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Road test

2019 Ram 1500 presents a gentler revamp of the capable pickup

With its smooth ride, relaxed handling, comfortable interior and reduced fuel consumption, there's plenty for Ram loyalists to like

The 2019 Ram 1500.

This is shaping up to be a banner year for trucks.

GM is reinventing its Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra twins, while Ford is reincarnating the Ranger as a mid-size pickup and adding a diesel option on its sales-leading F-150.

First out the gate, though, is the 2019 Ram 1500. Flaunting its first full redo since 2013, the new DT-series Ram will be in showrooms within weeks – and months ahead of the GMs.

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Still, not all of the gazillion possible build combos (of three cabs, four engines, three drivetrains, three box lengths, seven trim grades and more option packages than you can shake a stick at) will debut right away.

The roll out begins with Quad and Crew Cabs powered by the more-or-less carryover 5.7-litre Hemi V-8 engine. An optional eTorque mild hybrid version of the 5.7 will come next, then the base 3.6-litre V-6 with eTorque standard.

The regular cab (of which Canadians buy virtually none) will follow in 2019, ditto the carryover 3.0-litre diesel, assuming Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) resolves allegations of diesel emissions-test cheating on the former DS Rams.

Speaking of the DS generation, they will remain available for a while, in three basic trims.

The 1500 Quad and Crew Cabs are powered by the more-or-less carryover 5.7-litre Hemi V-8 engine .

So why should you buy a 2019 DT Ram instead of one of its rivals? Actually, that's the wrong question, since rabid brand loyalty is rampant in the pickup universe and anyone who already owns or wants a Ram is unlikely to consider any alternative.

So, why buy a new Ram to replace the one you already have or want – or heck, maybe even to replace one of those mid-size sedans that hardly anyone seems to want any more?

Well, Ram exclusives that continue in the DT are its coil-spring rear suspension, with optional height-adjustable air springs, where rivals still use cart springs. Additionally, Ram now claims the "most luxurious" cabins in the segment (a claim seemingly based on actual square footage of leather and wood), as well as an available 12-inch touch screen, sundry useful storage solutions and an available recline-adjustable, ventilated rear seat.

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There's also the promise of reduced fuel consumption. The Ram claims best-in-class aerodynamics, some weight reduction, the aforementioned eTorque engines and extended ability for the V-8 to run on four cylinders.

While Ford controversially (but successfully) went all-aluminum for F-150, and GM is promising to lop 204 kilograms off the 2019 Silverado/Sierra, Ram's weight-watchers regime trimmed a relatively modest 102 kg from its pickup, which nonetheless is stronger – and in the Crew Cab's case about 10 centimetres longer – than its predecessor.

The doors and tailgate are aluminum, but an all-steel box keeps the Ram safe from any mean-spirited, rival-bashing TV ads involving free-falling cement blocks.

The eTorque system replaces conventional alternators with 48V motor-generators, the one on the V-6 worth 90 lb.-ft. of torque and the V-8's, 130 lb.-ft.

If you liked the old Ram for its aggressive styling, the new one may look a bit too gentle.

Surprisingly, the motor-generators only fleetingly help to actually drive the truck. Their primary roles are to provide restart for the idle start/stop function, and recapture braking energy for the 48V battery, which in turn charges the conventional 12V battery that juices the vehicle accessories.

Ram predicts that when eTorque is combined with all the other fuel-efficiency enablers, fuel consumption will drop by about 12 per cent on the V-6 and 8 per cent on the V-8.

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Fuel economy? Luxury? Heck, it's a pickup – what about capability? Well, most pickup owners never come close to using their full tote and tow capabilities, but Ram raised them anyway: payload grows to 2,300 lbs. from 1,880; and max tow rating to 12,750 lbs. from 10,450 (the latter rates a "best-in-class V-8" claim but Ford's F-150 with its EcoBoost V-6 can top 13,000 lbs).

If you liked the old Ram for its aggressive, "outta-my-way-I'm-coming-through" styling, the new one may look a bit too much "kinder, gentler." But the capability is still there, even as the Ram itself does become kinder and gentler with its smooth ride, relaxed handling, comfortable interior and reduced fuel consumption. It may not conquer sales from the direct competition, but for Ram loyalists, what's not to like?

Tech specs

The 2019 remodel boosts the Ram’s payload to 2,300 lbs.

  • Base prices: $42,095 – $74,595
  • Engines: 3.6-litre V-6 mild-hybrid/5.7-litre V-8/ 5.7-litre V-8 mild-hybrid
  • Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/RWD or 4WD
  • Fuel consumption: TBA
  • Alternatives: Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra

Looks

The new grille looks less in-your-face than that of previous models.

The grille looks less bluff and in-your-face, yet Ram says it's no lower than before, and the windshield is actually slightly more upright. Nonetheless, Ram shaved the drag co-efficient by 9 per cent through taller box sides, an active front-air dam and various other (sometimes arcane) design measures.

Interior

The 2019 Ram 1500’s new front seats and perfectly placed armrests enable throne-like comfort.

The wheelbase stretch brings Crew Cab rear-seat legroom up to par with the Detroit opposition. Up front, the new seats and perfectly placed armrests enable throne-like comfort, although the seating position seemed rather low. The much-touted segment-exclusive 12-inch display audio is available only on the costliest trims but regardless of size, Ram does its usual good job of combining conventional and touch-screen controls. Interior finish has been improved across the board, each grade having its own decor theme, but of course you won’t find the real wood and metal accents, filigreed leather or hand-wrapped, cut-and-sewn soft materials on the lower or mid grades.

Performance

The Ram’s Hemi V-8 boasts effortless acceleration and serene cruising.

Absent any eTorque test samples, the regular Hemi V-8 feels like an old friend, with its pleasing blend of effortless acceleration, serene cruising and softly rumbling character. We saw 12.3 L/100 km on one unusually sedate, mostly highway drive, and 15.8 for another shorter, mostly suburban trip. Apart from a momentary, muted "burp" from the tailpipes, we could not feel when the engine was transitioning between four and eight cylinders. The designated drive route was a limited test of ride and handling, but left a first impression that the new chassis maximizes comfort and effortless manoeuvrability, but there's no genre-bending "sportiness." Body rigidity felt outstanding on a brief off-road foray.

Technology

The various trim levels come with different entertainment and technology packages.

Lesser Ram grades come with a base five-inch infotainment unit, with two levels of 8.4-incher or the 12-inch optional or standard on higher grades. Also on the menu are SiriusXM, built-in cellular and a flagship 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio. Depending on trim grade, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are unavailable, optional or standard. A backup camera is standard, while available automated co-pilots on higher trims include blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring with trailer detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise with stop and go.

Cargo

The centre console opens to offer ample storage space.

The Quad Cab comes only with a 6-ft. 4-in. box, the Crew Cab offers that, or a 5ft. 7-in. box, with volumes respectively a little less and a little more than Ford's equivalents. Available features include power tailgate release, tailgate ajar warning and RamBox lockers built into the bed sides, plus in-floor storage bins and a rear-seat fold-down centre console.

The verdict

7.5

The 2019 Ram is a smoother, more fuel-efficient version of its predecessor.

More luxurious, more fuel-efficient, yet more capable – if you liked the Ram before, you'll like it more now.


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