PHOENIX — Every pickup truck maker is upping its game. For Ram, the 2019 edition is all new from the ground up and that includes a new Ram’s head logo and RAM spelled out in all the grilles and on the tailgates.
Gone is the horse-collar grille as Ram continues to step away from Dodge and establish itself in the market as an independent brand. This process started in 2009 and though it has been almost a decade some still think, me included, of Ram as Dodge Ram; a nameplate that has been around since 1933.
But since the breakup, Ram sales have more than tripled and the brand has become the loyalty leader for half ton pickup trucks.
The new Ram is lighter, longer and wider. Four was the magic number. The 2019 Ram has a four-inch longer cab and most of the extra space is for the second row. The wheel base is four-inches longer and so is the overall length of the pickup. Ram said its truck had the most spacious interior for additional features and passenger comfort.
There was no opportunity to do any comparison testing but we (me and my driving partner) did get in the back seats of the 4X4 Big Horn Crew Cab we were test driving and we both found plenty of room. To me, it was as spacious as a long-wheel-based full-sized sedan. My driving partner even crossed his legs.
There was differentiation between the six trim lines. The grilles and headlights were different but they all had RAM in the center of the grille. Some trim lines featured LED adaptive front-lighting systems that included bi-functional projector headlamps, fog lamps and tail lamps.
The Tradesman has a base price of $31,695; the Big Horn starts at $35,695; the Rebel starts at $43,995; while the Laramie starts at $40,690; the Long Horn starts at $51,390 and the top of the line Limited starts at $53,890. These prices do not include the freight charge of $1,645 and they are for 4X2 versions. All the trim lines have a 4X4 version.
The Ram seemed like a rolling high tech platform. Designers and engineers added more than 20 sensors, cameras and monitoring devices. The center console had 12 different storage configurations. That might sound like hype but it was multi-faceted. I discovered that when my smartphone dropped through what I thought was a closed bottom slot into the lower level bin.
Ram officials said their truck had 100 percent more storage capacity than its competitors. I bet that included the in-floor bins with tie-down rings in the second row. Those second row seats slid forward and reclined. In other words, they were adjustable. Up front, an all-new switch bank had dedicated toggle switches, a wireless charging dock and up to five USB plugs, including type C ports which we were told charge faster.
I didn’t see them all but in addition to the half-dozen trim lines customers have a choice in the interior of real porous wood, real metal bezels and real leather. There are six different interior themes to choose from. And there were wheels too, sizes range from 18 inches to 22 inches and there are 15 new wheel designs.
This Ram weigh’s 225 lbs. less than the model it replaces. The frame was made of 98 percent high-strength steel for improved durability, less weight and more rigidity which contributed to improved handling. In addition to an aluminum hood added on the last generation Ram, an aluminum tailgate, engine mounts, front axle center section, front suspension cross-member, transmission cross-member and steering system gear were added to this generation Ram.
Most of this test drive was done on surface streets like Scottsdale Road, Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Shea Boulevard. We did get on 101 East for a bit. The Ram rode smooth, it was unbelievably quiet and it was steady, no sways when cornering. And gone too was that pickup truck drone.
We had the Big Horn 4X4 Crew Cab going out. It had an upper and lower A arm front suspension and a 5 link with solid axle in the rear. We were not towing or toting anything so there was very little difference in the ride of that truck and the Limited 4X4 Crew Cab we had going back. It had an air suspension.
They gave us a demonstration how the Ram can back up to a trailer using the rearview camera to guide it, lower itself to the hitch and then lift the hitch and the trailer using the air suspension. I didn’t get the chance to try this myself but for someone who does a lot of towing, I could see this feature being a big time saver.
The payload of the 2019 Ram has been increased to 2,300 lbs. and its maximum tow capacity has been increased to 12,750 lbs.
The Ram has three engine choices that include some new powertrain technology. It is called eTorque and it reportedly improves fuel economy, performance, payload, towing capabilities and drivability. It is what Ram engineers called a mild hybrid system.
In their words, it “replaces the traditional alternator on the engine with a belt-driven motor generator unit that performs several functions. The motor generator unit works with a 48-volt (lithium ion) battery pack to enable quick and seamless start/stop function, short-duration torque addition to the engine crankshaft in certain driving situations and brake energy regeneration which improves responsiveness and efficiency.”
What the system does is add 90 pound feet of momentary torque boost to the V6. The engine makes 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, not including the extra momentary boost. eTorque adds up to 190 pound-feet of torque to the HEMI V8. It makes 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque and that does not include the extra boost.
Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with a rotary shifter that took me a minute to find because I was looking for a stalk despite being given this information during the presentation. And you can get the HEMI without eTorque which is what they brought here.
The interiors of both Rams that we test drove were very comfortable. The Big Horn had that 8.4 inch screen and no navigation system while the Limited had the 12-inch screen with a navigation system. The 5.7 HEMI had an active noise cancellation system that rendered this Ram the quietest ever.
The sound system was excellent. We turned it all the way up and there was no distortion; the notes were clear, sound unfettered by cracking in the speakers and loud. The Ram featured push button start, an electronic parking brake and a redesigned e-shifter dial. The new shifter area also intelligently groups new feature buttons, including engine stop-start from eTorque, hill-decent control, axle lock and transfer case controls, when equipped.
Five USB ports reside in the center console – three up front and two in back. Three of the USB ports, including one in the rear seating area, are fully functioning and communicate with the Uconnect interface. Two three-pronged 115-volt household plugs can be found in the first and second rows (one in the center stack and one at the rear of the center console for the second row). An additional 115-volt plug can be found in the RamBox, when equipped, tripling the number of outlets on the previous model, and now handling up to 400 watts.
The redesigned upper glove box acts as an open shelf for smaller items. On higher trims, the upper glove box is covered by a wood and metal accent that can slide upwards, hidden in the dash. There is also a lower glove box.
The 2019 Ram had Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, Go and Hold, Blind-spot monitoring including easy-to-use trailer coverage, Forward Collision Warning-Plus warns the driver if impact appears imminent, and assists driver response by deploying brakes, Ready Alert Braking and Trailer-sway Damping control, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning-Plus alerts and assist the driver with corrective action, ParkSense and Parallel/Perpendicular Park and Hill-start Assist uses ultrasonic sensors to help the driver perform technical maneuvers.
This 2019 Ram is a serious combatant in the pickup truck wars. Part of its allure was that it didn’t drive or feel like a truck. And these days that is a good thing.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.