2013 Ram 1500 First Drive

More Features, More Efficiency, More Luxury

Ron Sessions
Aug 23, 2012
Photographers: Courtesy of the Manufacturer, Ron Sessions
It's been a good year so far for Chrysler's Ram truck brand. According to its President and CEO Fred Diaz, Ram's market share has grown by 2.5 percent year-to-date. With the impending arrival of the 2013 Ram 1500, that upward trend should continue, though the Ram crew won't have too much time with the shiniest truck on the block. The all-new 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra are on the way in 2013, and the next F-150 isn't too far off in the distance after that.
Photo 1/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Front
Back in 2009, product planners were figuring the 2013 Ram would be a mild refresh, but along the way it became a major program with lots of new content. Ripping a page from the F-150 playbook, the new Ram 1500 pickup is launching with a multitude of models and 11 different trim levels, making it easier than ever to have your Ram any way you want it. Back for 2013 are three body styles: the three-passenger Regular Cab, 5-6-passenger four-door Quad Cab and, with about six inches more rear legroom, the 5-6-passenger four-door Crew Cab. The Regular Cab can be had with a 6-foot 4-inch short box or 8-foot long box, Quad Cab with the 6-foot 4-inch box, and Crew Cab with a choice of 5-foot 7-inch short box, or the longer 6-foot 4-inch box, a new option this year. A spray-in bedliner is optional. So is a cargo management system with a movable, lockable center divider, and sliding bedside cleats. The Ram-exclusive, lockable Rambox bins on the outer panels of the bed are now available with every cab and all beds except the 8-footer.
Photo 2/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Front View
There's better efficiency, more luxury, and way more features this year. Although the fleet SL model does cheap out with crank windows, hard-plastic door armrests, and deletes the upper glove-box door, the retail models Ram sells to the public are fairly well equipped. All retail trucks, even the base Tradesman, get standard tilt wheel, cruise control, A/C, intermittent wipers, automatic headlamps, USB port, mobile device auxiliary jack, two 12-volt outlets, power windows with driver's one-touch up and down, a locking tailgate, trailer-tow pin connector, 4-wheel ABS, stability control, traction control and roll mitigation, hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, tire-pressure monitor, and a full-size spare.
Photo 9/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Passengers From Three Quarters
The lineup now includes the work-oriented Tradesman with a standard 4.7-liter V-8 and the sporty, value-filled 5.7-liter Hemi-powered Express. There's also the rugged Outdoorsman with LT265/70R17 on/off-road tires, front suspension and transfer-case skid plates, power folding mirrors, 5.7-liter Hemi and more. The ultra-luxurious Laramie Longhorn adds power adjustable pedals, LED courtesy lamps, real wood center stack, door and steering wheel trim, dual-zone A/C, power memory front seats, heated and ventilated front seats with driver's lumbar adjust, heated steering wheel and rear seats, leatherette seat trim, and 110-115-volt outlet. There's a new HFE high-mileage model with stop/start technology. At the other end of the spectrum is the street-tough R/T 4x2 regular cab short box with 285/45 all-season tires on 22-inch forged aluminum wheels, the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, 4.11:1 final drive, sport dual exhaust, billet grille, body-color grille surround, door handles and rear bumper, sport performance hood, and Sport LED turn/stop/tail/running lamps.
Photo 10/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 V8 Engine
Before the first "big-rig" look Dodge Ram made its debut for the 1994 model year, the Ram was a distant third in the U.S. full-size pickup rankings, kept alive by government fleet sales and a small but dedicated contingent of horse-trailering equestrians who were drawn to the Cummins turbodiesel. Sales leapeddramatically with the 1994 model and its gaping cross-hair grille and slope fenders have been with the Ram ever since. Several styling iterations later, the big-rig design still makes the Ram stand out in a cowboy bar parking lot.
