2019 Ram 1500 First Drive - Takin' Chances

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

We’ve all taken a few chances in our lives. Whether it was jumping off the roof of a shed as a youngster or accepting that new job in a different town as an adult, most of us find there is very little reward without some risk.

Some 25 years ago, two brothers in our rural fishing community built a new vessel which explored the edges of legal length at the time, banking on future changes to regulations allowing them to use such a big boat in their type of fishery. The brothers, naturally, christened the boat Takin’ Chances, because if their gamble didn’t pay off, they’d be out a significant investment. Guess what? They gambled correctly and, with regulations changed in their favor, Randy and Ross went on to enjoy a great deal of success.

For 2019, Ram is also taking a few chances. With the deep-sixing of the truck’s mini-Kenworth styling and signature gunsight grille, the company has crafted a pickup that is arguably its biggest gamble since 1994.

In the murderously competitive truck segment, each iteration of a pickup is expected to read from the Book of Kanye and be harder, better, faster, stronger. The 2019 Ram ticks all those boxes with increased use of high-strength steel, a larger cabin, more power, and greater towing capacity. We’ll get to those specifics in a minute.

The truck’s exterior will likely get Ram fans’ tongues wagging even before they set foot in the natty new cab. Ram designers are quick to illustrate the elements of big-rig style remain, with an aggressive power dome cascading down to a couple of sharpened headlights, and they, of course, are correct. However, this Ram owner thinks that while the new truck is imbued with a yaffle of style, it certainly doesn’t evoke a Freightliner visage any more. I will say it is a clean design, with the metal radio antenna binned and the current truck’s paragraph of nomenclature removed from the front doors

I think this gamble will pay off, as the new styling direction will likely cast a wider net and attract new customers who may have been turned off by the aggro appearance of yesteryear. If someone has been trying to convince their spouse to trade the family crossover on a Ram, they have a much better chance of doing so now that the exterior is much less polarizing. However, it is this author’s opinion that enough 1994 DNA remains to not alienate the Ram faithful.

One of Ram’s killer apps continues to be the innovative RamBox, a $995 option initially restricted to short box Crew Cabs. Renewed this time around with a new 115-volt outlet and overhead lighting relocated to the box lids to improve illumination, the trick cargo management system remains weatherproof, drainable, and lockable with the truck’s keyfob. An electric button, not a physical one, now pops the RamBox.

Without a doubt, the new Ram’s interior headline is the IMAX-sized 12-inch touchscreen found on high-zoot trims. Able to house one application, such as the navigation map, across the entire foot-wide screen, it can also be divided in half to operate two different applications at once. Its response time to inputs is lightning fast, typical of modern uConnect units.

The jumbotron is available as an option on Laramie and Longhorn trucks, standard on the Limited. Redundant controls for climate and audio frame its edges, so the thing remains functional if the driver is wearing gloves. It’s another gamble by the Ram team, one that will pay off handsomely because – and I know this from personal experience – truck owners love to show off their rigs. I’ll guarantee you we’ll be writing posts later this year about an increase in Ram transaction prices.

A toggle switch bank lies below the touchscreen, aping the one found in GM’s twins, and provides physical control of features such as traction control and two/haul mode. They feel like tabs of rubber infused with maple syrup. With logical gauges, an enormous centre console, and plenty of charging points (five USBs, USB-C ports, twin 110V outlets), Ram faithful will feel at home behind the wheel, which was doubtlessly one of the prime mantras when designing this truck.

Cab length has increased a total of four inches inside, accomplished by moving the B- and C-pillars an inch rearward and the rear of the cab an additional two inches aft. Crew Cabs now enjoy doors an inch larger than last year, while the rear door is one inch shorter on Quad Cab models. This reiterates the truck’s increasing role as a family hauler in Crew form at the slight expense of the Quad’s functionality. Think an inch doesn’t matter? Ask your girlfriend.

