SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – The Ram pickup is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' cash cow, accounting for 37% of its total sales for 2017. Since it became its own brand after separating from Dodge in 2009, Ram has seen its total volume increase by almost 70,000 units; a massive achievement without any major design overhaul.
Ram has been on a roll and now it's finally time for that generational change with an all-new, from-the-ground-up approach in design, technology, efficiency and durability. In total, there are seven different trim levels for Canada, all with their own unique look and feel, starting with different grille options featuring the RAM logo (no more crosshair grilles) and working up into a more premium and functional cabin.
Ram has been doing a lot of things right in a pickup segment that keeps growing and that will only increase with new models also arriving from its rivals. With one of the highest loyalty followings, the Ram 1500 has been able to retain its customers, while adding more typical SUV buyers to the mix. The 2019 Ram product builds on that philosophy by aligning its truck with more of that SUV feel that's comfortable, spacious and luxurious.
One of the Quietest Trucks Ever
For this first drive event in Scottsdale, Arizona, we weren't treated to one of its new mild-hybrid eTorque engines; rather, we were provided the regular 5.7-litre HEMI V8 that produces 395 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The extra boost in eTorque that only occurs in the first half-second of take-off will have to wait for another drive program, but that allowed the focus to shift to the V8's raw power along with the new 1500’s suspension and off-roading prowess.
The most notable change is to be found in its smooth and quiet ride. A lot of that can be attributed to its new aerodynamic setup: active grille shutters, air dam and a class-exclusive air suspension that all assist the 1500 in being as smooth as it can be with a 0.357 coefficient of drag. At 56 km/h, the standard active front air dam automatically extends downward by two inches to improve both overall aerodynamics and efficiency.
On the road, the 1500 performed admirably by achieving a ride quality, traction control and handling feel that's more SUV-like than pickup. A healthy ride height is met with frisky acceleration, cornering without compromise or correction, while braking is aided by largest-in-class front brakes (14.9 inches) to stop abruptly when needed. Even though this pickup is larger than ever, its size is never felt, apart from parking manoeuvres, and all of its actions are accomplished with the elimination of any discernible body roll and vibration.
The combination of frame-mounted active tuned mass modules (ATMM) and active noise cancellation helps the 2019 Ram 1500 become the quietest truck on the market. The former is situated in its frame and allows for seamless cylinder deactivation. It doesn't drop the cylinders to only one active as in the upcoming GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado, but the whole system was barely detectable throughout the drive. Active noise cancellation continues that quiet story by reducing surrounding sounds to a minimum, creating a relaxing and unobtrusive cockpit, unheard of in the pickup segment.
When taken off the beaten path, we used the fourth-tier Rebel trim that includes an off-road package. It provides a one-inch suspension lift along with 18-inch wheels, hill descent control, a coil-spring suspension and Bilstein shocks. The trail was mostly sand with a few hill climbs causing no problems for the Ram. It powered through that desert terrain as if it was a routine Baja race. In the sand is where all its technologies came together to showcase its power, grip and balance when confronting each and every obstacle in its path, with both ease and grace.
Lighter, Longer, Wider, and Stronger
Its overall cab length increases by four inches, making the Ram best-in-class for rear legroom. The whole area in the back has been designed with the family in mind: a class-exclusive reclining rear seat, a true flat-loading floor without a hump, and the folding-up of its rear seat cushions for more storage. Considering 75 percent of Canadian sales are estimated to be Crew Cabs over Quad Cabs, it only makes sense for Ram to focus its efforts on the back seat.
As large as the 1500 is, the goal for all pickups is to be both lighter, yet stronger at the same time. The 2019 Ram 1500 achieves this through the use of advanced materials, such as in its frame, made up of 98 percent high-strength steel for a weight savings of 45 kg (100 lbs.). An aluminum hood and tailgate add more weight savings for a total of 102 kg (225 lbs.), and despite that, it hasn't stopped Ram from achieving 5783 kg (12,750 lbs.) in maximum towing capacity and 1043 kg (2300 lbs.) in max payload with help from Ram's five-link coil suspension. All substantial increases from the outgoing generation, sitting ahead of all of its competitors except for Ford's F-150.
Lastly, its tailgate shows off a power release via the keyfob, an available larger bed step, a lift assist feature and a power outlet.
An Interior Built for the New Truck User
Changes for the Ram are all-around, but are most significantly found on the inside. Having more space is clearly one of its goals with the aforementioned cab length increase of four inches and extra comfort through its reclining rear seats. In addition, there's 40 litres of storage below the rear seats to store larger objects.
The centre console is one of the largest in the business and can slide in three different ways for storage of multiple laptops, iPads, books, sunglasses and more. Once again, ease of use is key with five USB ports, four of them with faster charging capabilities than before.
The entire interior receives a fresh premium design that's been reconfigured for ample storage, function and technology. We're talking a refined experience for cabin users including soft-touch surfaces and unique design twists for each trim. Occupants are treated to class-exclusive, front and rear heated/ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, available dual-pane sunroof and available advanced safety technologies.
One of its most stunning features that can't be overlooked is its 12-inch infotainment display screen with pinch and zoom functions connected to Ram's latest Uconnect system. It looks Tesla-esque and can be customised, including a split screen featuring a 360-degree bird's eye-view camera. The disappointing part is that it's only available as an option on the Laramie trim and above, and standard on Limited. Alternatively, the base units come with 5- or 8.4-inch displays that are still both responsive and easy to use.
The 2019 Ram 1500 goes on sale in the spring with a starting price of $46,095 for the base Tradesman Quad 4x4—reduce that price by $4,000 if you go for the less popular 4x2 configuration. The price jumps all the way up to $74,195 for the Limited Crew Cab 4x4, but that's still a deal when compared to top rival trims. Keep in mind that carryover 2019s will still be sold and overlap with these new trucks, so make sure to clarify which one you're looking at.
Trucks are selling like hot cakes and Ram is working on pleasing those conquest customers with comfort, technology, ride comfort and storage features that SUV buyers have come to enjoy and expect. All of that is on top of improving its towing and payload capabilities, as well as its stiffness and durability.
The 2019 Ram 1500 will be the first all-new pickup product to market this spring, and it hopes to stay “one up” on its competition with more powertrain options to come, including eTorque hybrid technology and a diesel.