The Truth About Cars » ram 1500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:26:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » ram 1500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-ram-1500-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-ram-1500-diesel/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 18:49:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=594393  

2014-Ram-1500-diesel-grille

The most important year for the American pickup truck might have been 1996. Although the tenth generation Ford F-Series would debut that same year, the biggest development for the segment had nothing to do with trucks. It was the death of the General Motors B-Body sedan.

A perennial best-seller in America through the 1970s, the B-Body’s demise left American consumers with only one choice for a traditional full-size sedan, the Ford Panther cars. Conventional wisdom states that SUVs subsequently picked up the slack as America’s family hauler of choice, but there’s a case to be made that it was the half-ton crew cab pickup truck that truly replaced the large sedan as America’s family hauler. From 2002 onward, domestic full-size SUV sales began to trend downward, as pick-up sales, well, picked up.

The crew cab era began in earnest right around that time, with the Ford F-150 SuperCrew and a subsequent GM crew cab trucks debuting in 2002. Over a decade later, and both GM and Chrysler have replaced the rear-hinged doors on their extended cab models with a shorter crew cab model, supplemented with even bigger crew cab models that feature massive rear doors.

Shortly before we were invited to test out the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel CrewCab (the bigger of the two 4-doors in Ram nomenclature, with QuadCab being smaller) shown above, TTAC was loaned another Ram 1500 CrewCab – a Pentastar V6 Outdoorsman model, which featured the 8.4″ UConnect system, the lockable Ram Box storage system and a rather spartan interior with drab hard plastics and cloth upholstery (appropriate given the nature of the truck, but a little surprising given the $46,000 pricetag).

The timing of the Outdoorsman test coincided with a reunion for the summer camp I attended as a youth. Located roughly 200 miles from Toronto, the route to the camp is largely composed of rural two-lane highways with some decent grades and winding roads – a good place to put the Pentastar V6 and the new 8-speed automatic to the test.

With its enormous interior space, the CrewCab Ram acquitted itself well with my passengers, all of whom were over 6’2″. No sedan could possibly give them this much space to stretch out, not even the legendary Town Car Signature L. The air suspension provided an effortlessly smooth ride along the less-than-perfect stretches of pavement we traversed. But the Pentastar V6, as refined as it may have been, was a little lacking in power, especially when passing on two-lane highways. Some leeway has to be granted, on account of the Ram hauling a combined weight of 840 pounds of human cargo, plus the associated detritus, but the Pentastar’s power delivery wasn’t quite effortless. Last time we traversed these roads, we had used a friend’s Sierra 2500HD with a 6.6L Duramax diesel, and I found myself wishing for that kind of turbocharged torque that one can find in a diesel or an Ecoboost Ford.

2014-Ram-1500-diese-logo

Two months and 2547 miles later and I’m staring face to face with Mopar’s answer for how to get some real grunt without sacrificing n the green front. The Ram EcoDiesel is indistinguishable from the regular Ram, save for the fender mounted emblem shown above. Under the hood is a 3.0L V6 made by VM Motori. Originally planned for the Cadillac CTS, the diesel engine puts out 240 horsepower (43 less than the Pentastar V6) and 430 lb-ft (20 more than the 5.7L Hemi V8). Drawing comparisons to a Cadillac might be a bit of a stretch, but the V6 oil burner is incredibly refined. There is very little clatter at start-up or at idle, and the traditional diesel noises are largely kept in check. One noteworthy change is the addition of a Diesel Exhaust Fluid gauge in the cabin. DEF is used as part of the emissions control package, and the fluid is meant to be replenished at 10,000 miles (the same interval as the engine’s oil). However, regulations require that the engine must be disabled when the DEF supply is exhausted, so keeping an eye on its levels is essential.