When it came time to "refresh" the Ram for 2013, the rallying cry was: "don't screw up the great Ram pickup look!" So the new Ram's grille is enhanced, an inch taller, and bolder than ever. The bumper is now more heavily contoured with vertically oriented foglamps (for better light distribution) and the tow hooks on 4x4s are more prominent, easier to latch onto. The uplevel headlamps on Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn are now bi-function projector beams. LED turn/stop/tail/running lamps add crispness and nighttime drama at both ends of Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn models. There are actually seven different grilles, with black, chrome or body-color surrounds and variations of blackout hexlink, chrome mesh, and cool billet inserts. Available on Sport and standard on R/T is a "performance" hood with power bulges.
The real action, however, happens behind the grille, where a new movable air shutter system (on models with 8-speed transmission only) blocks off up to 80 percent of the airflow through the grille to improve aerodynamics and fuel economy by sending more air around the truck instead of into the engine bay, except when max cooling is needed for big loads and/or hot days. Speaking of fuel economy, the new Ram's front fascia dips down lower to the ground as well, again in the interest of improving aerodynamics. The pliable edge of the air dam allows it to deform, then snap back into shape if it encounters a rock or curb. Also aiding the fuel-economy effort are new optional side steps, which continue past the cab and terminate at the rear wheel openings, helping smooth airflow around the truck. As an added bonus, the Ram's side steps are useful when loading cargo in the front of the bed.
Photo 14/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Rear View In Motion
With the 2009 Ram introduction, Chrysler's full-size truckmeisters definitely raised the bar on interior design, material usage, and feature content. Already impressive, the new Ram's interior is even better for 2013. It's a quiet and comfortable place, with thoughtful details like a central locking system that locks not only the doors, but the tailgate and available Rambox bins on the exterior of the bed. This year, Ram expands the use of soft-touch materials and introduces genuine wood trim on premium models. There is generous application of ambient lighting, illuminated by LEDs in premium models. New for 2013 is a reconfigurable 7-inch color multiview display between the speedo and tach, available on SLT, Big Horn, and Outdoorsman and standard on Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn. The display communicates vehicle status such as trip odometer, digital speed readout, trailer-towing information, audio status, stored messages, transmission temperature, compass heading, ambient temperature and much more. New options include remote start, passive entry, keyless start, Rain Sense wipers, Smart Beam auto-dimming headlights, and a power sliding rear window with defrost.
Photo 15/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Front View Off Roading
There's big news under the hood with the introduction of the Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6. It's so good that buyers no longer have to automatically default to the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 as a viable powerplant for a full-size pickup weighing north of 4500 lbs. The V-6 is standard on the high-volume Ram SLT and high-mileage HFE models. This four-valve-per-cylinder DOHC 3.6-liter V-6 recently made its debut in the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. Ram engineers have done a great job of tuning the engine's throttle progression and the new standard wide-ratio 8-speed transmission's shift maps for quick response. With variable valve timing and continuously adjustable cam phasing, the 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6 is so responsive throughout its rpm range and gets such good fuel economy that it makes the carryover 310-hp 4.7-liter V-8 largely superfluous. At an EPA-estimated 17-mpg city/25-mpg highway, that's a 20 percent gas mileage improvement over last year's standard 3.7-liter V-6. The new 3.6-liter V-6 will tow nearly as much (up to 6500 pounds) as the middle engine choice, the 4.7-liter V-8. And the 4.7-liter, despite its smaller size, does no better in the fuel efficiency department than the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. For the Ram buyer who runs empty most of the time, is looking for max fuel economy and plans only occasional light-to-medium towing, the new Pentastar V-6 deserves a serious look and a test drive. It's E85-compatible as well.
