The 2013 Ram 1500 Laramie is packed with content, but two features stood out during my road trip from Los Angeles to Phoenix, where temperatures peaked at 110 degrees. Not surprisingly, the city and its residents employ extreme and create methods to cope with the desert heat. Most impressive to me was Chase Field (home to the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team), a massive stadium with 1.3 million square feet of space that is completely enclosed and climate-controlled to keep as many as 49,000 fans cool (and the roof slides open on nicer days!).

That said, our 2013 Ram tester had a few tricks of its own to beat the unrelenting heat. First was the remote engine start, which activates by pushing a button on the key fob twice. The engine starts, the AC gets going, and the interior environment goes from hell to almost tolerable by the time you get to the truck. Priced at a relatively cheap $200, this option is no-brainer for all you desert dwellers. Next up were the cooled front seats. The system allows two stages of cooling and works well for the bottom seat cushion, though it seemed nonexistent in the backrest. Overall, the Ram’s HVAC controls were nicely organized and are similar to other Chrysler products.

While those climate-controlled features were great, I couldn’t get over the eight-speed automatic gearbox’s rotary shift knob. It seems a bit too dainty and out of place in a big truck. Traditional column-mounted shifters can be somewhat of an eyesore, but it sets the tone for the whoever is about to pilot a large truck.

Despite that, the eight-speed paired with the 5.7-liter V-8 makes for an excellent powertrain. Acceleration was brisk, power was never lacking, and engine noise was barely noticeable as it revved at a low 1800 rpm while cruising down the highway at 80 mph. Steering was precise, which was helpful around the parking lots, and the adjustable air suspension did a great job adapting to the driving conditions. For example, an “AERO” mode, which slightly lowers the truck, automatically activates once the Ram reaches 65-70 mph. I averaged 17.4 mpg during my entire trip, which matches the EPA combined rating (15/21 mpg city/highway). Not bad, considering highway speeds of 70-80 mph and an AC button that was never in the off position.

With the 2013 Ram 1500′s impressive list of available features, the solid 8A/5.7L V-8 powertrain combo, and respectable fuel economy, I can see why the truck became our 2013 Truck of the Year award.