2013 Ram 1500

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Date Posted: September 4, 2012
By Zack Spencer

Instead of a mild facelift, the Ram engineers decided to ''go big or go home'' with this heavily updated Ram.

The Scoop

Chrysler recently held the launch of the heavily updated 2013 Ram pickup in Nashville Tennessee--the heart of American cowboy culture, complete with honky-tonk bars, western boots and plenty of full sized trucks. One might think that big trucks are an American phenomenon but the truth is Canadians love trucks just as much, with full sized units accounting for the second largest vehicle category, in terms of sales, right behind compact cars. Each year, roughly 260,000 units will sell in Canada, with the Ford F-150 and the Ram accounting for the number one and two vehicles to be sold each year. In fact, of the top five vehicles sold in Canada, Chrysler is the only company to have two best sellers-the Ram and Dodge Grand Caravan. To put it bluntly, the introduction of an all-new Ram is a big deal, not only for Chrysler but the thousands of people who rely on these vehicles for work and pleasure. The 2013 Ram was only scheduled for a mid-cycle refresh but the engineers decided to ''go big or go home'' with this vastly improved truck.

The Skin

It could be argued that the Ram is the most stylish of the full sized units and the people who own them have told the designers to not mess with a good thing. With this in mind, the overall vehicle looks similar but on closer inspection the subtle tweaks improve the aggressive stance but also improve fuel economy through aerodynamic enhancements, for a six percent improvement in drag. One area is the implementation of a full-length running board, from the front to rear wheels. The air now flows over this area, producing wind turbulence. The massive Ram grille (available in four different designs) has actually been expanded but the designers have integrated it into the front bumper and hood for a more cohesive design. Behind the grille is a set of active shutters that can close to help send air around the big Ram instead of into the engine. Other esthetic enhancements include new headlight and taillight clusters, a new front bumper with integrated driving lights, duel exhaust ports and a 6-ft-4-in bed has been added to the Crew Cab versions.

The Cockpit

I've been on record as stating that the current Ram has the best interior in its class. For 2013, the designers have taken an excellent product and improved it to the point that certain trim levels have a luxury car feel. The door panels in both the front and rear seats have been tailored with better materials for a softer feel. The instrument cluster has a sophisticated look and a 3.5-inch screen has been imbedded on the base models providing additional information. Higher-end units get a customizable 7-inch screen. Speaking of screens, the centre console can be equipped with the Chrysler's 8.4-inch Uconnect system, which is one of the easiest touch-screen units to master and the navigation map can be seen while the radio page is open, much like a picture-in-picture feature. The big news is the addition of an 8-speed automatic. Models equipped with this transmission will receive a rotary dial controller on the dash, replacing a column or console shifter. This is a big departure but driver adapts easily. The up side is a much bigger centre console.

The Ride

The current 2012 V6 equipped Ram truck trickles out of dealerships, most people opt for the base 4.7L V8 engine or optional 5.7L Hemi. I predict that the new Pentastar-V6 equipped Ram will gain in popularity due to improved fuel economy but also usability. Chrysler has taken the 3.6L V6 found in vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and placed it in the Ram along with an 8-speed automatic ($1200 option over the base 4.7L V8). This combination produces a 305hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. For lighter duty truck owners, this setup delivers 6500 lbs of towing capacity--good enough for most boat and camper trailers. With a highway fuel rating of just 7.8L/100km, one might think that the V6 is a slug to drive, but not true. With eight gears to choose from the engineers have been able to get the V6 model away from a standing stop by implementing a tall first gear. After that, the transmission and engine work together to produce predictable power through most maneuvers. It is only when asking the V6 to pass at higher speeds that the 90hp deficit, compared to the 395hp 5.7L Hemi, is shown.

Verdict

The ''go big or go home'' attitude behind this new Ram has developed features that have never been seen before in a pickup truck. One that is of interest is the $1500 air suspension option, similar to the one found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. By placing air billows at each corner of the suspension, the driver can raise or lower the Ram by up to 4.1 inches. This helps people, and items, to be loaded into the truck and when placed in the highest position, improves off-road capability. There is also an automatic setting that lowers the truck at highway speed to reduce wind drag. The sum total of the developments is a truck that was scheduled for a refresh but has essentially been rebuilt. The frame is lighter; the 8-speed and V6 package reduces fuel and saves weight. The interior is class leading and the ride is as smooth as ever. Look for the new 2013 Ram to start rolling onto dealerships in early October, with 8-speed units initially only available with the V6. Hemi powered Ram trucks will also get the 8-speed but not until the new year. The Ram is the fastest growing truck, in terms of sales in Canada, and these improvements will ensure that trend continues.

The Good, The Bad

Good:

Lighter, more technology, better interior and abundant features.

Bad:

Buyers will have to wait until early 2013 to get the 8-speed with a Hemi.

The Lowdown

Power: 3.6L V6 with 305hp, 4.7L V8 with 310hp and 5.7L V8 with 395hp

Fill-up: N/A/7.8L/100km (city/highway V6)

Backup: 3-year/60,000km

Sticker price: $26,995

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