2013 Truck of the Year: Ram 1500 Star Tech: Ram Charges Toward 1500 Superiority

For several years, it seemed all we ever talked about with trucks was torque and tow ratings.
Things have changed, with truck buyers’ expectations reaching a long way off the farm or job site.
There’s no single magic bullet that will meet every truck owner’s needs, so even an entry payload
model range like the Ram 1500 has to have far more breadth and depth than its forebears of a
decade ago did. To demonstrate its half-ton’s ability to cover the entire market, Ram delivered a
V-6-powered SLT on the efficient and luxurious side and a V-8 powered Sport leaning toward power
and performance.

While Ford may be using smaller forced-induction engines for the sake of efficiency, Ram is
refining its powertrain options by offering more efficient engines bolted to a new, optional
eight-speed transmission. Replacing the old 3.7-liter V-6 is the much-celebrated Pentastar
3.6-liter V-6, which offers 42 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque. A new
eight-speed transmission is standard on V-6 models and will be optional on the V-8. At launch,
V-8s will be available only with the current six-speed automatic, with the new transmission coming
at a later date.

2013 Ram 1500 Side 2 While the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 isn’t all-new, it is updated with variable valve
timing. It is bolstered by more efficient systems within the truck including a revised cooling
system, electric power steering, and an electrical system with pulse width modulation that more
efficiently uses power to lessen load on the alternator. These technologies combine to allow Ram
to claim best-in-class fuel efficiency in the V-6 and V-8 segments. It should be noted that, since
the Ford EcoBoost is considered a V-8 alternative, it’s lumped into the V-8 segment.
While many people focus on a truck’s powertrain, that may be the least significant improvement in
the 1500. The addition of air suspension is a giant leap for half-ton trucks. While coil springs
are a big advancement over leaf springs, trucks have to be able to carry such a range of weight
loads, from a single person to five passengers and a bed full of cargo, that a single spring rate
just doesn’t seem adequate. Although the Ram’s air suspension may cause as much concern as Ford’s
turbos on the reliability front, we can tell you these modern air springs use materials that are
more resistant to tearing and puncture, and they resemble those used on modern luxury cars that
can easily weigh as much as smaller trucks.

As well as compensating for varying loads an air suspension can provide adjustable ride height.
Two off-road modes will lift the truck 1.2 inches and 2.0 inches, respectively, while an aero-mode
lowers the vehicle 0.6 inch. Lowering the vehicle at highway speeds improves aerodynamics, which
improves efficiency. Besides the ride height, optional active shutters in the grille can close at
highway speeds helps move air around the truck instead of under it. This combines with the
redesigned body to lower the 1500’s coeffecient of drag from 0.39 to 0.36, to net a 6 percent
increase in aerodynamic efficiency.

The interior has received as much attention as the outside. While the styling will be familiar to
those who have driven previous-generation trucks, the technology inside is new. Chrysler’s
Uconnect is brighter and shinier than ever. The main infotainment screen now measures 8.4 inches,
the system is upgradable with apps, and it can provide an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot. While we like
its new look, we had some of the same problems we’ve had with the system in the past. It was at
times slow to respond, and the navigation system occasionally seemed to lose the truck while in
motion, believing we were bounding along a few hundred yards off the highway we were traveling.
That’s not a huge problem when it thinks you’re barreling along through dirt, but it’s not good
when the system thinks you’re on side roads and is giving directions based on those turns.

Also big news, according to Chrysler, is the eight speed’s twist-dial transmission control. Some
of our testers, myself included, found it untrucklike, but it is nice to have it mounted on the
dash and not on the column or console. We disagree with Ram’s assertion that it’s easier to
operate while wearing gloves; it seems a column shifter is almost ideal for that. It is probably
just a question of getting used to it, but I wasn’t the only tester to turn up the volume on the
radio while trying to go from reverse to drive in a three-point turn.

The other issue is the small, steering-wheel-mounted push buttons for manually shifting gears. The
upshift/downshift buttons are located right above the cruise control buttons and aren’t well-differentiated.
If Ram is truly concerned about drivers being able to operate everything while wearing gloves, the buttons
are not the answer. Paddles are the answer. The car industry figured it out several years ago; and although
people keep trying different things, the answer is paddles.

What really counts is how this stacks up on and off the road. In the past, a V-6-powered 1500 was
a penalty box sold to companies that needed a cheap fleet and hated their employees. The 2013 Ram
1500 SLT is essentially like driving a Chrysler 300 with a bed. Our judges were blown away by the
smooth, quiet driving experience. The V-6 offers good low-end torque with a peak of 269 lb-ft,
while also being rewarding to swing around the tach with 305 hp at the high-end. The Pentastar
even sounds good for a V-6, and the combination of engine and transmission makes for a
surprisingly good entry-level truck. The air suspension worked just as well off-road as on. Bumps
are soaked up while body movement during cornering is kept in check. The air suspension is
optional, but we can’t imagine buying the Ram without it. (Air suspension is optional on any Quad
Cab or Crew Cab 1500, on all trims except the HFE model, and costs $1595.)

