First Drive: 2019 Ram 1500 V-8
No crosshair? No problem. Latest version of Ram's core model gets upgrades in the right places
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A new truck launch in Texas, you say? As predictable as sunshine in Southern California, sure, but where else in America is better really to roll out an all-new full-size pickup than the Lone Star State? Exactly.
The latest new truck we'll be piloting in and around San Antonio is the 2019 Ram 1500, which is already on its way to dealer showrooms despite being unveiled just two short months ago at the 2018 Detroit auto show. Perhaps the most important product in the Fiat Chrysler Automotive lineup (the only other contender for that title, frankly, is the Jeep Wrangler) the 2019 Ram has been thoroughly revamped in a bid to further increase its competitiveness against the likes of the Ford F-150 and the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, the latter of which has just been redesigned as well.
From the front, there's no mistaking the 2019 Ram 1500 for any other truck. The reworked grille is still big, shiny, and chrome, of course, but the headlamps sit higher up and its shape is almost an inverse of that of the outgoing model. The most startling change, however, is the departure of the signature crosshair and ram's head badge in favor of a simple "RAM" logo front and center.
The updated look, which was previewed by the outgoing Ram Rebel and Ram Laramie Longhorn, is now a fixture of the new Ram lineup. While it feels like the designers went out of their way to fix something that wasn't broken, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Our testers were still instantly recognized as 2019 Rams by several truck-savvy denizens of Texas, at least one of whom jokingly offered to trade her Ram 2500 for one of ours (we have a feeling she'll be doing just that soon at her local Ram dealer).
We split our day between a loaded Ram Limited and a mid-level Ram Big Horn. Both were powered by the optional 5.7-liter V-8, but sans the available eTorque mild hybrid setup (we're looking forward to getting our hands on one equipped with the new, unique to Ram 48-volt system soon, which comes standard with the base, 305 horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine). Mated to an eight-speed automatic, the carryover engine generates an ample 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque in 4x4 and 4x2 configurations. Acceleration is not quite as effortless as a Ford F-150 powered by the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, but the pushrod Hemi V-8 satisfies in its own special, growling way.
Brakes are the same across the 2019 Ram 1500 lineup and are suitably large for the job. Discs measure 14.9-inches up front and 14.8 at the rear. Twin-piston calipers clamp down on the fronts, while a single piston puts pressure on the rears. They do a good job of decelerating the truck without feeling grabby and additional pressure comes on predictably.
In keeping with the "full-size truck as luxury car" evolution of the truck market, the 2019 Ram 1500 Limited 4x4 we tested carries a starting price tag of $59,035 (including a considerable $1,645 destination fee). The Limited is available only with the larger Crew Cab configuration, which offers a massive 9.6 inches of extra rear seat legroom as well as an extra 0.6-inch of headroom. A reclining rear seat can be selected should you be inclined to use your high-end Ram as an Uber Black. By sliding the seat cushion forward by as much as 3.1 inches, the seats offer up to eight degrees of recline, which is more than can be said for many modern airline seats in Economy class. Thanks to the massive 45.2 inches of rear legroom, even tall people like my 6-foot, 4-inch self can use these to the fullest, even with a similarly tall passenger or driver in the front.
Materials quality and fit and finish are proper luxury car level, but we have a bone to pick with how the large 12.0-inch screen integrates into the center stack. It's a high-resolution unit with a clever evolution of FCA's Uconnect infotainment system, but like the large screen on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, it looks somewhat tacked on rather than integrated into the design.
Clever storage options abound throughout the cabin, too. A small rotary shifter frees up the center console for multiple storage bins and USB connections. There are pockets on the side of the center console as well, and even a small storage compartment under the rear seats. While our tester wasn't equipped with the RamBox, that excellent feature remains available as an option. The 2019 Ram 1500 also gets an optional step that deploys from the rear bumper, which means that all Detroit Three trucks now have some kind of "man step" feature. You'll want to check that box as the bed walls are now 1.5-inches taller, so you may need to step into the bed more often (bed floor height, fortunately is unchanged).
On the road, the air suspension equipped Ram Limited was about as smooth and compliant as similarly nautical in size luxury SUVs like the Lincoln Navigator. Freeway hop didn't manifest itself in any significant way on our higher speed highway runs or any of the Texas back roads we drove on. Steering is light and easy, but without slop or lack of precision. All in all, it's a comfortable and easy to drive truck in most any real world situation.
Stepping into the 2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn, which starts at "a mere" $43,540 in Crew Cab 4x4 form (you can shave $4,345 from the sticker by opting for the quad cab and another $3,500 by skipping 4WD) meant giving up a lot of the fancy features, including the leather upholstery, air suspension, and giant screen—but the truck may be better off for it. The front bench seat-equipped Big Horn gave up little in terms of ride quality, despite having a conventional suspension, while the tried-and-true 8.4-inch Uconnect screen gets the job done without any undue fuss, confusion, or need to fiddle with options.
Ram folks were cagey when it came to questions surrounding regular cab availability (we got the usual "we don't comment on future product" line) but silence is a form of confirmation of its own. Expect one to join the lineup for 2020 or 2021, following the arrival of the EcoDiesel variant sometime next year. A redesigned Ram Heavy Duty should arrive in 2020 or 2021 as well, with timing dependent on when FCA is able to finish retooling the Warren Truck Assembly Plant where the Ram is built. We'll keep on holding out hope for a Ram Hellcat, too. (If you have to ask why, you're probably on the wrong Web site.)
That staggered rollout will likely prevent the Ram from challenging the Silverado for the No. 2 spot, which has a roughly 20,000-unit sales advantage two months into the year, to say nothing of knocking off the F-150, sales of which so far are running at double the pace of the Ram. But that's not because of any specific faults with the new model. In fact, aside from minor design gripes, the 2019 Ram 1500 is a well-executed rig that will please any truck buyer not religiously attached to a competing brand.
2019 Ram 1500 V-8 Specifications
|ENGINE||5.7L OHV 16-valve V-8/395 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 410 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 4-6-passenger, front-engine, RWD/4WD truck|
|EPA MILEAGE||15/22 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||228.9-241.8 x 82.1 x 77.4-77.7 in|
|WEIGHT||4,500-5,600 lb (est)|
|0-60 MPH||7.0 sec (est)|