First Drive: 2019 Ram 1500

Better in Every Way

Mar 22, 2018
Photographers: Courtesy Of Ram
The good folks at Ram have been moving at a seemingly superhuman pace this year. In mid-January 2018, we were introduced for the first time to the company’s all-new ’19 Ram 1500. The covers came off at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the pickup hidden beneath stunned the world. Fast-forward less than two months, and you’ll arrive at point when we in the automotive-media world were given our first chance to drive Ram’s new truck. Why is that important? If you’ve been reading these types of publications for any period of time, you’ll surely recognize just how insanely quick the cadence has been. And to further blow your mind, by the time you’re holding this in your hands, Ram’s new pride and joy will be on dealer lots waiting for a forever home.
A Brief Recap
Last issue (May/June 2018), we gave the lowdown on the new ’19 Ram 1500. The truck is all-new from top to bottom, front to back. The chassis is constructed of high-strength steel and has been redone to increase rigidity. Shedding weight was part of the plan as well, but Ram cut just over 200 pounds out of the new 1500 in strategic ways while retaining a steel body. Suspension remains the rear five-link coil design that the company pioneered in ’09, but has been improved to meet customers’ evolving needs. Powertrains remain familiar, with the 3.6L Pentastar V-6 and 5.7L Hemi returning, now with an eTorque 48-volt mild-hybrid system standard on the V-6 and optional on V-8. Even the two eight-speed transmissions have been reworked, along with the transfer case on four-wheel-drive models.
The ’19 Ram 1500 is offered in two cabs, Quad or Crew, with two bed choices: 5-foot, 7-inch or 6-foot, 4-inch—a regular cab and an 8-foot bed are likely, but not yet confirmed. Six trim levels are available to suit any taste, from the base model Tradesman up to the top-spec Limited. Inside the Limited, one will find a near (or exceeding) luxury-car level of comfort, features, and refinement, all of which is anchored by a new 12-inch uConnect system. Simply thinking about a Tradesman will cost $31,695, while checking all of the boxes on a Limited pushes that number north of $60K.
Photo 2/34   |   First Drive 2019 Ram 1500
Behind the Wheel
Enough about what we already know, let’s get to the real reason we’re all here: to find out just how good Ram’s new ½-ton is in the real world. First, let’s clear the elephants out of the room. For our first taste, Ram provided a fleet of pickups in different trim levels and cab configurations, but they were all outfitted with the standard 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine. Both eTorque-equipped engines as well as well as the 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 are late-availability, and Ram has promised that we’ll get to review those variants soon. At any rate, Ram has already divulged that it expects the standard 5.7L Hemi V-8 to be the volume leader, so it makes perfect sense to launch with this engine.
Our time with the truck spanned more than 500 miles, which included plenty of open highway, urban traffic, and rugged off-road driving. We planted ourselves behind the controls of Limited, Laramie, and Rebel models, while also sampling the remaining trims (Big Horn, Longhorn, and Tradesman.)
Photo 3/34   |   First Drive 2019 Ram 1500 Off Road
The first thing we noticed about this new pickup was just how incredibly smooth the ride quality is. Ram updated the front and rear suspension and added snazzy new Frequency Response Damping (FRD) shock absorbers to all models, with the exception of Rebel. The ride over rough pavement is impressively isolated with either the steel spring or optional air-spring suspension. Even more amazing than the ride quality is the fact that Ram was able to produce an almost car-like highway ride without sacrificing capability. When properly equipped, the ’19 Ram 1500 can haul up to 2,300 pounds of payload or tow a 12,750-pound trailer.
Equally impressive is the quietness of the cabin. Through such technologies as active noise cancelation and laminated acoustic glass, Ram claims an interior decibel level of just 67.1, making it the quietest Ram ever. We’re admittedly a touch spoiled with just how quiet pickups have become, but we were impressed nonetheless. Adding to the cabin’s quietness are what Ram calls Active Tuned Mass Modules (ATMM). Mounted to the framerails on Hemi-equipped Rams, these “shakers” create vibrations that cancel out those produced by the engine. The result is less noticeable NVH for occupants and the ability to utilize cylinder deactivation more frequently.
Photo 4/34   |   First Drive 2019 Ram 1500 Interior
Fuel-economy ratings for the ’19 model remain the same as the outgoing ’18 at 15 city/22 highway/17 combined mpg. Four-wheel-drive models drop to 21 mpg on the highway, but remain at 15 city and 17 combined. Interestingly, the EPA rating is achieved using mid-grade gasoline. We fought an incredibly strong headwind during our drive, so getting accurate economy numbers was impossible. However, from what we did observe, we’re confident that achieving the EPA rating won’t be an issue. Admittedly, we expected better from the EPA given the work Ram did to improve aerodynamics of the new 1500, but we still have the eTorque-equipped powertrains to look forward to.
Steering is powered by a new electric-assist unit and is fantastic in most situations. Directional stability on the highway is excellent, but we felt the unit was a bit overboosted at slower speeds, giving an incredibly light feel to the steering. We’d love to see a sport mode that tightens up the steering a touch, as well as improving transmission shift speed.