Photo 16/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Front Drivers Side View In Motion
The new HFE (High Fuel Efficiency) model boasts a headline-grabbing 18-mpg city/25-mpg highway EPA fuel economy rating. It's built on the lightest-possible Ram 1500 chassis, a Regular Cab 4x2 with the 6 foot, 4-inch bed, with an 8-speed automatic and tall 3.21:1 final drive. This 3.6-liter V-6-powered truck features stop/start technology that automatically shuts off the engine at stoplights. Then when the driver lifts his foot off the brake, the 12-volt starter cranks the engine back to life. The system has a high-capacity battery and alternator to withstand the rigors of frequent engine starts. With about a second of crank time each the engine is restarted, it's not as seamless in operation as some mild hybrids with 36-volt systems, like the Chevy Malibu ECO, which restart the engine smoothly and in a fraction of a second, but it's certainly a system you can live with. Ram gives drivers the option of turning stop/start off if desired via a dash switch.
Photo 20/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 By A Barn
Then there's the default choice, the legendary 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which is standard on the Express, Big Horn/Lone Star, Outdoorsman, Sport, R/T, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn. Like the 3.6-liter V-6, it has variable valve timing for a broad torque band. It also features mileage-improving cylinder deactivation that shuts off fuel to four of the eight cylinders under low-load conditions when full power is not required. Ram tells us the new Torqueflite 8 transmission teamed with the Hemi and,the 3.92:1 final drive is expected to be in excess of 11,000 pounds. An optional integrated trailer brake controller is located within easy reach on the center stack.
Photo 21/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Front Three Quarters View In Motion
Take a peek under the Ram's massive hood and there's definitely more room behind the Ram's grille cross-hairs for more engine -- as in a certain longer inline-six oil-burner! The new Pentastar V-6 is so far back in the chassis, it barely edges forward of the front axle centerline. Even the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 looks like it's lost inside the cavernous engine room. Chrysler executive's lips are sealed on this one.
Speaking of the new Torqueflite 8, it comes in two flavors: the light-duty ZF 8HP45 with 332 lb-ft of torque capacity for use behind the new 3.6-liter V-6 and the medium-duty 516 lb-ft-capacity ZF 8HP70 unit teamed with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Both 8-speeds have identical, widely spaced ratios, with a super-low first gear for quick launches and two tallish overdrive ratios up top. You might think with that many gears the 8-speed would be tripping all over itself, constantly swapping gears to find the optimal ratio. But the reality is this gearbox does a great job of quickly zeroing in on the right ratio with its five closely spaced middle gears for any given throttle position, road speed, or load -- much better than the old gearbox handled just six cogs. The wider selection of ratios helps keep the engine running at its most efficient rpm. The 8-speed's shifts are milliseconds quick and seamless to boot.
The new 8-speed's dash-mounted transmission range-select knob has a precise, yet substantial feel -- something more than just a big radio volume knob. There's a delicate balance that had to be achieved to find a shifter solution that feels natural to pickup truck owners with work gloves or weathered, calloused hands more accustomed to moving a hefty lever a few inches and not even thinking about it. Getting the previous floor shifter off the console frees up valuable stash space right where you want it. And the advantage over the previous column-shift design is a clear sight line to the center stack controls for 4WD, climate, and audio. It just takes a little getting used to the first few times you reach for a lever-type shifter that isn't there anymore when trying to make a quick 3-point turn on a crowded street. Selections are Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive. There is no Low that can be selected by twisting the knob; downshift buttons on the right steering wheel spoke accomplish this task. These are small and could be mistaken for audio tuning buttons by the first-time user. It's not a true tap-shift system because the driver can force the transmission to downshift with throttle input, but rather one that lets the driver manually block out the highest gears, say for descending a mountain grade.
Photo 28/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Front Profile View
There are two transfer cases on 4WD models: a traditional shift-on-the-fly Borg Warner 44-45 unit for Tradesman, Express, Outdoorsman, and SLT models, and a shift-on-demand Borg Warner 44-44 with an Auto 4WD setting, standard on V-8-powered Big Horn, Sport, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn. The range select is via a large knob on the center stack above the driver's knee on Rams with 6-speed automatics, and done with somewhat smallish buttons under the rotary shifter knob when equipped with the new ZF 8-speed autobox. Both cases offer a 2.64:1 low-range ratio and selectable neutral position. Combined with the ultra-low 4.71:1 first of the new 8-speed automatic and 3.92:1 final drive of the 4x4 Outdoorsman, that gives off-roaders an effective 48.7:1 reduction for slow-crawling in first gear.
