PHOENIX – It may seem trivial, but the knurled surface on the unseen release lever in the center console of the all-new Ram 1500 is the kind of detail that means a lot to Jon Gaudreau.
The interior design manager for the ’19 Ram, Gaudreau insisted that every functional knob, lever, handle and release in the cabin of the truck be identifiable by touch, via the use of common knurling etched into the surface.
That attention to detail is evident throughout the new Ram, whether in its increased interior space and quietness, improved ride and handling or fuel-saving active aerodynamics and electrified powertrains.
We spent considerable drive time in the ultra-handsome 1500 Laramie Longhorn Edition, the cowboy alter-ego of the more refined Limited. The Longhorn is trimmed in leather with rough-edged piping, open-pore barn-wood veneer and steel and filigreed-satin finishes to create a genuine saddlery feel. The Longhorn badge is branded – using an authentic burning-in technique – into the barnwood dashboard in front of the passenger.
Each trim level shares the same basic layout, itself an evolution of the truck’s wide-open, consumer-pleasing interior. In addition to the luxury Limited and premium Laramie, the Ram is available in Rebel off-road trim, the volume-leading Bighorn with bench seating for up to six and the base Tradesman work truck.
Improvements across the board include push-button start, electronic parking brake, redesigned and relocated rotary shifter and a raised touchscreen that is now positioned closer to the driver to permit an easy arm’s-length reach to the screen and related controls.
Front-and-center in the interior is an optional 12.0-in. (30-cm) touchscreen, powered by FCA’s fourth-generation Uconnect operating system. The latest system is capable of being reconfigured into dual screens to allow different, simultaneous displays such as an Apple CarPlay or Android Auto map on the upper view while a satellite music display or an onboard function appears below. Also new and exclusive to Ram is SiriusXM 360L, essentially an on-demand audio streaming service drawing on the satellite-radio provider’s extensive library.
Redundant, hard-button controls surround the screen to provide quick access to often-adjusted functions such as audio volume and tuning and cabin temperature. Smaller 8.4-in. (21.0-cm) and 5.0-in. (13.0-cm) displays also are offered.
Thoughtful design means there’s a cupholder (or two) for every seat, deep door pockets with rubberized, removable bottle-sized inserts and larger in-floor RamBins widened to accommodate 12-oz. (0.3-L) cans.
Upper-trim models feature soft-touch, rollback upper glovebox doors and rear seats that recline up to 8 degrees. All trucks now have a flat rear floor, made possible because the light-duty pickup no longer shares a floorpan with its heavy-duty brethren. Thanks to an extra 4.0 ins. (102 mm) of wheelbase and cab room, rear-seat legroom in a Crew Cab 4-door now is a class-leading 45.1 ins. (1,146 mm).
Power and connectivity options abound, including 12V and 115V outlets, an optional charging pad (with a handy indicator light that illuminates when the device is in the proper charging location), USB, HDMI and new “C/A” type ports capable of quick charging power and handling video.
Quiet Cabin, Hidden Capabilities
Quieting the cabin is a priority and FCA’s engineers succeed in dramatic fashion, using acoustic glass for the windshield and front-door side windows, adding seals and baffles to reduce noise intrusion and employing electronic active-tuned mass module dampers and in-cabin active-noise cancellation to knock out any untoward sounds.
The active vibration dampers are installed on the frame of V-8 models with cylinder deactivation to offset drone created when the engine operates in fuel-saving V-4 mode. Use of the soup-can-sized dampers allows a wider operating range in V-4 mode without noise, netting an extra 0.5 mpg (0.2 km/L) in highway driving, FCA estimates.
Only the carryover 5.7L Hemi V-8 is available for our test drives – 48V eTorque versions of the Hemi and the 3.6L Pentastar V-6 arrive later in the first-year rollout, followed by the 3.0L diesel in the ’20 model year.
