Auto review: 2019 Ram 1500 is the pickup truck for winning arguments

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 30, 2018

       

The redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4x4 in Laramie trim is powered by a 395-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine with an eight-speed transmission. It rides as quiet as an SUV, is finished like a luxury car, yet has heavy duty pickup truck capability.

The $50,000 pickup truck question boils down to: How is it going to be used every day? If youíve been on the losing end of the argument over what youíre going to do with a pickup the 300-or-so days a year when youíre not towing or hauling or helping, then the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500 is your counterargument.

The third-best-selling vehicle in America behind the Chevy Silverado and Ford F-150 rides as smooth as an SUV but with all the pickup capability of a half-ton truck with a V-8 engine.

Itís the one truck I wished I could hold onto longer. In recent weeks, Iíve tested the outgoing Chevrolet Silverado and the Nissan Titan XD turbo diesel. Ram 1500 shoppers shouldnít be cross-shopping either of those vehicles, as the Titan XD is a heavy-duty workhorse and a new 2019 Silverado is coming in the fall. But experiencing those vehicles put into context the excellent balance of Ramís engineering.

The familiar 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine doesnít sound or feel like a V-8 until you want it to. With the windows up on the highway, it runs crossover quiet, thanks in part to expanded active noise cancellation and cylinder deactivation. Active grille shutters and front air dam improve aerodynamics and fuel economy as well.

An updated eight-speed transmission is supposed to be faster, and like the outgoing model a gear plus-minus button on the steering wheel overrides it into manual, if you want more low-end torque from a stop or when towing or going downhill. But all these fuel saving upgrades, including a reduction of 225 pounds in overall weight, result in the same fuel economy of 17 mpg combined in the outgoing model. We averaged closer to 18 mpg in about 60 percent highway driving.

The efficiency improvements are about more efficient capability. That 395-horsepower V-8 makes 410 pound-feet of torque, good enough to tow at least 1,000 pounds more than the similarly equipped outgoing model.

A more fuel-efficient engine is due later this year as a mild-hybrid system with a 48-volt battery that boosts torque up to 540 pound-feet of torque (only $800 more). Then you can tow a whole house instead of just the garage, I reckon; for now, the 11,340-pound towing capability is already heavy-duty levels.

Ram says the lightweighting has produced the 1500ís most powerful frame ever. Yes, there are some aluminum elements in the tailgate and chassis, but like the Ford F-150, Ram uses a high-strength steel frame, no matter how Chevy wants to spin it.

It rides sooo nice. A revised coil spring suspension soaks up road imperfections and gets progressively stiffer as the payload increases to a maximum of 2,300 pounds. It keeps the ride high and stable under heavy load, yet soft and comfy when youíre riding solo. An air suspension with five different heights is available for $1,795.

The 1500 actually grew for 2019, with the wheelbase extending 4 inches, all in the rear of the crew cab. The rear seats recline for a more relaxing ride home, and they still flip up for a wide, secure cargo berth. The doors opened wide enough for us to slide in a medium-size dog crate 22 inches wide by 26 inches tall. Small underfloor lockers provide extra security.

Like other modern pickup trucks, the cab is padded in comfort, convenience and advanced technology that might make some owners require passengers to remove muddy boots. Laramie trim has leather everything, including black bucket seats ($1,400) with silver stitching that was subtle but sharp. Not the kind of thing you mind getting dirty, but it would clean up real nice too. The wood trim pieces and wood console panel made that longhorn Ram logo stand out even more.

U-Connect has stood the test of time as a simple system to use with good voice command fidelity, and the 8.4-inch display is plenty for the back-up camera, so I donít know if you need the available 12-inch touch screen.

The Laramie trim level also came with 20-inch wheels, helping to boost the overall bigger, bolder profile started by the massive slotted grille, which is available in six configurations. Our grille effectively had seven slots branded with Ram. The styling is subtle but attractive, nothing too showy or garish, though the gap between the bed and the cap was huge. The tester did not have a side step, which I would opt for, and Chevyís fender step is still the best truck help in getting in and out of the bed. The Ramís fender lowers so stepping up on it isnít too bad, but Chevyís is better.

The Ram 1500 makes a compelling argument over the Silverado and F-150. Compelling enough to convince that skeptical spouse that this could be an everyday all-purpose vehicle.

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2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 at a glance

Vehicle type: Half-ton pickup truck

Base price: $46,890

As tested: $55,335 (excluding estimated $1,215 delivery)

Mpg: 15 city, 21 highway

Engine: 395-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V-8

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Parting shot: Quiet, capable, excellent.