Photo 29/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Front Profile
Ever more ambitious federal fuel-economy targets now provide the incentive for improved fuel efficiency. A new thermal management system addresses the problem of parasitic losses and sluggish shift performance of an automatic transmission in cold weather by warming transmission fluid in a heat-exchange unit with warm engine coolant. Another new technology called pulse-width modulation controls the fuel pump and cooling fan, running them only as much as needed, reducing the electrical load the charging system places on the engine. The Ram 1500's new electric power steering system works on the same principal, providing boost to reduce steering effort only to the degree that it's needed. EPS alone netted a 2 percent fuel economy improvement and eliminated a 5-hp drag on the engine from the previous hydraulic pump, which ran continuously whether steering boost was needed or not. The rack-mounted EPS does a good job of providing linear steering response with low friction and the on-center feel of a well-tuned hydraulic gear, something earlier electric steering systems in competitor vehicles lacked.
Another Ram fuel-economy enabler is weight reduction. The 2013 model uses more high-strength steel in the frame, saving up to 13 pounds in the process. Further, the new frame is stiffer, something that's immediately apparent by the reduced sound of flex and twisting when driving the new Ram over uneven terrain off-road. An aluminum hood, aluminum front lower control arms, and other weight-saving measures such as high-strength steel bed crossmembers also help get the mass out.
Already benchmarked by other truck makers for its comfortable ride as a result of its class-exclusive multi-link live axle coil-spring rear suspension, Ram ups the ante for 2013. Borrowing from lessons learned on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, air suspension is now available on the 2013 Ram pickup. It's optional on all Quad Cab and Crew Cab models, but not available on Regular Cabs, even those with R/T trim. Four air springs replace the coils in the front and rear suspension and cushion the ride, noticeably reducing impact harshness over ruts, bumps and uneven pavement.
Photo 33/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 With Tractor
This gem of a system has five modes and is controlled by a switch on the center stack. Left to its own devices, the truck stays at normal ride height until highway speeds are achieved, whereupon the air springs lower ride height just over an inch at highway speeds (60 mph) to improve aerodynamics and help improve fuel economy. Another feature of the air suspension is a kneel mode which can be manually selected to make passenger ingress and egress easier and ease the lifting of cargo into the bed. For off-road operation, ride height can be increased either 1.2 inches or 2 inches, which Chrysler claims gives the Ram 1500 class-leading ground clearance, breakover angle, and departure angle. No other full-size pickup has anything like it. In the quest for the best full-size pickup ride quality, payload capacity isn't sacrificed; Ram claims a credible 1930-lb payload capability.
Photo 34/34   |   2013 Ram 1500 Dash On Passengers Side
One thing's for sure -- buyers and the things they carry or tow aren't getting any smaller, so there's a continuing need for trucks that have the space and power to get the job done. Chrysler has met the challenge, the same one that's facing all truck makers, to find a way to maintain the capabilities that full-size truck buyers want while meeting ever-tougher fuel economy requirements mandated by the U.S. government.
2013 Ram 1500
BASE PRICE $23,585
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD/4WD, 3-6 pass, 2-4 door truck
ENGINES 3.6L/305-hp/269-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6, 4.7L/310-hp/330-lb-ft SOHC 16-valve V-8, 5.7L/395-hp/407-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed auto, 8-speed auto
CURB WEIGHT 4500-5850 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 120.5-140.5 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 209.0-229.0 x 79.4 x 74.4-79.9 in
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 17-18/25 mpg (V-6)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 187-198/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.94-0.98 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. Fall 2012
Truck Trend Network


Ram 1500

Fair Market Price
Editors' Overall Rating
Basic Specifications
MSRP: $25,660
Mileage: 27 / 25
Engine: 3.6L V6
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