2013 Ram 1500 Road Test Review
2013 Ram 1500 introduces high-tech features to the full-size truck segment
Scores High: High-tech features, confident handling, distinctive styling, best-in-class fuel efficiency
Scores Low: No telescoping steering wheel
Total Car Score Analysis
If you still think of Ram trucks as Dodge trucks, you’re not alone. Despite a shift in branding three years ago it remains common to hear people refer to the pick-ups with distinctive big-rig styling and a crosshair grille as Dodge trucks. The Ram brand is doing its best to break this tendency, not only with Sam Elliott-voiced advertising campaigns and a slew of “RAM” badging for the all-new 2013 Ram 1500, but also with a host of high-tech, segment-first features meant to distinguish Ram trucks from the rest of the full-size truck segment. These features include an 8-speed automatic transmission and the same start-stop engine technology normally found on hybrid vehicles. The 2013 Ram also features an all-new V6 engine, new four-corner air suspension, electric power steering, a lighter chassis and a more aerodynamic body, all of which contribute to its best-in-class fuel efficiency and a believable claim of being the most advanced full-size truck available.
The same distinctive styling that has defined the Ram for almost 20 years continues in the all-new 2013 model. The crosshair grille is now four inches taller and sits above a new bumper with vertical fog lights (on higher-trim models). Standard halogen headlamps with 30 percent more lumens can be upgraded to bi-functional halogen projector beams with LEDs for the parking, turn signal and taillights (on Ram Sport, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn Rams). A combination of aerodynamic efforts, including active grille shutters, full-length running boards, an updated front airdam and an optional air suspension that lowers the truck’s ride height at highway speeds, have reduced the 2013 Ram’s coefficient of drag by 6 percent. On the Ram 1500 regular cab that translates to a Cd drop from 0.386 for last year’s model to 0.360 for the new truck.
An all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 headlines the drivetrain changes for the 2013 Ram 1500. As the base engine, this V6 offers 42 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque while delivering 20 percent better fuel efficiency compared to the outgoing 3.7-liter V6. It features variable valve timing and offers up to 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. This engine, when hooked to the Ram’s all-new 8-speed automatic, can tow 5,630 pounds or carry up to 1,948 pounds of payload. It also achieves a best-in-segment 18 city mpg and 25 highway mpg on two-wheel drive models when combined with the Ram’s start-stop engine technology (start-stop will be available on the Ram HFE starting in January 2013). Four-wheel-drive Rams, and those without start-stop technology, can achieve 17/25 mpg.
The new 8-speed automatic is controlled through a rotary knob near the steering column instead of the traditional column or floor shifter found on previous Ram’s. This latest automatic will also be offered with the 5.7-liter V8 Hemi, but not until the first quarter of 2013 (until then the 5.7 will be paired with the Ram’s existing 6-speed automatic). This V8 engine produces 395 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque. The 4.7-liter V8, offering 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, will continue to be offered in the 2013 Ram, but only with the 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy figures for the new Ram, when equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 or 4.7-liter V8, have not yet been released, but Ram representatives expect best-in-class numbers for these engines as well. We can confirm that all three engines provide excellent throttle response and effective gear selection, though turning a knob to change gears in a full-size truck took some getting used to.
The Ram truck, as the first and only large truck to utilize a coil spring rear suspension, already offered a smoother and more car-like ride than its competitors. The 2013 model continues the tradition but now features an optional four-corner air suspension that provides five ride-height settings as well as automatic load leveling. When equipped with this suspension the Ram can be lowered from its standard height (Normal Ride Height) for easier entry and exit when stopped (Park Mode). It can also be raised to provide up to 10.7-inches of ground clearance, depending on off-road driving conditions (Off-Road 1 and Off-Road 2). The new Ram will also lower itself 1.1 inches at higher speeds (Aero Mode) to reduce wind resistance and improve fuel efficiency.
These altered ride heights include changes in spring rate to reflect the driving conditions. For instance, the spring rate increases in the off-road modes to reduce body movement, but it softens in Aero Mode to improve highway ride quality. These upgrades work in concert with the Ram’s new electric power steering system to give the truck a confident and comfortable ride, whether bouncing over rock-strewn trails or cruising at 70 mph on interstate freeways.
