2019 Ram 1500 – First Drive

Prices for the 2019 Ram haven’t moved the meter all that much from last year’s model, with only modest increases of less than $1000 across the range.

Scottsdale, AZ: Ram is not known for being subtle. From the introduction of their trademark gunsight grille in 1994 to stuffing its most recent pickup with off-road goodies and creating the testosterone-sodden Rebel, the brand makes bank on its aggro image.

For 2019, the company was tasked with revamping a truck that can be equally described as their cash cow, their money maker, their golden ticket, and their source of steady profit. Get it wrong and, well, they might as well turn the lights off.  

Last year in Canada, Ram sold nearly 100,000 pickup trucks, more than good enough for second place in its class behind the perennial best-seller, the Ford F-150, and a 9.8% jump over 2016.

The pressure’s on, then, not to screw it up.

Ram sticks with Hemi V8 and Pentastar V6 engines to power its snazzy new truck. Both engines earn a mild hybrid eTorque system for 2019, mandatory on the V6 and optional on the V8. The eTorque engine is expected to cost $1995, an $800 premium over opting for a normal Hemi.

There’s no official word about the EcoDiesel, even though Ram rivals GM and Ford recently installed six-cylinder oil burners in their half-ton pickups. A Ram engineer mentioned at dinner we should expect to hear more diesel talk sometime in the next twelve months. 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 8-speed automatic.

Despite the well-known engine, the Ram is quieter than its predecessor, thanks to active-tuned mass modules attached to the truck’s frame that send out an inverse resonance frequency to help silence road noise and mutterings from the V8’s cylinder-deactivation technology. It is also designed to quell vibrations created by the engine’s new start/stop system.

If you take nothing else from this review, take this: be sure to select the optional Off Road Group, new for 2019. Available on every 4x4 trim, this package contains most of the kit included in the Ram Rebel – including skid plates, rear locker, front & rear HD shocks, and meaty tires. Having the ability to beef up trucks as varied as a workaday Tradesman or a luxurious Limited pleases this author to no end.

The Rebel package is still offered, proving to be a popular dirt-focused trim ever since its introduction. Off-road thrashing at 70km/h sent enough grit and dirt skyward to satisfy the daily hygiene needs of at least six Persian cats, abuse the pre-production Rebel accepted without complaint. It also shrugged off attempts to intimidate it with rocky uphill grades and fast washboard surfaces.

No matter the brand, every new truck is expected to read from the Book of Kanye and be harder, better, faster, stronger. The 2019 Ram ticks all those boxes by building a new frame made of 98% high-strength steel, shedding 225lbs thanks to an aggressive diet program, running more quickly in the quarter mile, and increasing its trailer towing capabilities.

The latter, an important spec to many truck fans, tops out at 12,750 pounds. Granted, that number is limited to a single 4x2 entry-level spec but all trims, regardless of their place in the Ram hierarchy, see a bump in the amount of weight owners haul behind their shiny new pickup. Payload, often an Achilles heel for Ram, has been increased significantly across the board (real world examples: a 2019 Quad Cab Hemi 4×4 is rated 1950lbs, a 2017 in the same configuration was listed at only 1570lbs).

And shiny it is, with a new cadre of grilles adorning the Ram’s snout. The company has chosen to completely deep-six their trademark gunsight grille in favour of a maw that kinda-sorta resembles a snorting bull with its nostrils flared. This is a big gamble, as truck owners are often not known for embracing change. However, 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. It is this author’s opinion that enough 1994 DNA remains not to alienate the Ram faithful.

More often than not, today’s crew cab pickups are pressed into service as a family hauler. The take rate of four-door crew cab pickups has exploded in recent years, a trend Ram was smart to note. The 2019 Ram 1500’s cab length was stretched a total of four inches, with the B- and C-pillars both moving an inch rearward. This creates doors that are one-inch larger compared to the previous model. The rear of the cab was pushed an additional two inches.

This extra space now allows the second-row to slide and recline, just like in a Mercedes S-Class. The rear thrones have eight degrees of pitch and, on high-spec Longhorns and Limiteds, a center armrest comprised of the entire seatback, creating a captain’s chair experience. Oh yeah, those rear seats can be heated and cooled as well.

Fixing a problem that vexed owners of the old Ram 1500 (*your author raises his hand*) is a rear floor that is now completely flat. Folding up the rear bench seat reveals 20 liters of under-seat storage compartments. Bookending the flat-load floor on crew cab trucks are two RamBins, covered in-floor storage solutions that popped up on the old truck. They grew 5.5 inches and are now big enough to accept a four-inch drop hitch.

Along the bed of short-box Rams, customers will find the popular RamBox lockable bed storage, now imbued with a 115-volt household outlet and interior lighting relocated to the box lids for better illumination. They’re still drainable, so feel free to load ‘em up with ice and, er, beverages. The tailgate is power-operated on fancy trims.

Up front in the cab, Ram moves to the head of its class in the infotainment game, allowing customers to spec an IMAX-sized Uconnect screen measuring a vast 12 inches. It is far and away the best touchscreen available on a truck today, with crisp graphics and an intuitive user interface. This unit, optional on Laramie but standard on Longhorn and Limited, can house a single application such as the navigation map across the whole 12-inch screen. Alternatively, it can be divided in half, operating two different applications at once like the climate and satellite radio. Its backup camera now has a pinch-and-zoom feature like on a smartphone, a boon for drivers trying to hook up a trailer by themselves.

