2013 Ram 1500 Tow Test

Driving the 2013 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 can make you feel foolish. It happened when we pulled up to a U-Haul dropoff location that was twinned with a tire shop in North Palm Springs, California. Here the men work throughout the long, torrid summer without benefit of air-conditioning. Their best comfort comes from the savor of Mexican food being prepared at the joint next door.

Meanwhile, we were in this opulent Ram pickup. It was dual-zone air-conditioned to a fare-thee-well, of course. When we told the U-Haul proprietor about the heated-and-ventilated front and heated rear seats and the heated steering wheel, and then showed him all the leather, wood, and chrome that brought the price to $53,150, he almost lost his carnitas.

Adding significance to the moment, the Ram’s air springs automatically compensated for the sudden lack of trailer weight, issuing the peculiar clicking sound of self-leveling. Our friend’s amazement multiplied. We repeated what Ram spokesman Nick Cappa had asserted: an upper price limit has yet to be found on pickups. Someone who spends a lot of time in his truck wants it loaded with such amenities as a sunroof and the indispensable backup camera. Indeed, the interior of this Ram was handsomely appointed, and its dashboard-mounted rotary e-shifter replaces a traditional lever, which allows the center console to be exclusively devoted to storage and convenience, more or less like a Tesla Model S.

“There’s a guy out there that needs a truck, and he lives in Texas,” Cappa said. “He’s not going to drive a $90,000 Mercedes.” Pickups with the highest content level spend the least amount of time on the dealership’s lot, he explained. “When you have a $70,000 trailer and a $250,000 horse in it, the truck’s the cheapest part of the equation.”

Too pretty to be a truck, our Ram had gleaming 20-inch wheels inside low-rolling-resistance tires, glittering chrome bumpers, and a scowling face that was a pleasure to see each morning from the house. Yet the Ram still worked like a truck. It dragged 3000 to 3500 pounds of cargo trailer and household effects as easily as a locomotive drags a dinner train. Equipped with the 395-hp 5.7-liter V-8 and an eight-speed automatic transmission, the latter being one of numerous upgrades for 2013, it impressively returned 15 mpg on the highway while towing. Even Queen Charlotte’s sedan chair couldn't have provided better ride quality. And when traffic abruptly halted, the four-wheel disc brakes nonchalantly brought the whole enchilada to an authoritative stop.

We loved driving this Ram. The electrically assisted power steering was particularly impressive, with real heft and nice on-center feel. Ram says the truck’s new frame increases stability and decreases noise, vibration, and harshness. Does it ever! Our Ram held its line in sweeping turns and proceeded over rough patches with the placidity of an order of monks. The experience inside the roomy cabin was tranquil and refined. We were always aware of the engine, but in a good way, and when we cranked up the beats on the sound system, the engine’s murmur disappeared. Special praise is reserved for the Uconnect infotainment device, which is dead simple to use, and for the superbly designed driver’s info display.

But never mind the well-crafted dashboard covering, which is of a quality that you’ve probably never seen in a pickup: fuel economy is the big story, and Ram took an uncompromising approach to it. Besides the electric steering, this carefully sculpted Ram was set up with active aerodynamics (shutters behind the grille automatically open and close) and self-adjusting ride height. (We delighted in the “aero” indicator on the driver’s display.) The eight-speed tranny is a major advance, always choosing the right ratio and engaging it smoothly. Full manual control is available via two buttons on the steering wheel’s right spoke. Yet for all the powertrain’s suppleness, a dip into the accelerator produces ferocity. Used sensibly, the Hemi V-8 will ultimately achieve 15/21 mpg; used promiscuously, it will require another $100 bill in your pocket, especially with the optional 32-gallon fuel tank.

The Crew Cab body would not only accommodate 2 Live Crew, it would also make them forget their customary preoccupations. The 5-foot, 7-inch bed limits cargo capacity, but a 6-foot, 4-inch bed is available with the Crew Cab. The shortcomings that come with the shorter bed are sagely addressed, though. For one thing, the rear seatbacks fold forward, adding interior capacity. For another, the RamBox cargo management, a $1295 option, includes a bed divider that also serves as a bed extender when the tailgate is down.

Lest we sound too gushing, we did note a few minor issues. While the dash-mounted e-shift knob has overwhelming merits, we kept grabbing it when we wanted to change the radio’s volume. Additionally, we detest the lower-body cladding that’s supposed to make pickups classy, and our Ram had plenty of it. The hood is made of aluminum to save weight, but it didn’t fit perfectly. Finally, as long as attention is given to the cargo bed’s usefulness, an integrated rear-bumper step would be hard to beat, especially when the air suspension puffs up the truck in ultimate offroad mode and the open tailgate is 36.9 inches from the ground.

We also wonder if all the chrome is practical. Driving on anything but pavement with those bright wheels could be foolhardy. But put the whole package together, and our Ram showed that parent company Chrysler has its act together, just as we saw when we sampled the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, another Chrysler product.

This 2013 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 brought razzmatazz to a nitty-gritty tire shop and cantina in the Mojave Desert. To the average guy out there at the job site or the sawmill, it brings glamor that will not be regretted.

2013 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4

Base Price: $43,665
As-Tested: $53,150
On Sale: Now
Engine: 5.7-liter OHV V-8
Horsepower: 395 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 407 lb-ft @ 3950 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: Four-wheel
Fuel Economy: 15/21 mpg city/highway
Curb Weight: 5520 lbs
Towing: 6250-9800 lbs

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