It seems as if there is no limit to the amount of tech domestic truck manufacturers are willing to put into their rides. Case in point: The optional air suspension setup available in the 2013 Ram 1500. With improved fuel economy, better ride quality and loads of tech, the horn-badged beast may give the Ford F-150 faithful some serious loyalty issues
Ram offers several options to make the 1500 as much of a workhorse or cushy family hauler as they like. Three body flavors (regular cab, quad cab, and crew cab), can be rigged up with either a 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive terrain-crawling setup. Under the hood, there are three engines to choose from — a 3.6-liter (305-hp, 269 lb.-ft.) V-6, 4.7-liter (310-hp, 330 lb.-ft.) V-8, or a 5.7-liter Hemi (395-hp, 407 lb.-ft.) V-8 engine.
All power plants run on 87-octane gas and are E85 compatible, however Ram recommends 89-octane for the big boy Hemi V-8.
Transmission-wise a 6-speed automatic is standard with the 4.7-liter V-8, and optional with the bigger 5.7-liter Hemi, however the real big news is all about the class-exclusive TorqueFlight 8 automatic transmission. Ram has made the 8-speed standard with the 3.6-liter V-6 and made it available with the Hemi V-8. The tranny is ultra-smooth and frugal on the gas, with the 3.6-liter earning an official EPA miles per gallon rating of 18 city/25 highway. It should be noted that these figures are achieved through some serious tech, but more on that later.
Shifting the gear lever in the automatic 8-speed is more akin to that of a much more expensive Jaguar XJ, as there isn’t a gear lever, but rather a dash-mounted gear knob. The substantial-feeling e-shift dial controls the TorqueFlight 8 transmission easily, allowing the driver to select P,R,N or D without having to look at the dial — very helpful on construction site or when quickly executing a three-point turn in a crowded parking lot.
I spoke with, Joe Dehner, Director of Ram Design, and he called the Ram 1500 “ruggedly handsome” with its new grill, upper fascia, bumper, fog lamps and wheels. Honestly, I couldn’t agree more with Joe. Thoughtful enhancements — like larger tow hooks and reworking the quad headlamps as standard equipment — are just two of the dozens of improvements made to the pickup.
A month before being handed the keys to the Ram 1500, I was at an event with Mercedes-Benz for the new GL-Class SUV. Starting at about $62,000, the GL-Class is a completely different kind of hauler (read: solely for family) than the Ram 1500. However, the two vehicles have something uniquely in common that is quite a steal if you option for it on the 1500 — air suspension.
When fitted with the air suspension option ($1,595), the normal ride height of the pickup provides 8.7-inches of ground clearance, but from there, the vehicle can lower itself 0.6-inches as it settles into Aero Mode — self-optimizing for efficient fuel economy. After parking, the truck lowers itself 2-inches from ride height to make entry and exit from the vehicle easier. I tested the park feature out, and at 5’-8” I’m not the tallest of drivers, but didn’t feel like I was falling out of the truck every time I dismounted.
Taking the Ram 1500 off-road with the air suspension means you have two different clearance settings to pick from on the dash-mounted switch: Off-Road 1 (raises the truck 1.2-inches) and Off-Road 2 (raises the truck 2-inches). In all, the air suspension adds over four inches of driver selectable lift span with 10.7-inches of ground clearance.
I took the 1500 off-road through the Smoky Mountains and it was able to scale steep, uneven rocks, dirt and logs without a problem. When I ran the truck into what looked like a 2-foot ditch, I expected it to lurch and even bottom out since I hit the depression at 20-mph. Due to the air suspension, the hole felt more like a pothole. Truly impressive.
Driving through rolling country hills on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, it became clear what a mix of air suspension, active grill shutters, electric power steering and stop/start technology can do for the fuel efficiency of a vehicle capable of towing a family fishing boat. If that weren’t enough tech, Ram engineers optionally fitted the interior with some of the best infotainment gear around in vehicles today.
The Chrysler Group’s Uconnect is currently my favorite in-car infotainment/navigation system available. They’re putting it in everything from the new Dodge Dart to even the pickup featured in this review — and for good reason. I’ve seen dozens of systems by manufacturers, and they all can do pretty much the same thing. The Uconnect however, just does it better. Want your text messages read out loud to you? Check. Want iPod connectivity? You got it. Need an easy to read touchscreen with large buttons? No problem.
The large, 8.4-inch touchscreen doesn’t just make finding the right MP3 or SiriusXM channel easy to find, it almost makes it effortless. Couple that with the concise turn-by-turn directions the navigation software doles out and you’re in driver-distraction-free heaven.
With stiff competition from the likes of the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and the other usual suspects, the folks at Ram have done a great job with refining the 1500. Official pricing starts at $22,590 (plus $995 destination charge) in the stripped down, 4×2 Tradesman model and rises all the way to $47,420 in 4×4 Crew Cab Laramie form through a total of 29 different cab (regular cab, 4-door quad cab or 4-door crew cab), trim line (Tradesman, SLT, Sport, Laramie, or Laramie Longhorn) and drive (4×2 or 4×4) combinations. It should be noted that the bed size changes with the cab configuration, granting a 5’-7”, 6’-4”, or 8-foot box for heavy hauling. Speaking of heavy hauling, the Hemi V-8 puts up some best-in-class numbers, with the ability to haul 3,125-lbs. and tow up to 11,500-lbs.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it
– Forget it
I say, BUY IT!
Ryan’s passion for automobiles began at age eight when his father brought home the quintessential sports car: A Guards Red, 1974 Porsche 911 Targa. Ever since, his free time has been consumed with following the latest developments of the automotive industry.