Speaking of the transmission, we still enjoy the eight-speed automatic and 5.7L Hemi V-8 combination. In typical Hemi fashion, power is delivered high in the rpm range and shifts are smooth and refined. Downshifts can be a bit sluggish under hard acceleration such as passing, but that’s easily overcome by applying more skinny pedal. Slowing all the power are new larger brakes, which we found to have a very linear and confidence-inspiring feel, not over-the-top grabby, and with no sign of sponge.
Photo 5/34   |   First Drive 2019 Ram 1500 Hauling
High Tech and High Class
Performance is one thing, but in this day and age, buyers demand more from their pickups. For this reason, Ram set to improving the interior experience as well. Seats are comfortable across the lineup, from the vinyl in Tradesman to cloth in Bighorn and leather in Laramie and above, Ram claims that Limited has more leather, real wood, and metal trim than any of its competitors, and we have no reason to doubt the stat. A 5.0-inch uConnect system is standard on lower trims, 8.4-inch is optional on most, and the new and impressive 12-inch uConnect comes standard on Limited. We’ve been big fans of the uConnect system for years, and the latest updates do nothing but improve upon the already great system. And, as you can imagine, the 12-inch screen is nothing short of a work of art. With its addition to the lineup, Ram has taken a big step toward future-proofing the ’19 1500.
Adding to the list of already impressive available features are a new panoramic sunroof, 360-degree camera system, semi-automatic parallel and perpendicular parking systems, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keep assist. Adaptive cruise control with the ability to bring the truck to a full stop and then resume when traffic moves is one of our staff favorites. Audiophiles will be excited to hear that Ram’s new truck is available with a 19-speaker, 900-watt Harmon Kardon sound system, the most powerful factory sound system in a pickup, and it sounds amazing. The rear seat is beyond comfortable, with 4 inches of additional legroom over the outgoing truck and a truly flat floor. Seats recline up to 8 degrees and are available with both heating and ventilation, also a first for the pickup segment. The rear seat of the Crew Cab is huge, and the Quad Cab is incredibly comfortable.
Photo 6/34   |   First Drive 2019 Ram 1500 Rear
Long Live Rebel
We were excited to hear that Rebel would be returning for ’19, and even more excited when we heard that it was getting a handful of impressive updates that would make it more capable than the first-generation. The rear suspension has been optimized for off-road performance, new Bilstein monotube shocks are at all four corners with remote reservoirs on the rear, the tires are now more aggressive Goodyear Duratrac units in a larger 33-inch size, and a locking rear differential has been added to the package.
The sadistic minds at Ram set up a brutal off-road course that included deep ruts, rocks, sand, silt, hill climbs, whoops, and lots of opportunity for tearing body panels off. We jumped in, dropped the transfer case into 4-High, and proceeded to push the Rebel harder than we ever thought possible. Impressively, the plucky off-roader took everything we threw at it—so we pushed it harder. By the end of our three laps, we were nothing short of impressed. Traction is amazing and the Bilstein dampers soaked up the bumps with ease. With smart driving, this truck will go anywhere you point it.
Complaints were few and far between. Steering is a little on the light side; we’d like it firmed up a touch for better feedback. Also, a bit of operator error, but when forgetting to disengage traction control, the truck brought itself to a complete halt the first time the tires hit sand, which is exactly the opposite of what you want. Our staff is also still split on the more youthful interior of the Rebel, but more like it than not.
We drove a pair of air-spring–equipped Crew Cab Rebels on the off-road course. We’re excited for the opportunity to get behind the controls of a steel-spring Rebel in the future, as we feel this setup will be the best combination. We’ll report back in due time.
Photo 7/34   |   First Drive 2019 Ram 1500 Front
Final Thoughts
It may be cliché, but Ram has truly pulled out all of the stops on the new ’19 1500. The team has improved the vehicle in every way. Ride comfort is outstanding, interior appointments rival the traditional luxury stalwarts, and the available technology will ensure the pickup stays relevant well into the next decade. Best of all, these improvements have come with no sacrifice to performance or capability. Towing is improved, payload has increased, and fuel economy will undoubtedly jump when the eTorque-equipped engines are introduced. If we were Ram’s competition, we’d be more than a little worried about what this means for our market share, and we’re even more excited to see what the competition does in response. We’re seeing the glory days of the pickup market, and we love what we see.
2019 Ram 1500 (Limited, Crew Cab, 4x4)
Vehicle type: Fullsize, ½-ton pickup
Base price: $57,390
Price as tested: $60,000 (est.)
Engine: 5.7L Hemi V-8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 395 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 410 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm
Curb weight: 5,300 pounds
Towing capacity: 11,290 pounds
EPA mileage rating: 15city/22highway/17combined (2WD); 15city/21hwy/17comb (4WD)

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