Most of the seat time in the diesel Ram came in the form of various stop-and-go scenarios as part of the city driving loops, with the diesel returning a very impressive 24 mpg according to the vehicle’s trip computer. While the Pentastar V6 is said to add about a second and a half compared to the Pentastar Ram’s 7.5 second 0-60 time, the diesel felt much stronger, with plenty of torque available throughout the rev range. Merging and passing was a cinch, with the feel resembling that of a boosted gasoline engine. In a blind taste test, nobody would confuse the Pentastar, the Hemi or the diesel, but the oil-burner’s overall feel is closer to that of the Ford EcoBoost V6 than a traditional heavy-duty diesel engine. Although towing wasn’t a part of my drive, Ram claims that the diesel can haul up to 9,200 lbs with the right equipment.

The biggest sticking point for the diesel is likely the amount of time it will take to break even on the $4,500 premium the diesel commands. Based on a national average prices of $3.62 for gasoline and $3.97 for diesel, the payback over the Pentastar V6 will take decades. When the diesel is put up against the Hemi, the proposition makes more sense, taking about 5 years to pay off.

Nevertheless, rationality doesn’t always play in to these kind of purchasing decisions, as evidenced by the legions of buyers who frequently opt for fuel-efficient vehicles that in reality take lots of time to provide any kind of ROI. The notion of a diesel half-ton pickup will likely prove alluring for many in terms of curb appeal, and the powertrain’s combination of brawn and refinement will win buyers over on the dealer test drive. Otherwise, there’s very little to distinguish the diesel from gasoline powered Ram 1500s. And that’s hardly a bad thing.

Ironically, Ram wasn’t even supposed to be the first one to market with a diesel. At the end of the last decade, Ford reportedly shelved a 4.8L twin-turbo diesel V8, fearing that it would steal sales away from the Super Duty trucks.  They won’t be the second one either, since Nissan will release a half-ton diesel Titan within the next year or two. It appears that in this marketplace, the Super Duty trucks are gravitating towards the traditional heavy-duty users, while half-ton trucks are creeping upmarket, serving as replacements for all manner of large cars. Features like four full-size doors, better ride characteristics and lots of passenger space helped spur this trend – and the increasing push towards better fuel economy will only keep it going.

Chrysler provided airfare, accommodations and meals for the event. Photos courtesy AutoGuide.com

 

 

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Is Ram Reviving The Rumble Bee? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/is-ram-reviving-the-rumble-bee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/is-ram-reviving-the-rumble-bee/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 13:42:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499530 Ram-concept-Teaser

News of a new Ram performance truck was bolstered by these images released by Ram yesterday, that preview the new model set to be unveiled at this weekend’s Woodward Dream Cruise.

With a yellow bee motif and the word “Rumble” stenciled below the Ram’s shifter dial, it’s safe to assume that the Rumble Bee is based on the Ram Express, a stripped-down Hemi powered version of the Ram 1500. But while the Ram Express is rather basic (vinyl seats are available, for example) the Rumble Bee will likely have some more upscale features to go along with a higher price tag.

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Ram 1500 Diesel Engine To Carry $2,850 Premium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/ram-1500-diesel-engine-to-carry-2850-premium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/ram-1500-diesel-engine-to-carry-2850-premium/#comments Fri, 28 Jun 2013 14:40:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493512 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine

If you want a diesel engine but don’t want to spring for a heavy-duty pickup, your only option is the Ram 1500.

 

At a Chrysler event today, the folks at Ram revealed that the 3.0L diesel V6 will cost $2,850 more than the 5.7L Hemi engine on select trim levels. Pickuptrucks.com reports that final power figures are 240 horsepower and 420 lb/ft of torque, with as much as 28 mpg expected on the highway cycle.

Also announced was a new 6.4L Hemi powertrain and a new coil-spring rear suspension with load-leveling for HD models. This replaces the leaf spring setup on previous 2500 HD trucks, while the 3500 HD keeps its leaf springs but can also be had with the air suspension.

