Review: The new 2013 Ram 1500 pickup is both a comfortable passenger hauler and a rugged work vehicle

The 2013 ram 1500

In a questionable marketing move, Chrysler simply calls its new civilian/work pickup the “Ram 1500″—not the Dodge Ram. But the 2013 Ram 1500 remains a rival to high-selling Ford and Chevrolet full-size pickups.

The award-winning 2013 Ram 1500 pickup has list prices ranging from $22,590 to $44,275 and promises to be a much stronger competitor to the updated Ford and new Chevy pickups While worthy, Japan’s Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan seem destined to remain distant rivals to the Detroit iron.

The solid new 2013 Ram 1500 pickup looks slicker with a revised fascia and larger grille. It comes with either rear-drive, part-time or permanent four-wheel drive. Its refinement, engineering and cosmetic improvements make it a considerably more attractive competitor.

For instance, the Ram has a new 3.6-liter 305-horsepower V-6, with 269 pound/feet of torque and a temporary automatic fuel-saving start/stop (while idling) feature. That  helps the V-6 deliver an estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on highways. It replaces a 3.7-liter V-6 with 217 horsepower and has approximately 20 percent better fuel economy.

In addition, the new V-6 is bolted to a standard (count ‘em) eight-speed automatic transmission for better performance and fuel economy. This transmission has a new twist-dial control that replaces a conventional steering column or floor shifter.

2013-Ram-Heavy-Duty-Pickup-rear-three-quarters-in-motionMy test Ram 1500, however, had the Ram 1500’s neck-snapping 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with its standard 6-speed automatic. The 8-speed unit will be available with this engine in the not-distant future. This engine develops 395 horsepower and a whopping 407 pound-feet of torque.

The legendary Hemi V-8’s drawback is that its estimated fuel economy is only 13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on highways. Still, Chrysler claims best-in-class fuel economy.

Both engines can use 87-octane fuel, but it’s recommended that the Hemi be fed 89-octane.

2013-Ram-Heavy-Duty-Pickup-cockpit-2Grille shutters close at highway speeds to move air around the Ram 1500 instead of under it for better aerodynamics to help improve economy.

There’s a coil (not the usual leaf) spring rear suspension for a better ride. And a new available air suspension soaks up bumps and provides five adjustable height settings to do such things as facilitate off-road driving and allow easier entry to the high cabin. The Ram 1500’s body lowers at highway speeds, also improving its impressive (for a truck) aerodynamics.

The interior of old Dodge Ram’s interior was second-class, but the 2013 Ram’s is greatly  improved. The cockpit has supportive front seats, a new instrument panel and easily read gauges.

2013-Ram-Heavy-Duty-Pickup-interiorA solid option is a back-up camera because, after all, this is a big pickup truck.

There are large sound and climate controls, lots of storage areas and an easily read touch- screen display. The interior is even available with wood accents, and the front console has three, not just two, cupholders.

Large rearview mirrors fold against front-door glass to prevent parking-lot damage. And the windshield posts have thick interior grab handles to help less-athletic folks get in and out.

My $36,740 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Crew Cab four-wheel-drive model’s quiet cockpit looked upscale and comfortably seats four 6-footers. Five fit, but the stiff center of the rear seat is uncomfortable for a third occupant. It’s best occupied by a large fold-down armrest, which contains dual cupholders.

Other features include a new frame for better stability and handling precision. A thick steering wheel controls electric power steering that’s firm but nicely geared for a big vehicle. The turning circle is conveniently small for such a big guy. The progressive-action brake pedal controls strong anti-lock all-disc brakes.

Need more exterior cargo space? The Crew Cab has a new 6 foot 4-inch bed option. It also has an optional lockable and weatherproof storage box alongside the pickup bed, although that extra compartment consumes some bed width.

The Ram 1500 powertrain is protected by a 5-year/100,000-mile warranty. It can serve as both a comfortable passenger or a rugged work vehicle, so many will doubtlessly see lots of miles put on them.

2013-Ram-Heavy-Duty-Pickup-front-three-quarter-static-2On the TFLcar scale of:

– Buy it

– Lease it

– Rent it or

-Forget it

I recommend that you Buy It!

Prices: $22,590-$44,275

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times–far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008. For more of Dan’s thoughtful and insightful reviews please visit his web site HERE.