 Ram 1500 will be making its official debut at the Detroit Auto Show, but in mid-December, The Car Guide had the opportunity to get a preview of the truck at the Chrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Lighter, Stiffer, More Refined

It rides on a new platform with a frame made from a greater amount of high-strength steel—98% to be exact—which reduces its weight by 100 pounds compared to the outgoing generation. For the first time, active tuned mass modules (ATMM) have been installed on the chassis, under the front-seat area, which reduce the amplitude of mechanical vibrations.

The suspension has been reworked, improving roll stiffness by 20%, along with new shock absorbers that include what FCA calls Frequency Response Damping Technology (FRD), which provides higher stability during cornering and heavy braking as well as softer damping over rough surfaces. Along with a new generation of the automaker’s four-corner air suspension, which has been an option in the Ram 1500 for a few years now, the truck’s ride quality should be greatly improved. Obviously, we’ll confirm that once we drive it.

Photo: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

More Aerodynamic, But Familiar Look

Despite its age, the Ram 1500 still looked good, and FCA did a good job of keeping it attractive with countless special-edition variants that boasted either wild paint jobs or more aggressive grille designs. The new truck’s styling is sharper, with more details in the front fascia of certain trim levels and, of course, more chrome. There’s no more whip antenna on the front fender, a welcome cosmetic upgrade, and the exhaust tips are bigger in diameter for a more aggressive look at the rear. Aerodynamic drag has been reduced slightly to 0.357—down from 0.360—and FCA claims the 2019 Ram 1500 is the slipperiest pickup on the market.

The Crew Cab short bed version rides on a 3670-millimetre (144.5-inch) wheelbase, while the long bed’s is 3899 mm (153.5 inches). The less spacious Quad Cab long bed variant is built on a 3569-mm (140.5-inch) wheelbase. Here’s something new: every Ram 1500 will have four doors, as the regular cab version is history.

The Crew Cab has been stretched by 10 centimetres (four inches), and the company claims it’s the largest interior in its class. The front doors are an inch longer for easier entry and exit, and the rear section of the cabin—behind the rear doors, actually—is longer so that the rear seatbacks can now be reclined. The Quad Cab’s dimensions haven’t really changed, but since it shares the Crew Cab’s front doors, the rear ones are an inch narrower.

An Electrified Ram

At launch, the 2019 Ram 1500 will be available with two powertrains. The good old 5.7-litre HEMI V8 is obviously back, still producing 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. The more rational 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 develops 305 hp and 269 lb.-ft. as before, too. Both are managed by eight-speed automatic transmissions. The turbo-diesel, 3.0-litre V6 will take a break for now, but FCA says it will be back next year.

However, a mild hybrid system called eTorque, similar to the one introduced on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler, is matched to the gasoline V6 engine and is available with the V8. Instead of a conventional alternator, eTorque is an electric motor generator and a 48-volt battery pack that provide a seamless start/stop system, brake energy regeneration and a little extra torque in certain driving situations.

Along with a total weight savings of 225 pounds, according to FCA, the 2019 Ram 1500 is said to boast enhanced fuel economy, although numbers have yet to be confirmed. However, a Max Tow Package helps the new pickup pull up to 5783 kilograms (12,750 pounds), while payload capacity can reach 1043 kg (2300 lbs.). In comparison, the current Ram can tow up to 10,640 lbs. and carry up to 1790 lbs., and the Ford F-150 still has the lead on both counts.

Photo: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

A Ram 1500 for Everyone

As before, and just like its main rivals, the new Ram will aim to please just about any type of buyer with various trim levels and appearance packages.

The base Tradesman is for the working man or woman, with vinyl seats, black bumpers and a black grille and 18-inch alloy wheels. A Chrome package is optional, as is 20-inch wheels. Next up is the Big Horn with cloth seats, bright bumpers and a few other upgrades, while a Sport package and a Monochrome package are available. Wheel sizes range from 18 to 20 inches as well.

The Rebel is the off-road variant of the bunch with a unique grille design, black tailgate lettering, skid plates, leather and cloth seats as well as a black and red interior colour scheme. A monochrome package is optional. The Laramie starts raising the 2019 Ram 1500’s luxury level a couple of notches with fancier headlight clusters, suede upholstery, heated and ventilated rear seats (a segment exclusivity for now), wheels ranging from 18 to 22 inches as well as Black, Chrome and Sport packages.

The Limited has a “metallic feel” with chrome-trimmed LED headlight clusters, LED taillights, chromed bumpers and door handles, body-colour fender flares and 20-inch wheels. Its options list includes 22-inch wheels and body-colour bumpers. Finally, there’s the range-topping Longhorn with barn-style interior wood trim, 20- or 22-inch wheels and an optional two-tone paint job.

New and Improved Features, and a 12-inch Uconnect System

The Rambox lockable storage bins are larger and no longer have big, ungainly release buttons on them. The tailgate now has a soft-open operation and can be opened with the keyfob. Power-retractable running boards and a panoramic dual-pane sunroof are now available, too. The MOPAR accessory list offers more than 200 items at the moment, including fold-down rear step corners for accessing the truck’s bed.

Photo: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Inside, a new generation of Uconnect infotainment systems is offered, including one with an 8.4-inch screen, which we’ve seen in various FCA products. However, the 2019 Ram 1500 is now available with a big 12-inch touchscreen on the centre stack. Among other interior upgrades are a 900-watt, 19-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo with active noise cancellation, a 360-degree camera system, remote app lock and unlock, smart watch connectivity, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot (data plan required) and SiriusXM 360L with on-demand content (subscription required after a one-year trial).

The centre console includes sliding cupholders to hold a wider variety of containers, and the storage bin can now conceal a 15-inch laptop computer. In fact, FCA claims the Ram 1500 offers the most interior storage volume of any pickup. Under the storage bin lid, moulded into the plastic, is information such as fraction to decimal conversion charts, rulers, angle calculators, wrench size conversions and trigonometric ratios. A bunch of USB ports has also been sprinkled throughout the cabin to keep everyone’s portable devices charged up.

Last but not least, available safety features include adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation, lane keep assist as well as a blind spot monitoring that can include a trailer of up to 40 feet.

Lighter, more efficient, more modern and more refined, the 2019 Ram 1500 seems well armed and armoured to do battle with the Ford F-150 and eventually grab hold of its coveted best-selling vehicle in Canada title. It goes on sale in the first quarter of 2018.

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