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Ford F-150 Tremor Vs Ram Express: Battle Of The Standard Cabs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/ford-f-150-tremor-vs-ram-express-battle-of-the-standard-cabs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/ford-f-150-tremor-vs-ram-express-battle-of-the-standard-cabs/#comments Fri, 28 Jun 2013 12:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493485 2014 Ford F-150 Tremor

The standard cab, short bed pickup is a rare breed these days. Most trucks that leave the dealer lot tend to be an extended cab, if not a four-door crew cab, with a longer bed and all the bells and whistles typically seen on a luxury vehicle. For a couple years, Ram has had the monopoly on a hot version of the standard cab with the Ram Express, a Hemi powered no-frills Ram, which starts at just $23,400. Not anymore.

Today, Ford announced the introduction of the F-150 Tremor. Silly moniker aside, the Tremor is a standard cab short bed truck that is explicitly aimed at “sport truck” enthusiasts. I always thought that crowd died away with the mini-truck era, but the combination of a 3.5L Ecoboost motor and a 4.10 rear axle ratio is an enticing one – don’t expect it to get anywhere near the vaunted fuel economy numbers that the taller-ratio equipped cars are apparently capable of. Power for the EcoBoost remains unchanged at 360 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, while the car gets FX4-style black alloy wheels, Boss 302-esque graphics and some loud paint hues.

ramexpress

The Express is pretty much as different as it gets. Rather than the newfangled EcoBoost, there’s an old-fashioned Hemi V8 breathing through dual exhausts. The fancy 8-speed ZF auto available on other Ram models is not available, nor is the big UConnect touch screen or any sort of “soft touch” interior. It’s all black plastic and the most basic head unit, with a 6-speed automatic as the sole gearbox. Outside, it’s indistinguishable from any other mid-grade Ram. No badges, no stripes, no alloys. You can even get it in a crew cab if you want, though this pushes the price up another $10,000.

What would you take?

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A Snapshot Of What Sub-Prime Buyers Are Driving http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/a-snapshot-of-what-sub-prime-buyers-are-driving/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/a-snapshot-of-what-sub-prime-buyers-are-driving/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2013 15:30:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486080

Sub-prime finance has attracted a bit of interest (no pun intended) over at TTAC lately, and the segment itself has experienced phenomenal growth in the post-bailout era.

Auto lending site www.carfinance.com released a list of the top 10 most popular new and used vehicles as purchased by sub-prime buyers over the last six months. While it’s not the most complete list by any means, it does give us a glimpse into the choices of sub-prime buyers. As far as we know, no such list has ever been compiled prior to this.

Top 10 New Cars for sub-prime buyers according to carfinance.com (from October to March 2013)

1. Dodge Avenger

2. Kia Forte

3. Kia Optima

4. Chrysler 200

5. Dodge Journey

6. Ford Focus

7. Ram 1500

8. Nissan Sentra

9. Nissan Versa

10. Kia Sorento

A few things jump out here. First off, this list has almost no crossover with the usual top 10 selling new vehicles in America. Only the Ram 1500 appears on both lists. Second, Chrysler products make four appearances on this list, with the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler 200 well know among the B&B for being very aggressively priced, to the point where it makes buying a Dodge Dart seem nonsensical. Chrysler has also been ramping up their own sub-prime lending program, through Santander and was the leader in sub-prime lending last year.

Also interesting are the relative dominance of Nissan and Kia. The latest Sentra and Versa have also been priced with a view to undercutting the competition, and the Versa has had success in the sub-compact market with its extremely cheap offerings (nonwithstanding the loss leader $9,995 Versa S, which is meant to get people in the showrooms and little else). Kia comes as a bit of a surprise, as very little is ever heard about them in connection with sub-prime purchasing. Any commenters with information or data that can help provide a better picture, please feel free to contribute.

 

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Chrysler 200, 300 Diesel Under Consideration http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/chrysler-200-300-diesel-under-consideration/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/chrysler-200-300-diesel-under-consideration/#comments Thu, 04 Apr 2013 15:10:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483549

The Chrysler 300 is already equipped with a diesel for world markets, and there’s a possibility we may see an oil-burning 300 on our shores as well.

