2019 Ram 1500 Review
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has redesigned its Ram large pickup trucks for 2019. The light-duty 2019 Ram 1500 came first, early in calendar-year 2018. Recently, FCA revealed the new 2019 Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty models.
Given the popularity of pickups, and the fact that General Motors also has brand-new versions of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 on sale, it was time to give the light-duty Ram a week-long workout.
For this review, we evaluated a 2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Laramie with a short cargo box and 4-wheel drive. The truck was equipped with a 5.7-liter V-8 engine with the company’s new eTorque mild-hybrid technology. Additionally, it had a Level 2 Equipment Group, Trailer Tow Group, Sport Appearance package, Advanced Safety Group, Bed Utility Group, power running boards, tri-fold tonneau cover for the bed, rear wheelhouse liners, anti-spin rear differential, and a panoramic sunroof. The price came to $64,485, including the $1,695 destination charge.
What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2019 Ram 1500, it’s helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this large light-duty truck and what they liked most and least about it.
According to J.D. Power research, Ram 1500 buyer demographics are closely aligned with the large light-duty pickup truck segment as a whole. Most are men (90% vs. 91% for the segment), their median age is 53 years (vs. 55), and their median annual household income is $104,286 (vs. $108,095). Half of the Ram 1500’s buyer base claims membership in Gen X (those born 1965-1976) or Gen Y (1977-1994) vs. 44% for the segment.
In terms of psychographics, there are big differences between the average large light-duty truck buyer and Ram 1500 buyers. For example, relatively speaking, Ram buyers aren’t all that concerned about quality, reliability, fuel economy, or maintenance costs. At the same time, they’re not as interested in paying extra for safety equipment or an environmentally friendly vehicle.
Here’s what J.D. Power data shows:
- 56% of Ram 1500 buyers strongly agree that they avoid vehicles they think will have high maintenance costs (vs. 63% of buyers across the segment)
- 44% strongly agree that quality of workmanship is their first consideration when choosing a new vehicle (vs. 61%)
- 54% strongly agree that reliability is their first consideration when choosing a new vehicle (vs. 66%)
- 43% agree that fuel economy is their first consideration when choosing a new vehicle (vs. 52%)
- 35% agree that they’re willing to pay extra for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (vs. 45%)
- 70% agree that they’re willing to pay extra for a vehicle that has the latest safety features (vs. 77%)
Buyers say their favorite things about the previous Ram 1500 were (in descending order) the engine/transmission, exterior styling, interior design, driving dynamics, and storage and space. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the previous Ram 1500 were (in descending order) the seats (in a tie with visibility and safety), infotainment system, climate control system, and fuel economy.
What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the 2019 Ram 1500 performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM
Ram knocked the styling ball right out of the design park. From the improved grille designs to the “frenched” dual exhaust outlets the new Ram 1500 looks terrific. Note, however, that most paint colors are extra-cost upgrades.
The test truck had the “sport performance hood” that’s included in the Sport Appearance package. It looks busy, and you can get rid of it through a delete option if you don’t like it. Also, while the back bumper doesn’t have corner steps like the Chevy and GMC, as an option Ram offers deployable bed steps at each bumper corner.
Aside from the reflections on the infotainment system screen, I have no complaints about the Ram’s interior design or layout.
Hard plastic surfaces have a low-gloss finish that makes them look and feel better than what’s inside the competition, and the controls are clearly designed for operation while wearing gloves, with lots of oversized knobs, buttons, and toggle switches decorating the dashboard.
My whole family loved the panoramic glass roof. Open the sunroof portion, power open the back glass, lower all four windows, and the air flow-through and exposure to the elements is similar to riding in a convertible.
Comfort is easy to come by in a Ram 1500. The test truck’s front seats are terrific, offering a wide range of adjustment. The center console armrest is wide and plush, the upper door panel sills are low and soft, and the steering wheel is exceptionally comfortable to grip. The console also had a slot at the 6 o’clock position perfect for a gloved hand and an easy highway cruise.
In back, the rear seat is just ridiculously roomy, offering plenty of space to recline the seatbacks (a class exclusive, according to Ram) and lounge under the glass roof panel. The Ram 1500 easily seats three people across, or two separated by a wide armrest with cupholders and a storage area.
Optional power running boards make it easy for everyone to get into and out of the truck, too. They do, however, get covered in mud if you happen to go splashing through puddles in a dirt road or trail.
Climate Control System
Equipped with heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel, the Ram Laramie is ready for any kind of weather. Heated rear seats are available, too.
Big knobs and buttons comprise the dual-zone automatic climate controls, sized for use while wearing gloves. The system worked well during chilly and rainy weather, but with temperatures in the 40s and 50s it didn’t need to work very hard to keep everyone comfortable.
Ram offers an oversized 12-in. infotainment system display for the new 1500, but the test truck didn’t have this upgrade. Mounted vertically in portrait mode, it is just one of several features that separate the redesigned truck from its competition.
Instead, the test truck included an 8.4-in. display, anchored by oversized volume and tuning knobs. The latest versions of FCA’s Uconnect infotainment systems are impressive, offering improved response to input, upgraded voice-recognition technology, and a free year of satellite radio service.
