By on August 24, 2012

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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66 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2013 Ram 1500...”

  • avatar

    I love the lower strap rings in Ram’s bed. Cannot imagine why anyone would buy a truck without them. How do you keep cargo from moving if only upper anchors are available? My empirical observations suggest that Silverado drivers just let it slide and trash itself upon the cargo box sides.

  • avatar

    “frivolous contest of urinary supremacy”

    Huh? Please explain what in the world THAT means!

    Other than that, Dodge has a long way to go to even come close to overtaking either Chevy or Ford. I owned a 1980 Dodge truck, bought new. It was fairly nice. I haven’t owned a truck other than two Ford Rangers since and even though I like trucks, I have no use for one, nor can afford to feed one right now.

    I compare any new vehicle review with skepticism. My favorite cases in point: years ago, every new or refreshed minivan that came out, CR declared it was tops. Anything to tear down Chrysler, deserved or not. Especially so in the case of the Toyota Previa. CR declared it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. How many did they sell? 10? So much for reviews.

    HOWEVER: I give TTAC much more credit, as I feel you guys are far more objective about the vehicle itself.

    Nice review just the same. We’ll see how it does in the marketplace…

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      “frivolous contest of urinary supremacy”

      = “pointless pissing contest”

      You must be one of the aforementioned elites. Pleased ta meetcha!

    • 0 avatar

      Wait, an Impala wasn’t mentioned in Zackman’s comment?

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      How would you know they have “a long way to go” if you haven’t even driven one?

    • 0 avatar

      Is it really necessary for you to make the same “I don’t care about this vehicle because I don’t need it or can’t afford it” comment about everything that isn’t an Impala or ’80s Chrysler K-derivative?

    • 0 avatar

      “Especially so in the case of the Toyota Previa”. If I recall from the mechanics I’ve known and run with, the Previa was the biggest PITA to work with it’s ‘innovative’ mid-engine design. Most people were turned off at the cost of the van’s maintenance when coupled with the joy of it breaking down.

  • avatar

    Looks like some good improvements. I recently had a 12 RAM with the V8, 6-AT, 4WD and extended cab. Basically the typical non-Hertz rental mid-grade model (Hertz always gives GMCs). It was very low-grade inside (after all it is a truck), front end floated severely when cruising at 70-80mph, turning circle was very wide, and it just looked cheap, but mileage was decent, as I averaged 21mpg between Ely and Boise.

    Looks like the 13 has some worthy upgrades though. Just because the Silverado and Sierra are piling up does not mean it’s not a great truck. Of the 3 that I often rent for long work trips (which do require 4WD per client request), the GMCs are my favorite. Of course, I usually get those if I rent from Hertz and they seem to be a trim grade up from an F150 XLT even though they still have cloth. That’d be my choice if I was puttin g the money down for 60 months (and I have always leaned towards Fords).

  • avatar

    Translation “peeing contest”

  • avatar

    What is the point of this review again? No mention of towing or payload ratings with this new transmission, plus the obligatory “rural America” comments even though the F150 has been the best selling vehicle in the US for 30+ years, closely followed by the Silverado/Sierra and Ram. No mention of interior front or rear legroom, but at least we know it has soft-touch plastics and better steering feel which pickup buyers totally care about. Visibility? Ride height? Unknown, since the TTAC review template apparently means every vehicle is reviewed as if it’s a 3-series.

    “I neglected to check what powertrain the truck had at the outset, merely hopping into the cool looking Ram…”

    There’s the problem. Never send a boy to do a man’s job.

  • avatar

    A “rotary shifter knob” was mentioned in the review, but in the photos I only see a standard column shift for the automatic. Am I missing something?

  • avatar

    I know this is only a capsule review, but it seems kind of vague. There is no mention of handling, roominess, visibility, etc.

    In other news, I rarely see any Dodge Ram made after 2003 on the roads, anyone else?

    • 0 avatar

      I see several every single day. But, I live in WV in the heart of the marcellus shale boom. Pickups are everywhere. Rams are very common. Maybe even more so than Silverados. Fords continue to dominate, though. Driving my GTI feels like a mouse scurrying between the legs of elephants.

    • 0 avatar

      You will see a bunch in Michigan. You can pick F-150 or Silverado by county as the leader, but usually there will be a strong Ram/Dodge presence everywhere. I know at least one Prius owner who had a change of job and growing family and so upgraded to a shiny four-door model. It does have some nice appeal — it’s more of a city slicker model in anything but red, because it’s got those things like the Rambox that reduces usability of the bed, but it’s a looker.

      You will also see a bunch in places like Connecticut towards Rhode Island…but my contacts out there suggest that those are the “hill people”.

    • 0 avatar

      Chevs look like they are -from- 2003.

      I don’t know where you are but that isn’t the case in my area. Its about 40/30/20/10 for Ford, Dodge, Chev/GM, then others like Nissan and Toyota splitting the last 10%. That is my opinion based on just looking around and checking the saturation of one single brand in a area. Like looking around when at a stop light. Or looking whats parked at a Costco. Highly scientific.