This extra length allows Crew Cab rear thrones eight degrees of slide-recline. On high-zoot trims, the center armrest is actually the entire center seatback folded down, creating a quasi-captain’s chair experience. Those rear chairs can now be heated and cooled. The rear floor is now completely flat, fixing a vexing problem on your author’s 2010 Ram. RamBins, those covered in-floor cubbies found in the Crew Cab, are larger than the old ones and can now accept a 4-inch drop hitch. Details like this matter to truck owners.

Ram sticks with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V8 in its new truck. Both engines gain a mild hybrid eTorque system for 2019. The extra electrons will be mandatory on the V6 and optional on the V8. Ram only has traditional V8s at this event, promising a drive of eTorque models later this year. The eTorque engine is expected to cost $1,995, an $800 premium over opting for a normal Hemi.

The non-hybrid Hemi V8 in the trucks shown here makes a familiar 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, mated to an equally familiar eight-speed automatic. While this mill doesn’t move the needle much from the old truck, the whole package feels more capable thanks to weight reduction. The team cut 225 pounds out of the Ram, compared to its predecessor. About half of that came from the cab and box, with the tailgate alone reportedly shedding 15 lbs thanks to a strict regimen of Reid Bigland kickboxing classes and Lean Cuisines.

Towing a horse trailer loaded up to about 5000 lbs, your author noted the truck’s better braking capabilities — thanks to new 14.9-inch rotors up front and 14.2 rear discs. Brake pad area is up nearly 20 percent and, combined with the lighter body, makes for a huge difference in stability when hauling a load. My frame of reference is experience regularly hauling a 9,000 lb camper with our 2010 Ram. That Ram in the picture is a coil-sprung truck, yet lacks much in the way of rear end droop despite bearing a tongue weight significantly more than 10 percent of the trailer’s weight (thanks to the unique properties of horse trailers).

Hauling measures have increased, partially thanks to weight reductions. For example, a Hemi-equipped short box Crew Cab 4×4 with 3.92 rear end gears is now rated at an 11,290 lb towing capacity. That’s around a thousand more than last year. An equivalently spec’d hybrid Hemi is rated 100 lbs less, but presumably will accelerate from rest more quickly with a load hooked up thanks to the electric motor. We’ll find out later this year.

Mum’s the word on a diesel engine for now, although it should be noted that crosstown rivals at GM and Ford recently announced 3.0-liter oil burners for their half-ton pickups. A Ram engineer told me one should expect to hear more diesel talk in the 2019 calendar year.

One must-have option package for 4×4 buyers is the Off Road Group. Available on every trim, it contains most of the kit included in the Ram Rebel – including skid plates, rear locker, front & rear HD shocks, and meaty tires. The company has seen fit to price it at a very agreeable $795, especially when the rear locker is a $495 stand-alone option. That one has the option to beef up trucks as varied as a workaday Tradesman or a luxo Limited pleases this author to no end.

The Rebel package is still offered, proving to be a popular trim with off-roaders and wannabe off-roaders since its introduction. Hammering a over an off-road sand wash at 45 mph sent enough grit and dirt skyward to satisfy the daily hygiene needs of at least four Persian cats. The much abused pre-production Billet Silver Rebel was unfazed by this treatment and shrugged off attempts to intimidate it with rocky uphill grades and fast washboard surfaces. Its hardworking cooling fan, with a diameter the size of entire rims on most passenger cars, sounded like a Huey over Hue as it helped the Rebel keep its cool.

Ram, and indeed the entirety of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, is not exactly known for its subtlety (see: Demon and SRT Durango). With the 2019 Ram 1500 pickup, the company has created a truck that will use its new look and zenith-of-luxury interior to snag new buyers while also using its sense of familiarity and increased capacity to placate diehard fans. This, despite ditching a styling ethos that set the trucks apart and defined the brand for decades.

Takin’ chances? You’re damned right they are. Like Ross and Randy’s gamble, it’s going to pay off, too.