Pairing to Bluetooth is easy, if not as quick as in some vehicles. I also found the voice-recognition system easy and intuitive to use for everything from getting directions to adjusting cabin temperature. And the 19-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system might be the best one you can get in a pickup truck. Truly, it represents a feast for the ears.
Storage and Space
You are not going to run out of places to stash stuff inside of a Ram 1500. There is tons of storage in this truck, literally everywhere.
From the optional RamBox cargo bed compartments and standard in-floor RamBins to the available bin under the rear seat and the positively massive and configurable center console box, there is a place for everything. Even the door panels have shelves carved into them, and the second upper glove box in front of the passenger is actually useful (unlike in the Chevy and GMC).
Bed options include available corner steps, cargo separators, and tie-downs. Ram also offers a new 60/40 split tailgate design that swings down or to the left and right, which is especially useful for unloading heavy items without leaning far forward to reach them.
Visibility and Safety
From the driver’s seat, I find the Ram 1500 easier to maneuver thanks to how the hood drops down on each side. You can see better, which is helpful when parking or trying to pull close to another object. This, combined with large side mirrors and a multi-view reversing camera, as well as available parking sensors and a 360-degree surround-view camera system, makes the Ram drive smaller than it is.
And if that’s still not good enough, a semi-autonomous parking-assist system is an option, and works for both parallel and perpendicular spaces.
In addition to a free year of SiriusXM Guardian services, which includes automatic collision notification and SOS emergency calling, my test truck had a full complement of driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies. They work in relatively refined and unobtrusive fashion, too. The few times the forward-collision warning system and rear cross-traffic alert systems activated, they did so without startling the driver.
Thoughtfully, Ram allows the driver to choose between standard and adaptive cruise control, and without going through some screen menu and changing a setting. The buttons are right on the steering wheel. Should you choose the adaptive system, it works in smooth and sophisticated fashion.
A dashboard button activates the Ram 1500’s lane-keeping assist system. This technology behaves in more abrupt fashion, and after I needed to muscle it a little in order to give a cyclist more room on a rural 2-lane road, I just left it off unless I was driving on the notoriously narrow lanes of Los Angeles’ freeways.
I also liked the automatic electronic parking brake. Some people, however, won’t. For example, if you get into the cab and don’t fasten the seat belt, such as when you’re moving the truck into a new position, you need to physically release the electronic parking brake. With the seat belt on, the brake automatically releases when you step on the gas.
Ram’s new eTorque mild-hybrid powertrain technology is included with the truck’s standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine. If you want a 5.7-liter “Hemi” V-8 with eTorque, you’ll spend $1,395 to get the extra two cylinders and another $1,250 for eTorque.
Designed to add torque at the truck’s crankshaft for improved performance, and to help the automatic engine start/stop system operate in engine-off mode for longer periods of time, eTorque aims to improve gas mileage. A lithium-ion battery, mounted behind the back seat, powers the 48-volt electrical system and is recharged through regeneration as the truck coasts and brakes.
The eTorque system is noticeable in operation, but is not intrusive. You can hear and feel the engine restarting, and there is a momentary delay while that happens and before the truck responds to your right foot. It is not a source of irritation, though. Besides, the V-8 sounds fantastic, both from inside the truck and outside, and the Ram 1500 Hemi is downright quick, so it’s easy to forgive any eTorque sins.
An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard, operated using a rotary shifter knob on the dashboard. I like this design, though I realize it’s not everybody’s favorite.
The test truck also had an anti-spin rear differential and a push-button 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system with 2-wheel drive, 4WD Auto, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo settings. Placed in 4WD Auto, the Ram suffered very little wheelspin on wet pavement and soaked dirt, the truck giddying up and going in short order.
Properly equip a 2019 Ram 1500 and the maximum towing capacity measures 12,750 lbs. while the maximum payload rating is 2,300 lbs.
Compare the standard 5.7-liter V-8 to one with eTorque and the EPA expects a +2-mpg improvement in both city and combined driving, and a +1-mpg improvement on the highway. With eTorque, the numbers are 17 mpg city, 19 mpg combined, and 22 mpg highway.
During my testing, with Auto 4WD engaged, the truck returned 17.9 mpg. That’s less than the EPA estimate, but 2.5 mpg better than a recent GMC Sierra Denali returned from its 6.2-liter V-8.
If you’re familiar with the current crop of full-size, light-duty pickup trucks, and you drive the new Ram 1500, you’ll be astounded by its ride quality. Seriously, the Ram’s exclusive coil-link rear suspension design makes a big difference, and my test truck didn’t even have the optional air suspension.
Combine this magic carpet ride quality with a startlingly stiff architecture, commendable steering, impressive braking, and a set of 20-in. wheels with 275/55 tires, and the Ram 1500 is enjoyable to drive no matter the environment or situation. One on particularly rainy day, my family and I even embarked upon some light off-roading, splashing and, on occasion, slithering down a muddy trail without concern.
When you’ve been testing vehicles for 25 years, you know which ones are special because you miss them when they’re gone. I miss the Ram 1500, which is a tour de force of what a modern pickup should be. Ram might not lead in sales in this segment, but it certainly deserves to.