2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4: Ten years in the making.
Price: The two-wheel-drive Tradesman starts at $31,695. This vehicle started at $64,295 and optioned its way to $74,815. Gasp.
Marketer's pitch: "Built to serve."
Conventional wisdom: Motor Trend says you'll like that the "mild hybrid system should make the truck more fuel efficient" and there's "lots of available tech," but not that "maximum towing capacity falls just short of the F-150."
Reality: There really is more, more, more. But something's gotta give, give, give.
Early preview: FiatChrysler invited a group of journalists to test the all-new Ram 1500 in, of all places, midtown Manhattan. Great for gathering writers in one convenient-ish location, it doesn't seem like an obvious place to get your Ram tough pickup on. I was lured with the offer to Ram-tough all the way home.
What's new: The 1500 gets its first major overhaul since the 2009 model year, and FiatChrysler is making something special. Weight is down 225 pounds. Payload and towing are increased to 2,300 pounds and 12,750 pounds, respectively.
Performance and fuel efficiency are also up, according to Chrysler, as both the 3.6-liter PentaStar V-6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 get a mild hybrid system, and the Hemi creates 395 horsepower.
Up to speed: I got to test out the 5.7-liter Hemi without the eTorque hybrid.
Almost 400 horses mean the Ram is no slouch. The big rig reaches 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, according to Motor Trend estimates.
But I didn't feel a whole lot of torque pulling me on hard acceleration.
On the road: Early in my testing career, Ram pickups became my standard for superior truck handling. A 2012 Ram 1500 Sport had superb road manners, and even a 2014 Power Wagon allowed me to drive it like a car — a truck with such giant wheels and so tall that the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat needed a small step ladder to access the interior.
But because the new 1500 is veering into 2500 territory for payload and towing, the freight has to be paid somewhere. Its highway manners are excellent, and even the streets of Manhattan left my nerves unscathed.
But country roads became a problem. I had to slow down mightily for favorite curves (yes, I'm such a car geek I have favorite curves). Rolling roads left me feeling woozy, although the Lovely MPS found the ride enjoyably trucklike.
It's still superior to the Tundra and its ilk, but it's a shame to see what the changes have wrought.
Fuel economy: Here's the other area the growing 1500 shrinks other numbers. I averaged a depressing 14.8 mpg in a more highway-heavy ride than usual, having brought the Ram back from the Big Apple. This is down from the 16.8 mpg I lamented in a 2012 Ram 1500 Sport. (But that was a 4.7-liter.) Presumably the eTorque will offer some help.
Inside: Give the designers a few moments to talk about the new 1500, and they're going to pull out the picture of the six hammers, each one intended to give the six trim levels — Tradesman, Bighorn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn, Limited — a distinct feel.
They definitely stand out. The Rebel includes red trim and plenty of leather; the Longhorn goes for brown. Certainly, one will appeal to any potential buyer. At least, one with enough scratch for certain trim levels.
In a new design touch, the infotainment pod stands out nicely in front, and the center console can be configured many different ways to access all sorts of stuff.
Shifty: The dial transmission incorporates all the four-wheel-drive functions in a convenient pod, right by the starter.
Unfortunately, it's near dials for the heater and stereo, which meant sometimes I wasn't in gear, but the cabin was getting warmer.
No shiftability accompanies the 8-speed automatic, sad but not unusual.
Play some tunes: The Harman Kardon sound system operates seamlessly. Dials control volume and tuning, and the touchscreen handles most of the rest. The bounciness of the truck coupled with no place to rest one's palm mean sometimes one's aim is not all that sharp. Sound is very nice, an A.
And if you get tired of the music, the Hemi exhaust note provides pleasant driving accompaniment.
I was disappointed to lack the 12-inch touchscreen.
Friends and stuff: In the right model, the rear seat offers some recline, a real bonus for pickup passengers. And space in the rear is impressive. Heated and ventilated seats are also available in the rear as well.
The loadout: Chrysler officials made note of the high-strength steel throughout the truck but pointed out the lightweight aluminum hood and tailgate. The tailgate definitely made my yardwork easier: You don't have to be a muscle head to lift it up.
Where it's built: Sterling Heights, Mich., back from Mexico.
How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts a 3 out of 5 for reliability, matching the 2018 prediction. But the truck received a 5 out of 5 for 2017, a 3 and a pair of 1s before that.
In the end: There's much more to appeal to truck buyers in the new Ram 1500, but trade-offs must be made, in handling and fuel consumption.