Big trucks are big business. In Canada, four of the 10 top best-selling vehicles are full-size trucks, including No. 2 — the Ram 1500.
The 2019 model represents the fifth generation of the truck, with a bumper-to-bumper revamp to keep it competitive with the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
The Ram 1500 now comes in seven different trim levels, beginning with the Tradesman at $42,095. I drove a well-equipped Laramie Longhorn crew cab 4x4, with a base price of $69,795.
Aerodynamics isn’t something one would think about in a truck. So to be best in class, Ram engineers had to come up with a few innovations to set their vehicle ahead of the pack.
Firstly, the front is less boxy and more sculptured to cheat the wind. Then the engineers equipped the vehicle with an active air dam that only deploys at higher speeds. Grille shutters that open or close automatically also help reduce drag (and help warm up the truck faster in the winter).
The jewel in the crown is an optional $1,895 air-suspension system that automatically lowers the truck 12.7 millimetres at highway speeds (you can also lower it manually if you need to fit in an underground parking lot, for example). When equipped with air suspension, the air dam is made redundant.
There’s change under the skin as well, with Ram boasting that the move to high-strength steel and aluminum has led to shaving up to 100 kilograms in the model I drove. The hood and the tailgate are now made from aluminum.
There are two engines, a 3.6-litre V-6 or a 5.7-litre V-8. Pay $500 more and you can get the V-8 with what Ram calls eTorque, a mild hybrid system. The system features a 48-volt battery that adds 130 foot-pounds of torque to the V-8 engine. Regenerative braking charges the 0.4-kWh lithium-ion battery.
With this system, you not only get more juice, you also get Ram’s first stop/start system.
There is no diesel option at launch. Expect to see a turbodiesel V-6 under the hood this time next year.
I drove the regular V-8, a 5.7-litre iron-block pushrod engine producing 395 horsepower and 410 foot-pounds of torque.
Through cylinder deactivation, fuel consumption is reasonable — 11 litres per 100 km on the highway and 16.1 in the city.
Power gets to the ground via a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and, in my tester, a 4x4 system.
If you choose a two-wheel drive and check off the Max Tow package with its strengthened rear axle, you will be able to tow up to 5,783 kilograms and carry up to 1,043 kg.
Start up the new Ram and the first thing you notice is how quiet it is. Take it on the highway, and it is easy to substantiate Ram’s contention that this is their quietest model to date.
Ram says it employed active noise cancellation, a revised HVAC system and even new tires to get a 56.7-dBA number.
The quiet cabin gives you time to survey the cabin. In my Laramie Longhorn, that meant a Western theme, with saddle-coloured leather seats (complete with faux belt buckles in some places) and real wood trim.
But the real eye-catcher is the 12-inch infotainment screen. This beauty, arranged vertically, much like a smartphone, is easy to navigate or use. It is touch or voice operated, with smartphone-like pinch-to-zoom and crystal-clear graphics.
Again, Ram boasts the screen is the largest in its class. It certainly rivals the screen on some Tesla models, which are the largest in their segment as well.
When not using it as a super-large navigation aid, the screen can be split with more controls made always available, instead of hidden under a sub-menu.
The Longhorn Level 1 equipment package includes a Harman/Kardon 19-speaker high-fidelity audio system that can shake the windows, power running boards (a first for Ram), rear ventilated seats and a wireless charger.
The console between the front seats is configurable to swallow a laptop, or have drinks easier to access. On my tester, it had a wireless phone charger, but in case you don’t have a phone that can use that feature, it has five power outlets to do the job as well.
The crew cab features four full-size doors offering exceptional rear legroom (the headroom is a given). The bottoms of the back seats fold up for cargo or to expose the under-seat storage. For added comfort, the seat backs can also recline.
As a package, the interior reeks of luxury for both front and rear occupants, especially with the optional $1,595 full-length panorama sunroof.
The Ram 1500 is currently the second-best selling truck in Canada — and that was the previous-generation model going up against new designs from General Motors and Ford. If you are looking to buy a new full-size truck, the appearance of this revamped Ram is sure to make your decision that much harder.