SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In what’s about to become the hottest year ever for new pickup unveilings, the 2019 Ram 1500 hits the road first with a smooth, quiet ride and high-end features no competitor can top.
I just spent a day driving a loaded Ram 1500 Limited pickup through Arizona’s roads and desert.
The all-new Ram 1500 should be in dealerships by the end of March. It competes with full-size pickups, including the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra. The Silverado and Sierra also have all-new models coming this year, but they won’t be on sale for months.
Prices will run from $31,695 for a base Tradesman model to $53,890 for a Limited.
The Ram will initially come only with Fiat Chrysler’s famous Hemi V8 and a roomy four-door crew cab. Other models will follow, including a V6 and Hemi engines with a mild hybrid system Ram says should improve fuel economy by about 10 percent.
A pair of canisters mounted to the truck’s frame eliminate engine vibrations, allowing the V8 to save fuel by shutting off four cylinders when it doesn’t need full power.
It worked like a charm. The Hemi in my test truck switched back and forth between V8 or V4 frequently in traffic and when idling, but I knew only because I’d set the instrument panel to display that information.
I spent most of the day in a high-end Limited model that had features including wood and metal interior trim, air suspension, wireless phone charging, a big dual-pane power sunroof, adaptive cruise control, and a 12-inch touch screen for navigation, audio and other systems. It will probably sticker at about $58,000 with all the options as tested.
Ram expects the nonhybrid Hemi to score about the same in EPA fuel economy tests as the 2018 Ram 1500 — about 15 mpg city, 22 highway and 17 combined with rear-wheel drive. A new version of Fiat Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic transmission is standard.
The interior is luxuriously roomy, thanks to a crew cab that’s 4 inches longer than the old model. Three inches of that go into extra rear legroom. In addition to plenty of space to stretch out, the extra room — and a flat floor in the rear — also lends itself to storage bins under the floor and rear seat. The rear seat also reclines and has 8 inches of fore and aft travel.
Despite growing larger and adding plenty of new equipment, the new Ram is about 225 pounds lighter than the 2018 model, thanks largely to plentiful use of high-strength steel in the frame, body and bed.
The pickup’s payload and towing capacity increase about 20 percent, to 2,300 and 12,750 pounds, respectively.
The 5.7-liter 395-horsepower Hemi powering my test truck provided all the acceleration, off-road and towing ability that have made the engine an icon. The steering is precise and responsive, with good on-center feel. The brakes got bigger to handle bigger payloads and trailers, but brake feel was easy and direct, even with an empty bed. The optional air suspension adjusts to provide a comfortable ride with no load, while the standard steel suspension uses dual-stage springs to accomplish the same thing.
The big 12-inch touch screen is oriented vertically in the center stack, like an iPad. It can be split into two screens to control separate functions or devoted to a single feature, such as a large map for navigation. Based on a brief test, sensitivity seemed fine.
Fiat Chrysler builds the 2019 in what amounts to a brand-new assembly plant. It stripped every piece of manufacturing equipment out of the Sterling Heights, Michigan, factory that used to build the Chrysler 200 sedan to convert it to the new Ram.
The plant in Warren, Michigan, that has been Ram’s home for decades will keep building the old model as long as there’s demand for it, or until the company has to idle the plant to switch to producing a new version of the Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickups, which it now builds in Mexico.