No, unfortunately the new 2013 Ram 1500 is not a real life Transformer. That would have been awesome! Nonetheless, you cannot simply judge this updated truck by its cover. When you take a first glance at the images of the 2013 Ram, your first reaction is likely to be “Wait, it looks exactly like the 2012 model.
What’s the big deal?”
Upon further inspection you can notice new projector headlamps, a wider revised grill, redesigned front bumper with new fog lights, and updated LED tail lights. Still, this is nothing to write home about. You must look under the skin to find the exciting and game changing updates. This new truck is a significant technological leap for the light duty pickup industry, and it puts Ford and GM on notice.
The main objective of this update was to get improved fuel economy without compromising the truck’s capabilities and without changing the outside appearance. Current customers told Ram that they really like the existing design and that it should remain. Well, the engineers at Ram took this objective and went hog wild.
They started with the foundation and redesigned the frame to save 30 pounds of weight while also improving stiffness. In fact, overall weight reduction enables better efficiency and the engineers continued to use advanced alloys and other technologies to remove weight from bed cross members, front lower control arms, the hood, the drivetrain, and other components. When the dust settled, the 2013 V6 and V8 trucks weight improvements were 139 pounds and 93 pounds respectively in comparison with the 2012 models.
Speaking of drivetrains, the 2013 Ram now features the award winning 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 and a tweaked but familiar 5.7 liter Hemi V8. The Pentastar delivers 305 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque and the Hemi provides 395 horsepower and 407 lb.-ft. of torque. Both engine are backed by a class exclusive eight speed automatic, called the “TorqueFlite 8”. This TorqueFlite is operated by a dash mounted electronic rotary dial. This is another class first feature and is bound to be the most controversial. Stay tuned for future driving impressions. There is no question that the 8 speed transmission plays a big role in improving the fuel efficiency and drive-ability of this truck. However, the engineers didn’t stop there and included a new thermal management system that is designed to quickly raise engine and transmission fluid temperatures to optimal operating levels. The 2013 Ram also includes electric power steering and offers an optional engine stop/start feature. In short, many small improvements were done that play together to get best possible economy.
Was this enough? No, the engineers were not fully satisfied and continued to add more class exclusive features. They added a four corner air suspension system, a feature normally associated with high-end luxury cars and SUVs. If nothing else, this air suspension is in itself a game changer.
It provides no fewer than 5 level settings with up to 4 inches of adjustment. It can operate automatically: lowering into “aero mode” at highway speeds and providing automatic load leveling. It can also be controlled via console or remote key fob! How cool is that? Until now this type of setup could only be found in the aftermarket. The air suspension also works along with active grill shutters and full length running board to improve overall aerodynamics by 6% to a class leading 0.363 coefficient of drag.
Did the truck’s capability suffer after all this tinkering? The answer is – No. The 2013 Ram 1500 Tradesman Heavy Duty V8 delivers impressive towing and payload rating: 11,500 pounds and 3,125 pounds respectively.
OK, have they had enough? No, the engineers and the designers kept pushing the envelope with a new interior design and a next generation Uconnect multimedia and infotainment system. The interior has soft touch materials throughout, an available 7 inch full color information center screen in the gauge cluster and 8.4 inch full color Uconnect system touchscreen.
The new Uconnect system allows to add, change, or upgrade a variety of software applications. For example, you can buy the truck with Uconnect and deny the Navigation system option in order to lower the initial purchase price. Then, at a later time you can go back and purchase the Navigation system as a simple software upgrade. There is no word yet on the process for adding aftermarket software applications.
The 2013 Ram 1500 brings a multitude of exclusive features to the light duty pickup truck market and throws down a tough challenge against Ford and GM. This segment is hotter than ever. What can be next: light duty diesels, new hybrid or full EV powertrains? This will be exciting to watch.
Andre Smirnov is a Software Engineer by trade and a life-long automotive enthusiast. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.