Getting some seat time in Truck Trend's long-term 2013 Ram 1500 Laramie has finally rounded out my experience of sampling each of the Ram 1500's engines with the eight-speed automatic transmission. I spent considerable time in the V-6 model, several days in the new EcoDiesel, and now, some time with the eight-speed/Hemi combination. All three of them demonstrate the superb powertrain integration Chrysler did with each engine, and show the breadth of the Ram 1500 lineup for nearly every taste and budget.

In each case, I've come away impressed by the intuitiveness and smoothness of the shift mapping, avoiding the busy or revvy feeling I feared with the eight-speed. Frankly, some rivals' six-speed automatics are busier upshifting and downshifting to keep the engine in the optimal operating range. Or perhaps the upshifts and downshifts of the TorqueFlite 8 are so discreet that it's just good at hiding its busy-ness. The eight-speed and Hemi combination is probably the boldest and in some ways most satisfying combination from a seat-of-the-pants perspective. Although the EcoDiesel has a slight edge in peak torque, the Hemi's much broader dynamic operating range really shows the potential of the eight-speed. The short gearing at lower speeds hustles you off the line quickly, and then settles into a relaxed cruise at higher speeds.

The theory of the eight-speed and Hemi is improved fuel economy, but it's hard to keep your foot out of it when you know you've got 395 hp and 410 lb-ft at your beck and call. Consequently, the observed average dropped down to about 14 mpg in my custody.

The other standout attribute in all trims is a fantastically smooth ride for a pickup. Credit the coil- (or air) spring suspension at all four corners. If there's any downside to this setup, it's that quick steering transitions can cause a bit of a lateral wobble.

And finally, the posh, but not over-the-top trim of the Laramie (not Longhorn) strikes me as just the right amount of premium, without having to trumpet its cowboy credentials with filigree stitching and styling details. Although some of our readers have criticized our choice of giving the Truck of the Year award to the Ram 1500 for two years back to back, spending more time in these models validates our choice of the Ram 1500 being one of the best all-around light-duty trucks currently available.


2013 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4
Service life: 9 mo/19,988 mi
Avg CO2: 1.24 lb/mi
Energy cons: 215 kW-hr/100mi
Unresolved problems: None
Maintenance cost: $61.56 (oil change, tire rotation, inspection)
Normal-wear cost: $0
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ: 15/17/21 mpg
Average Fuel Econ: 15.7 mpg