An all-new toggle switch bank, whose controls feel like tabs of squishy rubber infused with maple syrup, lies below the truck’s jumbotron and give physical control of specific features such as tow/haul mode and traction control. In a nod to family-friendliness, no fewer than five USB ports reside in the center console, three of which speak to the Uconnect system through which one can play their tunes. A brace of three-pronged 115-volt household plugs can be found in the first and second rows. Safe to say, then, no one can complain about not having anywhere to charge up a device.

Prices for the 2019 Ram haven’t moved the meter all that much from last year’s model, with only modest increases of less than $1000 across the range. Alert shoppers will notice deep discounts on the old truck as the company seeks to clear them out ahead of the new truck’s arrival.

Revamping a popular model is a tough task, particularly in the truck segment where loyalty runs deep. With the 2019 Ram, its design team has effectively walked the thin white line separating Not Enough and Too Much. The new style is familiar enough to placate brand loyalists but ditches enough aggro to make it appealing to new buyers. They’ve also tossed in a world-class cabin and increased capability but kept price increases at bay.

Safe to say, then, the lights will be on at Ram for quite a while.

Buying Used: 2013-17 Ram 1500

The latter, an important spec to many truck fans, tops out at 12,750 pounds. Granted, that number is limited to a single 4x2 entry-level spec but all trims, regardless of their place in the Ram hierarchy, see a bump in the amount of weight owners haul behind their shiny new pickup. Payload, often an Achilles heel for Ram, has been increased significantly across the board (real world examples: a 2019 Quad Cab Hemi 4×4 is rated 1950lbs, a 2017 in the same configuration was listed at only 1570lbs).

And shiny it is, with a new cadre of grilles adorning the Ram’s snout. The company has chosen to completely deep-six their trademark gunsight grille in favour of a maw that kinda-sorta resembles a snorting bull with its nostrils flared. This is a big gamble, as truck owners are often not known for embracing change. However, 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. It is this author’s opinion that enough 1994 DNA remains not to alienate the Ram faithful.

More often than not, today’s crew cab pickups are pressed into service as a family hauler. The take rate of four-door crew cab pickups has exploded in recent years, a trend Ram was smart to note. The 2019 Ram 1500’s cab length was stretched a total of four inches, with the B- and C-pillars both moving an inch rearward. This creates doors that are one-inch larger compared to the previous model. The rear of the cab was pushed an additional two inches.

This extra space now allows the second-row to slide and recline, just like in a Mercedes S-Class. The rear thrones have eight degrees of pitch and, on high-spec Longhorns and Limiteds, a center armrest comprised of the entire seatback, creating a captain’s chair experience. Oh yeah, those rear seats can be heated and cooled as well.

Fixing a problem that vexed owners of the old Ram 1500 (*your author raises his hand*) is a rear floor that is now completely flat. Folding up the rear bench seat reveals 20 liters of under-seat storage compartments. Bookending the flat-load floor on crew cab trucks are two RamBins, covered in-floor storage solutions that popped up on the old truck. They grew 5.5 inches and are now big enough to accept a four-inch drop hitch.

Along the bed of short-box Rams, customers will find the popular RamBox lockable bed storage, now imbued with a 115-volt household outlet and interior lighting relocated to the box lids for better illumination. They’re still drainable, so feel free to load ‘em up with ice and, er, beverages. The tailgate is power-operated on fancy trims.

Up front in the cab, Ram moves to the head of its class in the infotainment game, allowing customers to spec an IMAX-sized Uconnect screen measuring a vast 12 inches. It is far and away the best touchscreen available on a truck today, with crisp graphics and an intuitive user interface. This unit, optional on Laramie but standard on Longhorn and Limited, can house a single application such as the navigation map across the whole 12-inch screen. Alternatively, it can be divided in half, operating two different applications at once like the climate and satellite radio. Its backup camera now has a pinch-and-zoom feature like on a smartphone, a boon for drivers trying to hook up a trailer by themselves.

An all-new toggle switch bank, whose controls feel like tabs of squishy rubber infused with maple syrup, lies below the truck’s jumbotron and give physical control of specific features such as tow/haul mode and traction control. In a nod to family-friendliness, no fewer than five USB ports reside in the center console, three of which speak to the Uconnect system through which one can play their tunes. A brace of three-pronged 115-volt household plugs can be found in the first and second rows. Safe to say, then, no one can complain about not having anywhere to charge up a device.

Prices for the 2019 Ram haven’t moved the meter all that much from last year’s model, with only modest increases of less than $1000 across the range. Alert shoppers will notice deep discounts on the old truck as the company seeks to clear them out ahead of the new truck’s arrival.

Revamping a popular model is a tough task, particularly in the truck segment where loyalty runs deep. With the 2019 Ram, its design team has effectively walked the thin white line separating Not Enough and Too Much. The new style is familiar enough to placate brand loyalists but ditches enough aggro to make it appealing to new buyers. They’ve also tossed in a world-class cabin and increased capability but kept price increases at bay.

Safe to say, then, the lights will be on at Ram for quite a while.

Buying Used: 2013-17 Ram 1500


  • FILED UNDER
  • Pick-up Truck
  • RAM 1500
  • Ram Rebel
  • First Drive
  • Hemi
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