The V-8 Sport is a completely different animal. Obviously, 407 lb-ft of torque and 395 hp make it
significantly faster, but the trim level brings a completely different experience as well. The
interior is reminiscent of an SRT vehicle, with the same seats and similar overall feel. Things
are louder in the Sport–from road noise to engine note, everything is far more obvious inside the
cabin. The anti-roll bars and coil springs permit less body roll in corners, but the ride feels
less controlled. The steering is equally as slow on-center, but grip is increased with the bigger tires.

During 0-60-mph testing, it was difficult to get the rear end to hook up. With a good launch we
were able to get a 6.9-second 0-60-mph time, with 15.4 seconds at 88.6 mph in the quarter mile.
Pretty impressive numbers, even if they were edged out by the EcoBoost. Acceleration with a
trailer is where the V-8 came alive. While the F-150 needed 15.7 seconds to get to 60 mph, the Ram
did it in 15 seconds flat. The quarter-mile advantage went to the Ram V-8 with a 20.0-second run
at 69.4 mph compared with the Ford’s 20.5 seconds at 67.5.

The V-8 Sport also was the subjective choice for towing. With 75 percent of its total towing
capacity, both the V-6 and V-8 Ram still proved decent performers. They felt more confident than
the F-150, and ride quality even improved slightly with the V-8. It took a couple tries to get the
trailer brake calibrated to our liking, but familiarity with the truck would likely have sped up
that process considerably. Although we’re still fans of the low-end torque generated by the
EcoBoost, the Ram was more confidence-inspiring as a whole.

At the end of our testing, the decision was unanimous. Hands down, the Ram ran away with this
Truck of the Year award. The V-6 fills the void where the Dakota once existed. The V-8 is as much
if not more truck than we expect to find in a 1500. The variety of trim levels offered by Ram can
give you everything from a very basic work truck to a near-luxury vehicle with performance and
off-road models falling somewhere in between. It ticks all six boxes in judging criteria. With
loyalty higher in this segment than just about any other, we do wonder how many truck buyers are
willing to switch brands. Until the rest of the industry can catch up with Ram trucks in the
half-ton segment, it would be a shame to pass this one up.

Read more:
http://www.motortrend.com/oftheyear/truck/1302_2013_truck_of_the_year_ram_1500/viewall.html#ixzz2I
3gTI46y

For several years, it seemed all we ever talked about with trucks was torque and tow ratings.

Things have changed, with truck buyers’ expectations reaching a long way off the farm or job site.

There’s no single magic bullet that will meet every truck owner’s needs, so even an entry payload

model range like the Ram 1500 has to have far more breadth and depth than its forebears of a

decade ago did. To demonstrate its half-ton’s ability to cover the entire market, Ram delivered a

V-6-powered SLT on the efficient and luxurious side and a V-8 powered Sport leaning toward power

and performance.

While Ford may be using smaller forced-induction engines for the sake of efficiency, Ram is

refining its powertrain options by offering more efficient engines bolted to a new, optional

eight-speed transmission. Replacing the old 3.7-liter V-6 is the much-celebrated Pentastar

3.6-liter V-6, which offers 42 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque. A new

eight-speed transmission is standard on V-6 models and will be optional on the V-8. At launch,

V-8s will be available only with the current six-speed automatic, with the new transmission coming

at a later date.

2013 Ram 1500 Side 2 While the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 isn’t all-new, it is updated with variable valve

timing. It is bolstered by more efficient systems within the truck including a revised cooling

system, electric power steering, and an electrical system with pulse width modulation that more

efficiently uses power to lessen load on the alternator. These technologies combine to allow Ram

to claim best-in-class fuel efficiency in the V-6 and V-8 segments. It should be noted that, since

the Ford EcoBoost is considered a V-8 alternative, it’s lumped into the V-8 segment.

While many people focus on a truck’s powertrain, that may be the least significant improvement in

the 1500. The addition of air suspension is a giant leap for half-ton trucks. While coil springs

are a big advancement over leaf springs, trucks have to be able to carry such a range of weight

loads, from a single person to five passengers and a bed full of cargo, that a single spring rate

just doesn’t seem adequate. Although the Ram’s air suspension may cause as much concern as Ford’s

turbos on the reliability front, we can tell you these modern air springs use materials that are

more resistant to tearing and puncture, and they resemble those used on modern luxury cars that

can easily weigh as much as smaller trucks.

As well as compensating for varying loads an air suspension can provide adjustable ride height.

Two off-road modes will lift the truck 1.2 inches and 2.0 inches, respectively, while an aero-mode

lowers the vehicle 0.6 inch. Lowering the vehicle at highway speeds improves aerodynamics, which

improves efficiency. Besides the ride height, optional active shutters in the grille can close at

highway speeds helps move air around the truck instead of under it. This combines with the

redesigned body to lower the 1500’s coeffecient of drag from 0.39 to 0.36, to net a 6 percent

increase in aerodynamic efficiency.

