2019 Ram 1500 Review - First Drive

Comfort above all else

Mar. 16, 2018 By Stephen Elmer. Photos by Stephen Elmer. Video by Ben Sanders.

The age of the luxury truck is well upon us, and the thought of a posh pickup is no longer even close to being new. But with the 2019 Ram 1500 a new milestone in this still evolving segment has been achieved. It's clear after driving it, and even from looking at its new grown up, handsome design, that Ram prioritized luxury, comfort and technology above all else.

Not that the bare-bones Ram 1500 buyer has been forgotten about, with the new truck improving tow ratings in all trim levels by, some by over 1,500 pounds, pushing the Ram to a max tow rating of 12,750 when properly equipped. Payload has been improved as well, maxing out at 2,300 pounds.

Neither is class leading, and it seems when talking to executives from Ram at the launch event for the new truck, stealing those numerical crowns was never the focus. Where the new truck really sets itself apart from the competition is in the way it swaddles its passengers. Even in the event of a crash, Ram has some clever new engineering to help keep passengers safe.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

The 2019 1500 uses a splayed frame in the front, where the frame rails jut out towards the front corners of the truck at an angle to the rest of the frame. This allows for the energy of a crash to be transferred away from the vehicle and helps it to be absorbed by the rest of the frame. It's exactly this type of clever engineering that is a hallmark of this new Ram. Rather than throwing more power at the truck, it is clever features that make this new generation so impressive.  

Setting off down the road, the serenity of the new truck can't be understated, providing a quiet cabin and a ride that finally does the term "cowboy limousine" justice. What the engineering team has achieved with the ride and handling here seems to be the crowning achievement of the new Ram 1500. A nicely weighted steering wheel on the heavier side provides the solid feeling of the previous generation Ram, but this new truck floats through corners without leaning and pushing like that truck.

It's worth mentioning here that we only drove the new truck with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 without the new eTorque system. We'll have further reports in the future on the other engine choices, which include a 3.6-liter V6 with eTorque and eventually will include a 3.0-liter diesel sometime in 2019.

Power numbers for the big V8 are one of the few carryovers from the old truck, sticking at 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, sent through an eight-speed transmission. Though changes to this combination are slim, it doesn't come across as old, pulling smoothly and strongly throughout all eight of its gear.

Some of the more interesting technology used to smooth out the ride of the Ram include active tuned mass modules placed on the frame which sense vibrations and can counteract them with an opposite sine wave. That is used mainly to help with tuning out the noise created when the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 drops down into four-cylider mode to save fuel. Active noise cancellation is also employed in the cab, pumping in white noise of a certain frequency to counteract noise intrusion.

The more active cylinder deactivation system combines with a decrease in drag coefficient, resulting in less fuel being needed to charge down the highway. Official fuel economy ratings haven't been released yet, but Ram is promising a 10 percent improvement. Active aerodynamics in the form of grille shutters and a deployable front air dam also help with improved fuel economy, though the biggest play in this department is probably the new eTorque system.

eTorque is a 48V mild hybrid system that has been attached to both the V8 and the 3.6-liter V6, adding stop/start to both but also being able to add some torque boost to the wheels for short periods of time to help with takeoff and to smooth out the powertrain during hard upshifts.

Off-roaders can rejoice with the Ram 1500 as well for two reasons: the 4x4 Off-Road Package and the Rebel. The first can be added to every single trim level of Ram, offering a one-inch lift, with or without the air suspension, an electronic-locking rear differential, unique suspension geometry and 32-inch all-terrain tires, wrapped around 18- or 20-inch wheels. Hill descent control is also part of the package. The best news? All this kit is available for $795.

If you really want to tackle the trails without doing any aftermarket work, the new Rebel is the way to go. It includes everything mentioned in the 4x4 package, but it adds Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs, skid plates, unique styling cues and 33-inch Goodyear Duratrac tires. And on the desert course we ran through in Arizona, the Rebel proved to be a true next step in off-road Rams.

It simply beats up its passengers less, with new shocks soaking up the ground well, and more suspension travel than ever before. The Duratracs are a nice addition as well, grabbing the ground with some authority and boosting the on-road noise only incrementally. Slipping the transfer case into low still allows the driver to build up some speed, while also providing the low-end power neccessary to claw through deep sand.

Two transfer cases are available on the truck. The Borg Warner BW 48-12 offers a 2.64 low-range ratio and selectable four-wheel drive. Opting for the BW 48-11 brings along an on-demand feature called 4WD Auto, which will send power to whichever wheels need it. That case also has a 2.64 low range.

Maybe best of all for the off-road community is the new two-inch Mopar lift kit. With it installed by a dealer, the new truck can accommodate 35s right off the bat.

It's in the computer systems that the Ram also stands out, and the first one you can't help but notice is the new 12-inch touchscreen, standard on Limited models. In our short time with the screen, it worked flawlessly, reacting quickly to every input. It is totally customizable, so each owner can set it up the way he or she likes.

Beyond information and entertainment, plenty of new tech helps drive the truck, including a new radar-based cruise control system, blind spot monitoring that includes trailers, a 360-degree surround view camera and so much more.

Functional updates to the interior  include a new flat load floor in the rear, and a massive backseat, measuring a huge 45.2-inches of legroom in Crew Cab models, a full five inches more than the previous model. Ram also added a new storage option the form of the Ram bin, lockable storage containers located underneath the carpet in the back-seat floor.

After learning about this truck, it seems the new price is the only thing that got a little worse for customers, but you are paying more to get more. At its base, the Ram 1500 will start at $31694 for a quad cab Trademan model, while a top-trim Limited Crew Cab 4x4 model will go for $57690.

If you're looking for a Rebel, the cheapest model is the 4x2 Crew Cab, starting at $43,995, while the Quad Cab 4x4 Rebel will sell for $44,695. A 4x4 Crew Cab Rebel will sticker at $47,495.

The new Ram is the next logical step in the evolution of the half-ton pickup. Offering more comfort, more luxury and more livability while not sacrificing capability.

Off-Road.com Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!