G. Chambers Williams

Ram dresses up the 1500 Sport model for 2017 with special, menacing Night Edition package


Fiat Chrysler keeps beefing up and expanding its signature Ram 1500 pickup line to maintain interest in the brand, and that includes developing a variety of “special edition” models aimed at particular audiences.

For 2017, one of those special models is the Ram 1500 Night Edition, which we were privileged to test this past week in the rear-wheel-drive Crew Cab configuration with short cargo bed.

The Night Edition is actually a $395 add-on package to dress up the Ram 1500 Sport model. Ram’s website says the package is available on Regular Cab, Quad Cab and Crew Cab 1500 Sport models, with either rear- or four-wheel drive, short or long bed, and either the base 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine or, as in the case of our tester, the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine (which adds $1,250 to the sticker).

The V-8 has 395 horsepower and 410 foot-pounds of torque, compared with 305 horsepower and 269 foot-pounds for the V-6.

Looking over the long list of options for our test vehicle, it’s hard to tell what’s standard and extra to make it officially the Night Edition, other than the Night Edition Package, which brings a black-painted honeycomb grille, black Ram tailgate nameplate, really cool-looking black-painted aluminum wheels, dual bright rear exhaust tips, and flat-black Ram 1500 badges.

Base price for our Ram 1500 Sport Crew Cab 4x2 with short bed was $40,395 (plus $1,320 freight) before adding the Night Edition package, Hemi engine or other extras. But with all of the options tacked on, our Night Edition model’s sticker topped out at $50,245, including freight.

Five exterior colors are available for the Night Edition model — Bright Silver Metallic, Bright White, Brilliant Black, Flame Red and Granite Crystal Metallic. The interior has black vinyl seats with cloth inserts and contrast stitching.

But I was particularly impressed with the Bright White paint on our test vehicle, which seemed to be the best choice to complement all of the black exterior touches that made this a “Night” model. The contrast with the brilliant white paint gave this truck a really special appearance, and it also helped bring a lot of attention wherever I took it.

Among the extras that dressed up our tester were the Sport Performance (bulged) Hood ($775) and the factory-installed black spray-in bed liner ($495).

This is a luxury pickup model, thanks to standard features such as the 10-way power-adjusting driver’s seat with power lumbar support adjust; heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls; power-adjustable pedals; dual-zone automatic climate control; heated front bucket seats; the power rear sliding glass window; overhead console with universal garage/gate opener; and the Uconnect 8.4-inch dash audio screen with backup-camera display.

Mechanically, one of the extras was the eight-speed automatic transmission ($500) to go with the 5.7-liter engine; a different eight-speed automatic is standard with the V-6. We also had a 3.92 rear axle ($95) and anti-spin rear differential ($435); trailer brake controller ($295); 32-gallon fuel tank ($355) replacing the standard 26-gallon; and ParkSense front and rear sonar parking assist ($445).

Also included were keyless entry and pushbutton start (part of a package). The power door-locking system also locked and unlocked the tailgate and the Ram cargo boxes on the side of the cargo bed, which were part of the RamBox Cargo Management System ($1,295). Also included in the package were a cargo bed divider/extender and four cargo tie-down hooks.

Among other standard amenities were an auto-dimming rearview mirror; four-wheel antilock disc brakes; and a security alarm.

The transmission shifter is a rotary dial on the dash just to the right of the pushbutton starter switch, between the steering column and center dash stack. There was also a seven-inch multi-view driver-information screen in the center of the instrument panel.

Standard on this version of the Ram 1500 Sport is a six-speaker audio system. But our tester came with the optional nine-speaker Alpine audio system ($345) and the Uconnect 8.4 Nav system ($700), which brought GPS navigation and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link.

A tri-fold tonneau cover ($545) over the bed added to the truck’s good looks. And a Convenience Group ($545) brought some nice technology, including automatic high beams, the keyless enter-and-go/pushbutton start, and rain-sensing wipers. The only other extra was locking lug nuts ($60).

Those are all the details about what was in or on our Ram Night Edition. Now let’s talk about how much fun this truck was to drive -- and how great it sounded whenever I dropped the hammer to make it go fast.

After a week in this truck with the upgrade to the Hemi engine, I can’t imagine driving one of these with just the base V-6, although that is a very good engine in its own right. But the 5.7-liter is a Hemi V-8, and this is one fast truck with that engine under the bulging Sport Performance Hood.

This engine combined with the eight-speed automatic was perfect for the two-lane back roads around my home area, where I often have to pass slower vehicles – and need some quick power to do so in the limited distance of the sparsely located passing zones. No problem.

The growl from the exhaust is quite satisfying, as well, particularly when passing someone with a buzzy glass-pack muffler in a little bitty Honda car. This is one menacing Ram.

Our truck’s interior was comfortable, both in the front cloth bucket seats and the wide rear cloth bench seat, which was decently accommodating for up to three people, but positively wonderful for just two.

EPA ratings for our tester with the Hemi engine, two-wheel drive and eight-speed transmission, were 15 mpg city/22 highway/17 combined. I averaged about 18.2 mpg during my weeklong test, and never had to refuel, thanks to the optional 32-gallon fuel tank.

This truck is not as high off the ground as some Rams, such as the ones I usually prefer that come with four-wheel drive and decent obstacle clearance. The trade-off is that even though this one is easier to get into and out of, it can’t go a lot of places those four-wheel-drives can go.

I know that’s not a big issue for lots of people, especially here in Texas, but I would probably order this same truck with the optional four-wheel drive if I were to buy one. I do like to have the capability to drive in the sand, mud and dirt whenever I encounter those. My philosophy is that “Where the pavement ends, the fun begins.”

Whichever way you might want to equip yours, this Ram 1500 Night Edition Crew Cab is a fun and attention-grabbing vehicle that most likely would keep a smile on your face whenever you’re in the driver’s seat. Happy motoring!

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2017 Ram 1500 Night Edition Crew Cab Short Bed

The package: Premium, full-size, five-passenger, four-door, rear- or four-wheel-drive, V-6 or V-8 powered, special-edition light-duty pickup truck.

Highlights: This is a special version of the Ram 1500 truck for 2017, based on the Sport model. The one tested was the Crew Cab version, but it’s also available in regular and Quad Cab models, with V-6 or V-8 power and rear- or all-wheel drive. The truck offers a wide range of features and options.

Negatives: A bit pricey, especially with the extras.

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6 (standard); 5.7-liter V-8 ($1,250).

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic (V-6); eight-speed automatic (V-8, $500 extra).

Power/torque: 305 HP./269 foot-pounds (V-6); 395 HP./410 foot-pounds (V-8).

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Length: 229 inches (with 5-foot-7 cargo box).

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain both rows.

Towing capacity: 10,330 pounds (2WD, 5.7 liter).

EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city/25 highway (V-6, 2WD); 15/22 (5.7, 2WD).

Fuel capacity/type: 26 gallons/regular unleaded; 32 gallons/unleaded regular (optional). Manufacturer suggests midgrade unleaded for the 5.7 engine, but it is not required, and unleaded regular is acceptable.

Base price (Sport Crew Cab, short bed, 4x2): $40,395, plus $1,320 freight and $545 for Night Edition Package.

Price as tested: $50,245, including freight and options (2017 Ram 1500 Crew Cab short bed, 2WD Night Edition, V-8).

On the Road rating: 8.6 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.