The 395-hp, 410-lb.-ft. (556-Nm) Hemi hitched to an 8-speed automatic transmission offers plenty of pull from launch and at speed, with the switch from V-8 to V-4 modes so imperceptible we need to turn on an instrument-cluster indicator to make sure it’s happening.
Depending on model, weight is down as much as 225 lbs. (102 kg) through extensive use of high-strength steel throughout the frame and aluminum for the tailgate, engine mounts, the front-axle center, front suspension and transmission crossmembers and the electric power-steering system gear.
The weight savings translate directly into improved capability, with maximum payload up 22% to 2,300 lbs. (1,043 kg), while maximum towing grows 20% to 12,750 lbs. (5,783 kg). We haul a 6,000-lb. (2,722-kg) horse trailer on a short highway drive and while the powertrain is clearly working harder to pull the load, the truck feels steady and stable and braking is assured thanks to larger 14.9 -in. (378-mm) brake discs up front.
An unseen innovation designed to improve performance is an extension of the existing system that redirects heated engine coolant to warm the automatic transmission. For ’19, engineers extend that loop to include the rear differential on 4x2 trucks to help warm the axle gear oil to operating temperature as well as to cool the oil during more extreme hauling and towing.
Also unnoticed are active and passive aerodynamic improvements. Sheet metal changes help, but the truck also redirects airflow via active grille shutters and an electrically deployed front air dam that lowers 2.5 ins. (63.5 mm) at 35 mph (56 km/h).
On-road manners are excellent, with the Ram driving like a premium SUV. New Frequency Response Damping shocks smooth the ride while cruising but stiffen to control body roll in cornering or hard braking maneuvers. The truck still features standard, progressive-rate coil spring suspension or optional air suspension.
The truck’s adaptive cruise control works as well as any, matching the speed of vehicles ahead and operating down to a stop without any surprises. Its lane-keeping system assists in staying between the lines with light-handed prods on the steering wheel.
Off-road, the Ram Rebel easily paws through sandy desert washes and rips through packed-gravel trails, but the exercise also shows off the truck’s ability to stay on track and stable even when the pilot is deliberately inducing oversteer. Off-roaders will love the fun with a catch-fence limit, while on-road drivers will appreciate that their truck kept them out of the ditch when they overcorrected on a slippery road. New for ’19 is an optional electronic locking rear differential.
Production of the ’19 Ram 1500 is under way at FCA’s Sterling Heights (MI) assembly plant, overlapping production of the outgoing fourth-generation model built at the Warren (MI) truck plant.
FCA officials say production of the older model is expected to continue until at least the end of 2018, giving dealers two different ’19 model-year Ram pickups in their inventories this fall.
Not losing any production is critical as the new Ram gets a 6-month lead on General Motors and its all-new Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra tandem due this fall. The Ford F-150, the segment’s perennial best-seller, gets a diesel engine option this spring.
[email protected] @bobgritzinger
'19 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4
|Vehicle type||5-passenger, 4-door light-duty pickup truck|
|Engine||5.7L cast-iron block, aluminum heads, port-injected, variable-cam OHV Hemi V-8|
|Power (SAE net)||395 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Torque||410 lb.-ft. (556 Nm) @ 3,950 rpm|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||99.5 x 90.9|
|Wheelbase||144.6 ins. (3,672 mm) [short bed]|
|Overall length||232.9 ins. (5,916 mm)|
|Overall width||82.1 ins. (2,084 mm)|
|Overall height||77.6 ins. (1,971 mm)|
|Curb weight||5,300 lbs. (2,404 kg)|
|Base price/as-tested||$31,695/$54,890 (excluding $1,645 destination charge)|
|Fuel economy||15/22 mpg (15.6-10.7 L/100 km) city/highway|
|Competition||Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, Ford F-150, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra|
|Superb interior makeover, huge touchscreen||Lower trims mostly dark plastics|
|Fuel-saving 48V powertrains on the way||Only fuel-thirsty Hemi V-8 at launch|
|Quieter cabin, stiffer frame, reduced weight||Is it enough to top strong competitors?|