    • 0 avatar

      “In other news, I rarely see any Dodge Ram made after 2003 on the roads, anyone else?”

      They are all over north & central Florida, seemingly more so than GMC and Toyota Tundra but not as much as Ford or Chevrolet.

    • 0 avatar

      I drive one every day. 2010 extended cab Cummins Diesel. Standard transmission, which was hard to find. Mid-grade interior, but at least it doesn’t have the cheesy fake chrome trim that Ford is enamored of.

      Realizing that this isn’t the truck you reviewed, but the Cummins engine can’t be beat. and Dodge quality everywhere else seems pretty much on par with Ford and GM. i.e. A lot better that it used to be.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      All brands of full-size pickup trucks are seen on the road in the Dallas suburbs. The Ram has a strong following here, but so does the Tundra.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know where you live, but there are tons of Rams here in NW Ohio, a lot of them the current generation. Very popular here.

  • avatar

    > On paper, I might be the least qualified person, demographically speaking, to review a brand new quarter-ton truck.

    You really made your point in the same sentence. It’s a HALF-ton truck.

  • avatar


    Also: the pic of the bed: Why are the bedsides so thick?

  • avatar


    The combination of the Pentastar engine with the 8-speed transmission is a winner. I thought it was great in the Chrysler 300. This is a pickup, though, so I’d be interested to see what that drivetrain would be like when the truck is fully loaded and/or towing.

  • avatar

    Chevs look like they are -from- 2003.

    I don’t know where you are but that isn’t the case in my area. Its about 40/30/20/10 for Ford, Dodge, Chev/GM, then others like Nissan and Toyota splitting the last 10%. That is my opinion based on just looking around and checking the saturation of one single brand in a area. Like looking around when at a stop light. Or looking whats parked at a Costco. Highly scientific.

  • avatar

    So they are back to making the quad-cab with the stupid, useless 5 ft bed again? For a while Dodge made their quad cabs with the 6.5″ bed, which made them minimally useful unlike other quad cabs on the market. Now I see stupid is recurring.

  • avatar

    Driving an 04 1500 Ram on nearly daily basis, I was not that much impressed with the new one, despite some high expectations.
    – Cabin is not nearly as roomy for the front row.
    – Visibility is worse
    – Too complicated on higher specced models (fancy screens et al)
    – rear coil suspension sure gives better ride and control, but is also vastly more expensive to overhaul.

    There are tons of positive sides as well, but the negatives make it a deal-breaker. Besides, I plan to keep the current one as long as it does not become a money pit.

    • 0 avatar

      I too daily-drive a 3rd-gen 2002 Ram 1500 Quad Cab with 6′-3″ bed, 2wd, 4.7L V8 and 5spd manual.

      I recently rented for a business trip a 2012 Ram 1500 Quad Cab with 6′-3 bed, 4.7L V8, 6spd auto and 4wd. On a 300-mile round trip it averaged dead-even at 20mpg, and I was pushing it at 77mph on the highway with boxes and equipment in the bed unevenly loaded below the rails. It rode and handled equally well empty and with the ~800lb load in the bed, to the degree that I couldn’t tell it was there.

      In my own truck (which has 168k+ miles) I can definitely feel the same load that I hauled only a week after this (a couple days ago). At the same speed in my own truck, with a tonneau cover the rental lacked, I can only pull down a fraction over 19mpg, and that’s without the 4wd hardware and with at least a 60hp deficit over the new trucks with the same engine.

      Another thing I noticed was that the turning circle of the new trucks felt vastly smaller than in my own truck. I don’t know if it was because the new power steering made a full-lock turn easier or because I couldn’t do a back-to-back in the same physical space but it was enough that it stuck out to me.

      My own truck is an SLT Sport and the rental was an SLT, but must have been missing some options. My center console has storage in the lower section where the new one lacked this feature. The headrests in the new truck are *AWFUL* and it was nearly impossible to get comfortable in the seat. I had to lower the headrest fully and sit up as tall as possible for the forward-protruding part to hit my head/neck comfortably, and I’m 6′-3 tall. The only way a shorter person could do it would be to raise the headrest until they didn’t touch it. I had to remove the rear headrests to be able to see decently out the back window.

      Other than the seats I was impressed with the truck. The pricing is significantly less than impressive to me however.

  • avatar

    I love the look of the ’06 and up de-cromed Rams, simple clean, and all truck. If I were in the market for a truck, I’d take mine in black, and of course, it’s gotta have a hemi.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Still think if someone sticks a 4 cylinder turbo diesel, engineered for fuel economy, in a 1/2 ton chassis they won’t be able to build them fast enough,

  • avatar

    Here is my review:
    This truck is voluptuous with juicy pouted lips and a smooth big bottom. There’s even some cargo space…about 1/3 of its length.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    If they were giving away free hats or T-shirts someone got something out of this review. The first two paragraphs could have been edited out. I could care less if you’re hipster, give a better review of the truck. I like your work, just not this piece. Everyone has bad days.