Speaking to Ward’s Auto, Chrysler brand CEO Saad Chebab noted that it all came down to cost.

“I think that we are in talks about the diesels because the Thema has a diesel in Europe anyway…it’s a matter of how much the customer is willing to pay for that premium. That’s the only issue with it.”

Chrysler is rolling out diesel engines on the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee, with a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 made by VM Motori. But the diesel and the 8-speed automatic carry a premium of a few thousand dollars on the Grand Cherokee, a hefty sum, especially in the already declining full-size market.

Chebab also hinted that the Chrysler 200 may get a diesel option during its next generation, stating that “we have that opportunity to do it at any time.”

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QOTD: Are V6 Powered Full-Size Trucks Hitting Critical Mass? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/v6-trucks-hit-critical-mass-ecoboost-pentastar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/v6-trucks-hit-critical-mass-ecoboost-pentastar/#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 14:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480017

Even though Ford Ranger is dearly missed, Ford is claiming that Ranger customers are content with upgrading to an F-150 with one of Ford’s V6 powerplants – and they’re hardly alone in opting for the smaller powerplant.

Automotive News reports that the V6 powered F-150 has achieved a majority

F-150s equipped with V-6 engines, rather than V-8s, accounted for 53 percent of the 2012 sales total, a rate that exceeded Ford’s expectations.

The revival of the Ford Ranger has gotten plenty of attention this week, after an article by TTAC alum Justin Berkowitz shed light on the possibility of a compact, unibody pickup slotting below the F-Series. Whether or not this truck even comes to the USA is another matter.

What’s most compelling is the shift to a V6 engine in a segment where anything less than a V8 was seen as an emasculating choice. Even Ford was apparently caught out by the strong demand for the V6 engines. One source tells us that Ford initially expected a take rate of 15 percent for the Ecoboost, and hustled to meet demand when the real take rate ended up at around 40 percent or more.

Even though GM has downplayed the V6 option on their upcoming Silverado and Sierra trucks, Ram has been relentless in touting the new Pentastar V6 on the new Ram 1500. It will be interesting to get the data on Pentastar take rates once the redesigned Ram has had a full year of sales. The Ecoboost has the “urination contest” advantage of having two turbochargers and a lot more torque than competitive V6 and V8 engines, which may take some of the sting out of not having the two extra cylinders. Lest we forget that the emotional factor is frequently in play when choosing any car, and full-size trucks are no exception. The base 3.7L may be the prudent choice if fuel efficiency and saving money are the priorities – but as its minimal take rate demonstrates, the macho factor is still what’s important.

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Analysis: VEBA, The UAW And The Warren Walkout http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/analysis-veba-the-uaw-and-the-warren-walkout/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/analysis-veba-the-uaw-and-the-warren-walkout/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 18:45:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479965

The 12-person protest that took place at Chrysler’s Warren, Michgan truck plant got little notice in the automotive news cycle, save for a couple of mentions on the usual aggregators. In truth, it’s not the juiciest story to sell in this click-driven wasteland, though these stories tend to raise the most interesting questions. This example highlights an issue that is going to dog the UAW for some time – how will the UAW control their workers when they are also the owners?

For the sake of context, let’s recap the story. 12 workers decided to protest a recently implemented schedule at the Warren plant, which is building the 2013 Ram 1500. As the Detroit News explains it

The new system — which has already sparked controversy at other Chrysler factories in Michigan — would split the workforce into three shifts, each working four 10-hour days a week. Those shifts would be staggered over six days, meaning that many workers would have to work Saturdays. 

Saturdays, of course, means time-and-a-half pay. If you believe the Detroit News, then the rank-and-file are unhappy about the move and are determined to fight it. But the UAW is distancing itself from the protest, noting that the move to the current schedule was first approved a decade ago.

The protest coincided with a report by the Detroit News, citing leaked internal documents that show rampant quality problems with the new Ram 1500, a crucial product for Chrysler that is enjoying a lot of momentum in a very competitive segment.

