For the 2013 model year, the Ram 1500 received a comprehensive refresh was named our 2013 Truck of the Year in the process. After spending some extended seat time in a mid-range Ram 1500 SLT Big Horn V-6, our decision to give Ram the award for 2013 was firmly validated.

Having already experienced the opulence of the leather-lined Laramie Longhorn, we purposefully selected a mid-pack trim level that would be representative of a large volume of sales, as well as within reach of the majority of new truck buyers. Apart from the rich leather, fine stitching and luxury features of the Longhorn, we wanted to examine the Ram 1500 on its inherent merits, not just the icing on the cake.

Even in the workmanlike SLT Big Horn V-6 trim, the Ram impresses. Aside from a generous level of equipment relative to similarly-priced competitive models, the Ram's performance, comfort and refinement all stood out as baked-in traits that buyers would get regardless of trim level.

The V-6 in the 2013 Ram 1500 is the now-familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar, which makes 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque in this application. The capable engine is further enhanced by the TorqueFlite 8 eight-speed automatic. Our tester was equipped with the optional 3.55 rear axle ratio, which helped provide responsive off-the-line acceleration along with relaxed highway cruising, registering a mellow 2000 rpm at 80 mph. It's 0-60 time of 7.4 seconds and sub 16-second quarter-mile time is legitimately quick, if not neck-snapping. But not once, even when hauling a 1000-lb payload of gravel up a grade, did we feel the truck was lacking for power.

In turn, the transmission uses its abundance of ratios wisely, holding them when prudent and downshifting when needed. The extra gears also provide a noticeable improvement in engine performance over the previous five- and six-speed transmissions. In those applications, the V-6 would sometimes feel short on torque or otherwise flat-footed, but the eight-speed does a good job of mitigating that. Another area where this powertrain combination excels is fuel economy. We saw a consistent average of around 20 mpg in mixed driving, spot-on with the EPA combined figure, and a consistent 2 mpg better than a comparably-equipped V-6 F-150.

Ford may be the poster-child for in-cabin and mobile tech integration with its Sync suite, but we felt the UConnect system in our Ram was superior to that of the F-150 XLT we had on hand. Not only does the Ram have the advantage of having a touchscreen display, but the system paired with our cell phones more easily than Ford’s, with fewer intermediate prompts and steps. It also streamed music artist and song metadata wirelessly over Bluetooth, something the Ford only did with a physical USB connection. On our tester, it was part of the $1495 Big Horn equipment package, but it's available nearly a la carte in the $465 Premium Display Package. If you don’t want to go whole-hog for the full 8.4-inch touchscreen navigation head unit, it's well worth the price.

The other unique feature and conversational piece in the Ram's interior is the dash-mounted round knob shifter. When it was first announced, it was a radical departure from full-size orthodoxy, but now that we've lived with it for a while, we think it's wise use of cabin real estate, giving a cleaner look than a traditional column shifter, and allowing for a front split-bench or front buckets, as well as freeing up additional storage or features in the center console. Our only gripe on the knob shifter is that its detents were delicate and we sometimes overshot our desired gear.

Overall, the V-6-powered 2013 Ram 1500 in a Quad Cab configuration is a great all-around truck that could serve as a commuter, family car, weekend project help-mate, delivering fuel economy comparable to that of a passenger car, but with the utility and versatility you can only get with a pickup. With economy and performance this compelling, we can't wait to get our hands on a 2014 EcoDiesel, a specimen that promises to re-set the bar in the half-ton class all over again.


2013 Ram 1500 SLT Big Horn V-6
BASE PRICE $32,510
PRICE AS TESTED $35,745
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 3.6L/305-hp/269-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5044 lb (55/45%)
WHEELBASE 140.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 229 x 79.7 x 77.2 in
0-60 MPH 7.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.7 sec @ 88.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 123 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.75 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.6 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 17/25 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 198/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.98 lb/mile