  • avatar

    As a big Chrysler supporter, I just want to rub it in that Ram is now the uncontested technology leader in the most profitable American market segment even against the Japanese . This was was supposed to be impossible just a couple of years ago and makes a mockery of the “deathwatch” meme. Thank you Team Sergio!

    And Ford fanbois, the HEMI-roid is now even bigger now that it not only beats y’alls V8 but even the vaunted Ecoboost V6.

  • avatar

    Not sure if you’re intentionally pointing out some pickup owners spend nearly all of their time hauling a bed of air in the left lane of the highway, and would cringe if their rigs got dented or scratched…

    But some of us still USE their pickups. Some of us find a “dated” work truck interior with vinyl floors and stain resistant seats more appealing than cream-colored leather.

    I saw no real mention of towing capacities, or how the V6 holds up on extended highway towing. For that matter you didn’t mention 4WD, either. Some of us folk who cling bitterly to our guns and bibles venture off those paved roads…

    The real kicker is the departure from leaf spring rear suspension. I have no friggin idea why more manufacturers are putting in coils in the back. More car-like handling is already what resulted in all half tons running about with IFS, now they’re putting in coils in the back… must not be expecting anyone to haul or tow.

    I really miss the days when trucks were trucks and you didn’t have to drive to a mega dealer to buy a power company white W/T because all of the local dealers had were 50k leather poser rigs.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m no fan of Dodge or RAM, but they did come a long way since Daimler reworked them. The Interiors are nicer, even in the lower trims. I just don’t care for their suspensions and transmissions. And all their engines are thirsty!

      So if “appearance and ride” is what matters and the owner worries about mpg, then a Pentastar + 8-speed automatic + coil springs might give the right balance in bang for the buck.

      I drive a 2011 Tundra 5.7 for my own reasons and it works great for me. But if the Tundra wasn’t available as a choice, I’d buy an F-150 again with at least a 5.4 V8, and larger 6.2, 6.4, 6.6, or 7.0 if available.

      For those preferring a fullsize truck with a V6, I’d say go EcoBoost. It’s worth the money, if you keep it only for the warranty period. It packs more wallop than a normally aspirated V6 engine.

      But it all boils down to individual choice. If this RAM works for you, go for it.

      • 0 avatar

        There was never anything wrong with the suspensions or transmissions in Dodge trucks, even though it kinda sucks that the new half tons use coil springs. This is the exact same thing that Ford and Dodge owners used to make fun of chevy trucks for back when they used coils, even on 3/4 ton models.
        The aftermarket already makes air bags for the coil spring equipped Dodges, but when I trade my 1500 on a new truck someday I will just buy a 2500 and call it a day.
        It’s funny that you accuse the Dodge engines of being thirsty, yet you drive a Tundra?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m a bitter clinger myself, but I can’t see why a coil spring suspension would have to be intrinsically less capable than a leaf-spring suspension for hauling or towing.

    • 0 avatar

      My ’64 C20 “3/4 ton” with full floating axle and eight lug rims had all coils. I think Chevy went back to leaf springs in ’73 because it was cheaper and it wasnt doing anything for them in the sales race with Ford. I found the off-road ride and tracking superior due to the longer travel and geometry. It did get kind of sloppy when all the bushings wore out.

      My current truck is a 1st gen regular cab 4×4 Tundra, white of course, with hose-it-out vinyl floors, so I do appreciate a work truck. It has scrapes and scratches because it does go off road to maintain my property. I live on the left coast, however, not flyover country. For some odd reason, Ford trucks are hardly seen up in these mountains. Dodge diesels have a huge following. GM has most of the government/utility fleet market and there are quite a few Toyota’s.

    • 0 avatar

      I am just accepting the fact I can’t get a soilid front axle in a truck anymore and now they want to put coils out back. Oh the Humanities!!! I do wonder how this thing will tow. Do the 2500 and 3500 models have coils as well or is this for the family hauler type trucks while the work trucks get a proper truck set up?

  • avatar

    I occasionally toy with the idea of a truck as a second vehicle. The Pentastar/Eight-speed combo sounds like a nice package, but I still wouldn’t buy a Ram without the Hemi. The fuel economy issue is largely academic for what I’d use a truck for, and with incentives being what they are, it’d be almost stupid not to buy the V8.

    I’d take the Pentastar over Ford’s silly EcoBoost, though.

    Somebody mentioned Mopar’s lifetime warranty awhile back. Makes me give some serious thought to getting the cheapest Hemi-equipped standard-cab they make, and keeping it until one of us dies.

  • avatar

    What I’m wondering about with all these new Chryslers is: Marchionne’s crew has upgraded the interior materials, but have they upgraded the quality of the sheet steel?

    I’m amazed at the speed with which older Ram trucks rust. Sprinters and Town & Country minivans, too. By modern standards, IMO, that kind of instant oxidation is totally unacceptable. Time will tell, I guess.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s funny, I live in the rust belt, and have always owned dodge trucks. Judging by own experience, and from the trucks that I see every day, the Fords, Chevies and Dodges are pretty equal as far as rusting goes. Toyotas are the worst rusters.

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