[Images: ©2018 Matthew Guy/TTAC]





Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • El scotto El scotto on Mar 18, 2018

    Perpetual Bronze Medal Winner

  • Aron9000 Aron9000 on Apr 05, 2018

    Looks like the engineers were inspired by the engine bay in my 1999 Camaro Z28. Half of the engine sits under the cowl. I swear manufacturers really don't give a flying fuck about how you are going to service this vehicle, 5, 10 years down the road. And its been this way for a while now, need to pull the heads on your crappy 2004 Ford Powerstroke? Service manual says you have to pull the cab off the body to do that job lol. Wonder if its the same procedure on this truck, any work needing done on the back half of the engine requires you taking the cab off.

  • Philip I love seeing these stories regarding concepts that I have vague memories of from collector magazines, books, etc (usually by the esteemed Richard Langworth who I credit for most of my car history knowledge!!!). On a tangent here, I remember reading Lee Iacocca's autobiography in the late 1980s, and being impressed, though on a second reading, my older and self realized why Henry Ford II must have found him irritating. He took credit for and boasted about everything successful being his alone, and sidestepped anything that was unsuccessful. Although a very interesting about some of the history of the US car industry from the 1950s through the 1980s, one needs to remind oneself of the subjective recounting in this book. Iacocca mentioned Henry II's motto "Never complain; never explain" which is basically the M.O. of the Royal Family, so few heard his side of the story. I first began to question Iacocca's rationale when he calls himself "The Father of the Mustang". He even said how so many people have taken credit for the Mustang that he would hate to be seen in public with the mother. To me, much of the Mustang's success needs to be credited to the DESIGNER Joe Oros. If the car did not have that iconic appearance, it wouldn't have become an icon. Of course accounting (making it affordable), marketing (identifying and understanding the car's market) and engineering (building a car from a Falcon base to meet the cost and marketing goals) were also instrumental, as well as Iacocca's leadership....but truth be told, I don't give him much credit at all. If he did it all, it would have looked as dowdy as a 1980s K-car. He simply did not grasp car style and design like a Bill Mitchell or John Delorean at GM. Hell, in the same book he claims credit for the Brougham era four-door Thunderbird with landau bars (ugh) and putting a "Rolls-Royce grille" on the Continental Mark III. Interesting ideas, but made the cars look chintzy, old-fashioned and pretentious. Dean Martin found them cool as "Matt Helm" in the late 1960s, but he was already well into middle age by then. It's hard not to laugh at these cartoon vehicles.
  • Dwford The real crime is not bringing this EV to the US (along with the Jeep Avenger EV)
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Another Hyunkia'sis? 🙈
  • SCE to AUX "Hyundai told us that perhaps he or she is a performance enthusiast who is EV hesitant."I'm not so sure. If you're 'EV hesitant', you're not going to jump into a $66k performance car for your first EV experience, especially with its compromised range. Unless this car is purchased as a weekend toy, which perhaps Hyundai is describing.Quite the opposite, I think this car is for a 2nd-time EV buyer (like me*) who understands what they're getting into. Even the Model 3 Performance is a less overt track star.*But since I have no interest in owning a performance car, this one wouldn't be for me. A heavily-discounted standard Ioniq 5 (or 6) would be fine.Tim - When you say the car is longer and wider, is that achieved with cladding changes, or metal (like the Raptor)?
  • JMII I doubt Hyundai would spend the development costs without having some idea of a target buyer.As an occasional track rat myself I can't imagine such a buyer exists. Nearly $70k nets you a really good track toy especially on the used market. This seems like a bunch of gimmicks applied to a decent hot hatch EV that isn't going to impression anyone given its badge. Normally I'd cheer such a thing but it seems silly. Its almost like they made this just for fun. That is awesome and I appreciate it but given the small niche I gotta think the development time, money and effort should have been focused elsewhere. Something more mainstream? Or is this Hyundai's attempt at some kind of halo sports car?Also seems Hyundai never reviles sales targets so its hard to judge successful products in their line up. I wonder how brutal depreciation will be on these things. In two years at $40k this would a total hoot.So no active dampers on this model?
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