2013 Ram 1500 – Nashville Preview and Quick Drive Review
When a new vehicle is launched at any time, the best judge on how well that vehicle will be is shown in the enthusiasm of the people involved. Not just sales or marketing departments because it’s their job to be excited when promoting the product. When you talk to the designers and engineers behind the product though, their excitement can speak volumes.
In the case of the 2013 Ram 1500, the excitement was through the roof with everyone involved. Talking to the designers, you could really sense that they were allowed to go crazy and really try some innovative things. Same goes with the engineers. You could see their eyes light up and a grin appear on their face as they start to explain how a certain change saved 5-horsepower or another change that saved a small amount of drag. You see, the 2013 Ram 1500 started as your basic mid-cycle refresh, but quickly turned into a ground up redo as Ram was focused on making this new 1500 a class-leading truck.
The Ram brand was broken off from Dodge back in 2009, and although many consumers have yet to catch on, this was a move that let Ram focus more intently on their trucks and commercial vehicles. So while other manufactures were busy consolidating brands, Chrysler was growing, and it’s been key in their growing market-share all around.
What all is new with this 2013 Ram 1500?
It’s really too much to go into all the details of every change or upgrade as this truck really was a ground up project, and putting all that information into a review would, frankly, bore you. We’ll hit some of the major changes, though, and then we’ll get right into our time actually driving this truck.
Let us start with the frame itself. As fuel economy was one of the main focuses for 2013, everything was looked at closely. The new frame was constructed with high-strength, light-weight steel that saves up to 30-pounds alone.
After the frame, Ram decided to introduce air suspension to the 1500. This is a class exclusive technology in the 1500’s segment. The air suspension comes from Chrysler’s work with Jeep, so it’s a technology that’s been proven and tested in harsh conditions already. The air suspension can raise and lower the truck with a touch of a button. It will also automatically lower the truck at speed to improve airflow and add to the improved fuel economy.
For the Texas workers who take their trucks off the beaten path, the air suspension can raise this Ram 1500 over 4-inches to a best-in-class 10.7-inch ground clearance. When you have the truck in park, it will lower down to make loading the bed and getting in and out much easier. The air suspension not only helps with fuel economy and ease of use, but it also should make the truck a much smoother and comfortable ride.
More fuel economy savings come from the addition of a new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. Compared to the previous 3.7-liter V6, this engine produces 42-percent more horsepower, 13-percent more torque, and should give you at least 20-percent better fuel economy. The official power numbers are 305-hp at 6,400 rpm and 269-lb-ft of torque at 4,175 rpm. This new V6 is matched up with Chrysler’s 8-speed automatic transmission. Compared to the old 4-speed offered in the old V6, you not only get double the gears, you also get much improved economy.
For now, if you opt for the 5.7-liter HEMI, you’ll still have to make due with only a 6-speed transmission, but Ram says that the matchup with the 8-speed is coming soon. Speaking of the 5.7 V8, power has been bumped here as well. You now get 395-hp and 407-lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy should be bumped as well, but as of our test drive, the EPA has yet to certify a number.
Along with the new powertrain options, Ram has included many more technologies to help improve economy such as stop-start, a thermal management system, pulse-width modulation, active aero grille shutters, and a new electric power-steering rack. All of this and more allows the Ram 1500 equipped with a V6 achieve an EPA rating of 18-mpg city and 25-mpg highway.
Redesigning the Ram 1500 is no small feet either. Trying to include innovative technologies and better fuel economy all while keeping the Ram’s signature style was the task put before the Ram design team. The bumper was redesigned incorporating a new lower air dam to help reduce air-flow under the truck. The 2013 Ram will incorporate 4 new grille designs that signify trim levels, much like Ford does with their F-150. The headlights are all new with LED’s and bi-functional halogen projectors. Another change-up is with the fog-lamps, which now have a vertical design instead of the horizontal fog-lamps in the previous Ram 1500.
Move around the side and you’ll see a new design to the “Ram 1500” badging. They are now laid out on top of one another leaving more real estate on the door; for say a stick-on sign for a small-business owner. Even the running boards were looked at and lengthened to stretch completely from the front wheels to the rear. The added length helps with fuel economy by helping airflow around the rear tire, but also helps functionally by making it easier to reach into the bed.
To round out the exterior, you have new LED taillights that add style and design to the rear of the truck. The bezeling around the taillight will also signify trim level, depending on whether the bezel is black or chrome.
Inside, you get a plethora of new technologies and materials. The new gear shifter is now a turn knob on the dash instead of a traditional shifter occupying space in the console. You now have the option of an 8.4-inch touchscreen display with Ram’s Uconnect system. Behind the steering wheel is a beautiful gauge cluster with an incorporated 7-inch information display. Ram says you can switch in between hundreds of different information screens. That might be a little excessive, but the few screens we messed with were easy to read and informative enough.
There is much more technology all around this truck, but it’s time to take a look at the actual drive. We met up in what looked like an empty nightclub not far outside downtown Nashville to pick out our ride. I really wanted to check out the new V6 engine and 8-speed transmission combination, so I talked my co-pilot into first jumping into a Pentastar V6 powered Ram 1500 4×4. I was the first one behind the wheel and my co-driver here in Tennessee was Nick Malone – a friend and Texas car enthusiast who’s a co-host of an automotive podcast called Burnout Radio.
We hit the streets in Nashville heading toward the highway to get out of the city and head to more tight, twisty, and scenic roads. On the city streets, you could already feel the air suspension keeping the ride smooth over some rough roads. You could also feel that 3.6-liter 305-hp engine able to climb some urban-hills with ease.