During the first hour of production Thursday, workers at the Warren truck plant built 58 pickups. But only 16 of those vehicles passed final inspection, according to company documents. Quality improved as the day went on, but just over half of the trucks assembled by the first shift were approved for shipment. A company source told The News that number should be at least 78 percent and higher than that to meet the plant’s quality goals.

Wednesday’s numbers were similar, and many employees were ordered to stay late to repair the defective vehicles, according to the source. But the number of problem pickups in the plant’s lots continued to grow. Though nearly 200 vehicles were repaired overnight, there were still 1,078 trucks parked outside the plant Thursday morning that could not be shipped because of defects, according to a company document.

The same report made sure to preface that “…morale problems sparked by the new shift schedule are only making these problems worse…”, adding another barb to a series that is uncharacteristically critical considering that the Detroit News is the hometown paper for Chrysler.

It would be tempting to ascribe more sinister motives to nefarious factions within Chrysler, the UAW or both, but the reality is that the issues plaguing Warren are really just a perfect storm of bad circumstances. On a base level, human are notoriously bad with change. Having chatted with former union members in domestic auto plants, it’s evident that these sorts of shift changes are often presented in a manner that glosses over the ugly details so that the union bigwigs can get the measure approved. When it comes time for the changes to be implemented, the rank-and-file are inevitably unhappy (though our source notes that the blame cuts both ways; caveat emptor and all that).

So, take a bunch of disgruntled workers adapting to a new shift schedule and throw in a new model launch. What did you expect? Workers and management singing kumbaya around the camp fire? It’s hard to think of a bigger recipie for disaster, save for having Bob King ride into Chattanooga on an organizing drive while piloting a Chinese-built Wrangler with a Romney/Ryan bumper sticker. Combining the shift change with a new model launch and production ramp-up may have been a poorly judged move, but in all likelihood, the defect rate will settle down in a month or two.

Meanwhile, the UAW, through the VEBA health benefits organization, currently owns roughly 41 percent of Chrysler. While Fiat is currently attempting to buy the remaining stake from the VEBA, the retiree health benefits of the union members are largely dependent on auto maker stock as well as the overall financial health of the companies. The two parties are currently locked in tough negotiations over the remaining stake, but this is likely too far removed from quality defects at one plant to have any effect on potential stock prices or the respective bargaining position of either side. What is in the mutual self-interest of both parties is the continued success of Chrysler’s auto sales – and with Ram and Jeep being the two pillars holding Chrysler up right now, the UAW knows which side their bread is butter on.

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Ram 1500 To Get Diesel Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/ram-1500-to-get-diesel-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/ram-1500-to-get-diesel-engine/#comments Thu, 14 Feb 2013 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477464

Chrysler will be the first truck maker to offer a diesel engine on a half-ton pickup, when the Ram 1500 gets an oil-burner in Q3 of this year.

The diesel will be the same 3.0L VM Motori engine as used in the Grand Cherokee, good for 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque in that application. USA Today, which broke the story, reported that Ram boss Fred Diaz would not disclose power figures or pricing information, the two big question marks for the new model.

Diesel options in heavy duty pickups typically cost thousands more as optional equipment. TrueCar’s Jesse Toprak suggested that offering a small premium, akin to Ford’s EcoBoost V6 in the F-150, would shake things up in the segment, but Diaz seemed to shrug off that notion. Regardless, Toprak felt that the diesel option could be good for as many as 10,000 units.

With this announcement, it will be interesting to see if any truck makers follow suit and offer a quarter-ton diesel option. Aside from wanting to combat Ram’s lock on this model, there will likely be positive implications as far as CAFE goes. VM Motori is half owned by GM, though the company will offer a new mid-size Colorado for fuel-economy conscious buyers (though in many markets, the Colorado can be had with a Duramax diesel).

