The Ram Truck brand was launched as a stand-alone division (from Dodge) in 2009, becoming an industry leader with the longest-lasting line of pickups in America.
Ram trucks deliver a total package for customers with demanding needs, who expect their vehicles to provide a high level of capability. In fact, with its award-winning interior, exterior design aesthetics, segment-leading technology, and exclusive features, Ram 1500 offers content designed to match each model’s unique style and intent.
One of the oldest designs currently offered in the segment, Ram 1500 is still very capable, offering an excellent range of engines, including the standard 305-horsepower V-6 (strong and efficient), an optional 395-horsepower V-8 (throaty HEMI, with plenty of towing power), and a class-exclusive turbocharged diesel V-6 (highest fuel economy in class, though lacking in performance).
Fuel-economy estimates for the V-8 two-wheel-drive (the model I tested) are 15 mpg in the city, 22 on the highway, and 17 combined. A properly equipped Ram 1500 with a V-8 engine can tow up to 10,640 pounds, slightly less than competitors, but still very impressive.
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Ram 1500 offers 11 models from the bare-bones Tradesman RWD ($26,495) to fully-loaded Limited ($52,875), and an off-road-capable Rebel (rare among large trucks, $45,095).
Every Ram1500 has an effortless eight-speed automatic transmission, which uses a bright rotary knob on the center stack – the six-speed automatic is eliminated for 2017.
There are two versions of the eight-speed automatic, the 845RE and the 8HP70, both using low-viscosity fluid that doesn’t need to be replaced. Both reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help save on fuel consumption.
Both also adapt to driving situations based on acceleration, temperature, grade, stability control, and driver behavior. The 8HP70, however, is a beefed up version to handle more torque and is used with the powerful 5.7-liter engine. A rotary controller on the dash frees up useful storage space on the center console
Rear-wheel drive is standard, with two 4WD systems to choose from – one with traditional manual mode selection, one with an automatic mode. Four-wheel drive adds $4,600.
Multiple body styles are available, starting with a regular two-door cab with seating for three and either a 6-foot, 4-inch bed or an 8-foot cargo bed; a four-door quad cab seating six, with a 6-foot-4 bed; a four-door crew cab with larger rear doors and more legroom with either a 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-4 bed.
Many standard features are available as options on other trims, including the tonneau cover. RamBox waterproof bed side bins (5-foot-7 and 6-foot-4 beds) are a stand-alone option. Other options include appearance enhancements, chrome bed rails, heated rear seats, sunroof, and rear defroster.
Modern interior technology, class-exclusive coil-spring rear suspension, and available self-leveling air suspension (the smoothest ride on the market for carlike cruising) elevate the Ram from workhorse to dressage horse.
The Outdoorsman trim disappears for 2017, although some features have been moved to other trims. All 2017 Ram trucks are now fitted with a new 5-micron cabin air filter.
My Ram 1500 was a rear-drive Night Edition Crew Cab with a 5-foot-7 bed, base price $40,395 (8HP70 automatic transmission adds $500, V-8 HEMI adds $1,250), in Bright White, with black interior/cloth bucket seats, and 20-inch semi-gloss black painted wheels with five thick, wide spokes and black ram hub cover.
The Night Special Edition group ($395) also included a semi-gloss black painted honeycomb grille with dark chrome signature “crosshair” trim, black RAM tailgate nameplate, and flat black “Ram 1500” badge on the front edge of the front doors.
A flat black/red HEMI 5.7 LITER badge behind the front wheelwell, black tubular side steps ($425), a blacked-out “B” pillar, black step bumper (with pull-down auxiliary step, class IV receiver hitch for $345, and integrated 4- and 7-pin wiring harnesses), a black tri-fold cloth tonneau cover ($545), black wheel spats (aka mudflaps), black window trim, smoked taillight lenses, black mirror trim, black headlight housing, and black air vents on the tall sport rerformance hood ($775) added to the Night mystique.
Interior trim was chrome, brushed aluminum, and a pewter-colored plastic. Seating was comfortable front and back, especially for a long road trip, with plenty of legroom in the rear at 40.3 inches. Front legroom was 41 inches, with 41 inches of headroom and 39.9 inches of headroom in the rear.
Two cupholders were located on the floor in front of the rear middle seat – not really convenient if there was a middle passenger. Rear passengers had a 12-volt outlet on the rear of the front console, along with air vents. With the cover of the center console open and flipped back, rear passengers had a convenient area for a laptop, fast food, or other small convenience items.
The rear seat could be folded up 60/40 to make room for taller items such as chairs or even a bicycle. With the rear seat flipped up, a fold-out flat floor stored under the seat provided a level area for longer items, with lights on the seat bottoms providing illumination.
Watertight storage bins under the rear floor could hold ice and beverages or wet items to keep the floor dry and clean.
All four doors had two bottle/beverage holders in the door pockets, while the front doors also had bi-level cubbies under the armrests. Several shallow bins on the dash and center console provided plenty of small-item storage, along with a bi-level glove compartment. A special horizontal bin with soft rubber fins was just right for a smartphone or pad.
While the interior storage was more than adequate, the unique RamBox system, with two lockable, waterproof compartments (with drains) occupying the space over the rear fenders inside the truck bed, provided safe storage for tools, fishing equipment, construction supplies, or, if desired, water for fish or ice for drinks. The bins can be locked and unlocked via remote, along with the cab doors.
My Ram had a RamBox Cargo Management System ($1,295) with LED lighting, four adjustable cargo tie-down hooks, and a bed cargo divider/extender. The divider/extender was light and easy to use, snapping into grooves along the bed side.
As a divider, it kept items secure at the front of the bed, and as an extender it kept long items in the bed with the locking tailgate lowered. The gate was easy to raise and lower, a plus for a short woman with weak hands and arms. The folding tonneau cover was also light and easy to fold after pulling down on a latch at each side in the rear.
Infotainment came in the form of a Uconnect system ($700) with an 8.4-inch touch screen featuring virtual buttons, quick responses, and logical menus, with several actual buttons and knobs for “old-school” operators. Uconnect provides emergency services as well as stolen-vehicle tracking and many more driver conveniences such as GPS navigation and SiriusXM Traffic/Travel.
Convenience features also included Bluetooth, voice controls, smartphone integration, and a Wi-Fi hot spot. Power-adjustable pedals made it easier to find a comfortable driving position, as the heated steering wheel was tilt-only.
Hill-start assist, trailer-sway control, front seat side air bags and full-length side-curtain air bags, and a rearview camera are a few of the standard safety features, with a trailer-brake controller ($295) and front and rear parking sensors ($445) added.
Ram received four stars out of five for overall crash protection, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the crew cab its highest rating of good.
The Ram also has best-in-class aerodynamics, outstanding for such a massive vehicle. Add highest owner loyalty and best-in-class ride and handling for an overall excellent recommendation.
My Ram had several other options, including a Convenience Group ($545) with high-beam control, keyless Enter’n’Go, and rain-sensing wipers; nine-speaker Alpine premium audio ($345); 3.92 rear axle ratio ($95); anti-spin differential rear axle ($435); 32-gallon fuel tank ($355); locking lug nuts ($60); and a spray-in bedliner ($495).
With $1,320 in destination charges, my ruggedly handsome, versatile Ram 1500 Night Edition Crew Cab delivered for $50,245.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.