Interior Design and Function
A primary goal for the 2013 Ram 1500 was to provide a distinctive interior treatment for the various trim levels. Lower trim lines, such as the SLT, received upgraded seat cloth while the mid-grade Sport gets a new mesh fabric and the upscale Laramie gets softer leather. The top-of-the-line Longhorn retains its leather interior but the color tone of the reds and browns has been brightened for a more luxurious appearance. The woodgrain trim in the Longhorn also offers a unique swirl pattern and low-gloss finish that comes from a specific European “open pore” wood.
On the functional side, Ram 1500s now feature a standard 7-inch thin film transistor (TFT) screen in the gauge cluster on Sport, Laramie and Longhorn models (it’s optional on the SLT). The screen can be configured to provide a wide range of information across its four quadrants, and it uses a specific background design to reflect the various Ram trim levels. This screen complements an updated 8.4-inch central touchscreen that integrates climate, audio, UConnect Access and (when equipped) navigation functions. It’s worth noting that customers who order a Ram with the 8.4-inch display screen, but without a navigation system at the time of purchase, can have that functionality added at a later date by the dealer (for an additional one-time charge).
Below the central display screen are basic climate controls and buttons related to seat heat and ventilation, ride height control, stability control, trailer brake control and tow/haul mode, depending on how a particular truck is equipped. The new Ram now has updated dash vents and the aforementioned rotary shift knob (in either aluminum or rubber, depending on trim) located above the four-wheel drive control buttons. There’s also a 115-volt power outlet and USB port alongside the traditional 12-volt power point. It’s a clean design with effective functionality, particularly given the amount of features the new truck offers on higher-end models. However, we were disappointed to learn there’s no telescoping steering wheel for the Ram in 2013.
Primary Features and Options
Like most full-size trucks, the Ram’s breadth of standard and optional equipment, depending on body style and trim level, could constitute a small novel. Available configurations include regular cab, quad cab and crew cab (the latter with four full-sized doors). Truck bed lengths range from 5-feet, 7-inches to 6-feet, 4-inches on crew cab Rams. Regular and quad cab Rams can be paired with either the 6-foot, 4-inch bed or an 8-foot bed. All of these configurations are available in two- or four-wheel drive.
The biggest in-cabin news for the 2013 Ram is an upgraded “Uconnect Access” system. This system features some of the most effective voice recognition technology we’ve experienced. After trying typical spoken commands, such as radio station tuning or requesting specific artists from our iPhone, we began asking about directions to restaurants, local fuel prices, movie listings and weather information to see if it could understand longer, more complex requests. The system never missed a beat, and because it displays what it thinks you just said on the 8.4-inch display screen you instantly know if Uconnect Access got it right (it always did, even when speaking in long, complete sentences – impressive!).
When you combine this technology with the 2013 Ram’s Wi-Fi hotspot technology (powered by Sprint) you get a rolling information access point that lets you connect tablets, laptops or cell phones even as you're exploring the great unknown. If you connect a cell phone, the system can alert you when a text is received, identify the sender and read the text message before sending a response (all using hands-free voice commands to reduce driver distraction). This level of connectivity also means future applications and system updates can be applied “on the fly” – without having to visit a dealer or even plug in a jump drive.
Beyond the Uconnect Access features, the new Ram offers HD Sirius XM radio, an upgraded Alpine audio system, a rearview camera, remote engine start, remote-locking RamBox and rear tailgate, power-adjustable pedals, chrome side steps, rain-sensing wipers and (on Quad and Crew cab models) a power-sliding rear window and sunroof. Standard on every Ram is a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty as well as a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
It’s Perfect For…
The full-size truck buyer, like every car shopper, is rapidly embracing the 21st. This means they expect big trucks to offer the same high-tech amenities seen on premium models. Every large truck maker will get there eventually, but with its long list of advanced drivetrain, suspension and in-cabin features the 2013 Ram 1500 has gotten there first. If you appreciate the latest technology and happen to need a highly capable full-size truck the new Ram is your best choice.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Ram 1500 Crew Cab SLT 4X4
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $33,000 (estimated)
Options on Test Vehicle: Spray-in bedliner ($NA), two package ($NA), Uconnect Access ($NA), Air Suspension ($1,595), Destination Charge ($995)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $37,735
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.