 

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NAIAS 2013: Cadillac ATS Is COTY, Ram 1500 Wins Truck Award http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/naias-2013-cadillac-ats-is-coty-ram-1500-wins-truck-award/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/naias-2013-cadillac-ats-is-coty-ram-1500-wins-truck-award/#comments Mon, 14 Jan 2013 13:23:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=473631

No surprises here…the Cadillac ATS and Ram 1500 are North American Car and Truck of the Year. Thank god it wasn’t the FR-S. Sergio Marchionne quipped that “we deserved to win” the truck award. And I don’t disagree with him. GM’s new full-sizers are going to have a tough battle ahead of them.

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Is This The Best Muscle Car Deal That Nobody Knows About? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/is-this-the-best-muscle-car-deal-that-nobody-knows-about/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/is-this-the-best-muscle-car-deal-that-nobody-knows-about/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2012 18:59:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470498

Two doors. 390 horsepower. 8 cylinders. Two seats. Just a hair under $25k. Sound too good to be true? It might be one of the best muscle car deals going, as long as you’re willing to drive a pickup.

While perusing the Ram website for someone looking to buy a pickup, I came across the Ram Express; with a regular 6’4″ bed and rear-drive, it can be had with a 5.7L Hemi engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission for just $24,825. Next year, the 8-speed automatic will be the sole option. For those of us in the snowbelt, four-wheel drive will bump the cost up closer to $28,000, which makes it less of a value proposition. Note that in Canada, the Express starts at a mere $22,395 for a 4×2 single cab – the sole option is four-wheel drive, and a bigger cab is not available.

The V6 Mustang is rightly touted as the muscle car bargain of the century, but the Ram Express offers its own proposition. No, it won’t handle like a V6 ‘Stang, nor will it return the same fuel economy. But it can haul more, carry people in greater comfort (if you opt for the Quad or Crew Cab versions) and can be had with four-wheel drive. Like the Mustang V6, the base price merely serves to get buyers in the door – the real desirable versions need more options and dollars thrown at them – but the intent remains the same. And while a truck may not put up the same on paper acceleration numbers as a conventional car, they can still haul ass just fine. The Express is also extremely basic. If nothing else, it’s an intriguing, all-American alternative to the traditional muscle car – one that can tow 9200 lbs, should the need ever arise.

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Capsule Review: 2013 Ram 1500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/capsule-review-2013-ram-1500/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/capsule-review-2013-ram-1500/#comments Fri, 24 Aug 2012 14:14:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457706

Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, an examination on the class divides in present-day America, features a handy quiz for “cultural elites” to answer, as a means of getting a sense of how much of a “bubble” one lives that isolates them from rural America. Among the questions asked are whether one owns or has owned a pickup truck (also: whether one knows an evangelical Christian, whether one has eaten at T.G.I Friday’s in the past year, and have you ever participated in a parade that did not involve global warming, gay rights, or a war protest).

I’ve never owned a pickup. I am a born and raised city boy, with palms softer than a baby’s thighs.When I told my friends I was going to Nashville to drive the revised Dodge Ram, they were most enthused about Nashville’s emerging status as a culinary mecca. Even worse, I am part of Generation Why, which couldn’t be more opposed to everything that pickup trucks stand for; we are city-dwellers that worship chefs, not Jesus and we don’t listen to country – or anything with instruments, really. Electronic Dance Music, our genre of choice, sounds like robots having a domestic dispute. On paper, I might be the least qualified person, demographically speaking, to review a brand new quarter half-ton truck.

On the other hand, I’m not burdened with the quasi-religious brand allegiances that many pickup fans possess. I like the Ecoboost-equipped Ford F-150 the best because I’ve spent the most time in it. Ram trucks have traditionally been third in the sales race – but the upcoming model year leaves them in a strong position. GM’s new trucks won’t even bow until the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, and presumably won’t go on sale for some time after that.