The interior has received as much attention as the outside. While the styling will be familiar to

those who have driven previous-generation trucks, the technology inside is new. Chrysler’s

Uconnect is brighter and shinier than ever. The main infotainment screen now measures 8.4 inches,

the system is upgradable with apps, and it can provide an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot. While we like

its new look, we had some of the same problems we’ve had with the system in the past. It was at

times slow to respond, and the navigation system occasionally seemed to lose the truck while in

motion, believing we were bounding along a few hundred yards off the highway we were traveling.

That’s not a huge problem when it thinks you’re barreling along through dirt, but it’s not good

when the system thinks you’re on side roads and is giving directions based on those turns.

Also big news, according to Chrysler, is the eight speed’s twist-dial transmission control. Some

of our testers, myself included, found it untrucklike, but it is nice to have it mounted on the

dash and not on the column or console. We disagree with Ram’s assertion that it’s easier to

operate while wearing gloves; it seems a column shifter is almost ideal for that. It is probably

just a question of getting used to it, but I wasn’t the only tester to turn up the volume on the

radio while trying to go from reverse to drive in a three-point turn.

The other issue is the small, steering-wheel-mounted push buttons for manually shifting gears. The

upshift/downshift buttons are located right above the cruise control buttons and aren’t

well-differentiated. If Ram is truly concerned about drivers being able to operate everything

while wearing gloves, the buttons are not the answer. Paddles are the answer. The car industry

figured it out several years ago; and although people keep trying different things, the answer is

paddles.

What really counts is how this stacks up on and off the road. In the past, a V-6-powered 1500 was

a penalty box sold to companies that needed a cheap fleet and hated their employees. The 2013 Ram

1500 SLT is essentially like driving a Chrysler 300 with a bed. Our judges were blown away by the

smooth, quiet driving experience. The V-6 offers good low-end torque with a peak of 269 lb-ft,

while also being rewarding to swing around the tach with 305 hp at the high-end. The Pentastar

even sounds good for a V-6, and the combination of engine and transmission makes for a

surprisingly good entry-level truck. The air suspension worked just as well off-road as on. Bumps

are soaked up while body movement during cornering is kept in check. The air suspension is

optional, but we can’t imagine buying the Ram without it. (Air suspension is optional on any Quad

Cab or Crew Cab 1500, on all trims except the HFE model, and costs $1595.)

The V-8 Sport is a completely different animal. Obviously, 407 lb-ft of torque and 395 hp make it

significantly faster, but the trim level brings a completely different experience as well. The

interior is reminiscent of an SRT vehicle, with the same seats and similar overall feel. Things

are louder in the Sport–from road noise to engine note, everything is far more obvious inside the

cabin. The anti-roll bars and coil springs permit less body roll in corners, but the ride feels

less controlled. The steering is equally as slow on-center, but grip is increased with the bigger

tires.

During 0-60-mph testing, it was difficult to get the rear end to hook up. With a good launch we

were able to get a 6.9-second 0-60-mph time, with 15.4 seconds at 88.6 mph in the quarter mile.

Pretty impressive numbers, even if they were edged out by the EcoBoost. Acceleration with a

trailer is where the V-8 came alive. While the F-150 needed 15.7 seconds to get to 60 mph, the Ram

did it in 15 seconds flat. The quarter-mile advantage went to the Ram V-8 with a 20.0-second run

at 69.4 mph compared with the Ford’s 20.5 seconds at 67.5.

The V-8 Sport also was the subjective choice for towing. With 75 percent of its total towing

capacity, both the V-6 and V-8 Ram still proved decent performers. They felt more confident than

the F-150, and ride quality even improved slightly with the V-8. It took a couple tries to get the

trailer brake calibrated to our liking, but familiarity with the truck would likely have sped up

that process considerably. Although we’re still fans of the low-end torque generated by the

EcoBoost, the Ram was more confidence-inspiring as a whole.

At the end of our testing, the decision was unanimous. Hands down, the Ram ran away with this

Truck of the Year award. The V-6 fills the void where the Dakota once existed. The V-8 is as much

if not more truck than we expect to find in a 1500. The variety of trim levels offered by Ram can

give you everything from a very basic work truck to a near-luxury vehicle with performance and

off-road models falling somewhere in between. It ticks all six boxes in judging criteria. With

loyalty higher in this segment than just about any other, we do wonder how many truck buyers are

willing to switch brands. Until the rest of the industry can catch up with Ram trucks in the

half-ton segment, it would be a shame to pass this one up.

Read more:

http://www.motortrend.com/oftheyear/truck/1302_2013_truck_of_the_year_ram_1500/viewall.html#ixzz2I

3gTI46y

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