After a few navigating problems, thanks Nick, we merged up onto the highway. One things that all trucks must be is comfortable. Most truck owners spend a lot of time driving, and here in Texas, we’ll see people making long tracks in their truck with business and family in tow. This Ram 1500 is one of the most comfortable and easy to drive trucks I’ve driven. The interior is exceptional in every area. The seats are bolstered and comfortable, the materials used are high quality and great looking, and the electronics on the dash area all laid out well. The steering is now electrically assisted as we mentioned before, but it doesn’t feel dead or withdrawn. You actually have a lot of feel and it’s easy to sense the amount of input needed to maneuver this larger vehicle. The steering feel really came in handy later in our drive as we were tearing through tight, twisty back-roads in the hills outside of Nashville. Obviously, it’s no sports car, but it was much more composed than I expected.
We made a quick pit stop for a driver change which was good considering Nick had just told me that his stomach doesn’t do well as a passenger when speeding through tight turns. This also gave me the opportunity to check out the passenger experience and gave me time to play more with the Uconnect system and the Ram’s navigation. The Uconnect system is much like SYNC and many others on the market today. You are able to sync a phone or device with bluetooth, access information with voice commands, there is a messaging center that will read text messages to the driver, and it will even produce a wi-fi hotspot for the worker on the go. From what we were able to play with, it’s a pretty good system all around and miles ahead of what’s been offered in Chrysler products before it.
After arriving at our destination, a big field out in the country, we spotted what was in store for our playing pleasure. The Ram team had set up two separate off-road courses; one created with dunes and a large pit to test the slow-crawling potential of the 1500. The other was a faster course that led you around the property with lots of ruts and turns eager to test out the suspension and ride at speed. We had some towing objects ready to be hooked up including a trailer carrying a big 4×4 ATV, a boat, and a camper.
The first thing we hit was the more challenging slow crawl, off-roading section. The dunes were spaced out and to either side just enough to pick two tires off the ground. The Ram 1500 handled these with ease. Next, around the corner, was a big pit with a steep 10 foot drop down, completely submerging the truck into the ground and then another steep climb out. Again, the 1500 moved with ease. You could feel the computers working on the decline as it kept you at a pace that was safe and comfortable. Same goes with the climb out. Even on the loose sand we managed to get out with ease. Next were some more dunes that we hit a little faster. Even here with the Ram’s independent suspension, there was no sense of the frame flexing or the truck flipping. Around the corner and back down toward the finish line where a buried log waited. Up, over and done.
Next, we took on the towing challenge. We used three different trucks while towing the three different loads. First, we started small with the ATV and our truck was one equipped with the 4.7-liter HEMI V8 and a 6-speed automatic transmission. This was the base workhorse of the lineup with cheaper cloth seats, only 2-doors, and painted in white with a blacked out grille. There were moments while pulling the ATV that this truck actually seemed to struggle, most notably when putting your foot down on the inclines. You could feel the trailer pushing and pulling on the this truck. Next, we jumped in the truck pulling the boat. This was the 3.6-liter V6 hooked up to the 8-speed transmission. This setup was much more composed even with it’s heavier load and smaller engine. You didn’t feel as much resistance as you climbed through Tennessee’s country hills. It was a solid and more composed setup for sure. We jumped over to the next setup. This was the big boy pulling the big trailer. The 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 395-hp and 6-speed automatic transmission. This was also the Longhorn edition so it was comfort to the max. The truck had plenty of power for pulling the heavy camper and was the most composed of the three. This would definitely make for a great truck for hauling some horses or work equipment around Texas.
After pulling a bunch of weight and watching practically every other journalist out there leave the playground, we thought it was time to tackle the faster off-road track and have some fun. This big truck handles really well in tight corners on the road, but what about when you’re traveling on harsh, bumpy, off-road terrain? We’re once again in a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with plenty of power to push the rear end around and get this truck sliding in the field. Barreling toward the trees, it’s time to slam on the brakes and slow this sucker down to pass through the first gate. Luckily, the brakes are good and we flew through the gate with ease. Some quick rights and lefts working the accelerator and brake keeping the backend loose for most of the time was fun, but after we punched it coming back out of the gate, we hit a big, invisible dip. It felt like we caught some air as everything in the truck, including us flew toward the roof. Fun times? Yes, maybe we should try it a few more times to make sure the truck is really up to task.
Of course, after a few hard laps, I reminded Nick that this is the same truck we’d be driving back to Nashville, about a 25-minute trip back into the city, so we calmed down and headed out, reflecting with each other about the day we’ve had and what we thought about the 2013 Ram 1500.
In my opinion, this 2013 brings Ram on par with what Ford has been doing for a while now. The Ram 1500 should be best-in-class for fuel economy when it launches, but we don’t have any numbers to compare prices as of yet. This really is a great and capable truck that suits Texas well. It has aggressive styling, a great and comfortable interior, and now powertrains and technology that really bring it into 2013. We can’t wait to see how well this new Ram does in sales as the Ram brand has already been gobbling up market-share, and we can’t wait to get our hands on one for a more extensive, Texas style, review soon enough.
– 2013 Ram 1500 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices will average just over 1 percent higher than 2012 prices.
– Starting price for the 2013 Ram 1500 will be $23,585, including $995 destination charge. Ram will continue to be the best-value fullsize pickup in America.
– The award-winning 3.6L Pentastar V6 with the class-exclusive 8-speed TorqueFlite 8 transmission – which combine to deliver a best-in-class 25 mpg — are a $1,000 option over the 4.7L V8 6-speed offered on Tradesman models.
– The Ram Active Level air suspension option will be priced at $1,595.
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