It would be naive to suggest that the Ram 1500 trucks that I sampled are enough to knock GM off the second place pedestal – it will take a number of years and some fairly big screwups at GM (or Ford, for that matter) to do that – but there’s enough here to keep the competition up at night. The big news this year is the addition of an 8-speed transmission, dubbed the TorqueFlite 8, which can be mated with the all-new Pentastar V6 and the 5.7L Hemi V8. Using a rotary knob mounted on the dashboard, rather than the 6-speed automatic’s traditional shifter, the TorqueFlite 8 shifts transparently, and can offer as much as 18/25 mpg city/highway when mated with the new V6 engine.

Having started out with a mid-grade SLT with the Hemi V8 and 6-speed automatic, the TorqueFlite 8 may seem like a frivolous contest of urinary supremacy. The less sophisticated V8 powertrain already feels nicer than the Coyote 5.0L in the Blue Oval’s truck. It’s smooth, never wanting for power and makes a nice growl under load. The SLT trim features the 2013′s upgraded interior, full of soft touch plastics and vastly improved switchgear, but without leather trim. The coil-sprung suspension with optional air bags borrowed from the Grand Cherokee, helps cushion pavement imperfections. Apparently, the real hardcore truck guys laugh at this setup, but I could stay in this thing all day.

I almost did, until I spotted an enticing number at the driver change point; a red, two-door standard cab with a short bed and big chrome wheels. There’s a rotary knob on the dash, signifying the new 8-speed ‘box. Let’s do it. The ride is rougher (a hallmark of the standard cab, which I was previously unaware of), but mere moments after I’ve twisted the knob to “D”, I’m reminded of something Sajeev told me while we debated the future of the police car.

“Cars like the Taurus based Police Interceptor don’t stand a chance against the pickup trucks in flyover country. They usually have quick gearing, especially with these new 6-speed gearboxes.  And if they have 4WD?  Forget it.  Those models have so much traction combined with the gearing that they usually don’t even have torque management in the software.  Gears, traction, no torque management on a torquey motor…triple threat.”

First gear in the TorqueFlite 8 is 4.7:1 – in layman’s terms, this means that there isn’t much that’s going to get away from you at a stoplight. Though no empirical data could be produced, our experiment verified Sajeev’s assertions. Driving this way wasn’t going to help test out the Ram’s much touted class leading fuel economy, so the Lil’ Red Express was returned for the new Pentastar V6.

Engine note aside, the Pentastar was so damn quick off the line that I had genuinely thought I was driving a V8 truck (in the interest of full disclosure, I neglected to check what powertrain the truck had at the outset, merely hopping into the cool looking Ram with the TorqueFlite setup). Not surprisingly, the Hemi/TorqueFlite equipped trucks had all been signed out, but the 305 horsepower V6 in the Ram left me seriously impressed. I already adore the Ecoboost in the F-150, and the Pentastar is an equally valid choice in this segment – think of it as the V6 Mustang of the truck segment.

Driving the competitive vehicles helped give greater context to the 2013 Ram; the new truck clearly has the best interior of the class. I had previously held the F-150 Platinum to be the zenith in this segment, but the delta between the priciest Ford and the more plebeian versions is far greater than say, the Laramie and the SLT Rams. The lesser Fords seem to be a grade behind the Ram, while the Chevy Silverado is unequivocally dated in its design and materials, though it’s also the easiest to use, devoid of screens or an explosion of buttons.

On the other hand, the Silverado is still very nice to drive. It feels light, even with four properly hinged doors, and while the cabin may feel dated, the powertrain doesn’t. The Silverado’s hydraulic steering does a great job of making the Ram’s electric system feel lifeless – the EPAS in the Ram isn’t that terrible, but one spin in the Chevy and you’ll miss the traditional setup. The Ford trucks feel more substantial than the Chevrolets, but don’t feel as well-engineered, despite the Ecoboost engines and fancy touchscreens. I like the way they look, but my prior biases have been eliminated, and the Ecoboost-powered Blue Oval is no longer at the top of my mind’s pickup wishlist.

Unfortunately, I’m not in the market for a pickup.

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