Ram has long been the disrupter in the half-ton pickup market. Without the burden of holding on to the sales throne and free of the pressure of toppling the longtime sales king, Ram has been blessed with the opportunity to regularly disrupt the pickup segment. Back in 1994, the then-Dodge Ram 1500 changed the game by ditching the traditional boxy pickup styling in favor of mini-big-rig sheetmetal, which proved immensely popular with buyers. Ford and Chevrolet soon followed suit. In the mid-2000s, it started offering a luxury trim level. Not long after, GM and Ford both had luxury trucks, too. In 2013 and 2014, Ram upped the game again, presenting the first pickup with an automatic with more than six speeds and then delivering a light-duty diesel engine. It took a few years, but Ford and GM copied Ram’s homework there, as well.
This is all a long, roundabout way of saying that despite Ram’s perennial third-place finish in the sales race, it has long led the way. Where Ram goes, the industry follows. Problem is, with the 2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Laramie Hemi short-bed I’ve been testing, driving feels far more evolutionary than it does revolutionary.
That’s not to say that the fifth-generation Ram 1500 is missing anything. A quick rundown of the spec sheet shows that the updated 1500 is still the pickup we know and love. Underneath the sharp (still mostly steel) sheetmetal is a strengthened platform that’s both lighter and stronger than before, helping to boost payload and towing capacity to 2,300 and 12,750 pounds, respectively. (It’s worth noting that payload and towing capacity can vary widely based on body style, trim, and equipment levels.) The 2019 1500 is available with a smaller Quad Cab or a larger Crew Cab, with a bed length of 5-foot-7 or 6-foot-4. Our Laramie tester had a Crew Cab and short bed.
Under the hood, the Ram 1500 sports a variety of familiar engines, many now augmented by an electric motor for a little extra low-end power and a fuel efficiency bump (those variants are dubbed eTorque). Our midlevel Laramie tester was powered by one of the few non-mild hybrid powertrains Ram offers on the rehashed 1500, with a carryover Hemi 5.7-liter V-8 good for 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. As in all of the 2019 Ram 1500s, the engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but our truck was equipped with optional four-wheel drive.
Despite the carryover powertrain, the 2019 Ram 1500 steadily improves on the previous generation’s performance at the track. This is likely thanks to the crash diet Ram engineers put the new 1500 on. Weighing 328 pounds less than an identically specced 2013 Ram 1500 Laramie 4×4 we tested a few years back, the newer Ram accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and went through the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 93.7 mph. That’s a notable improvement over the old Ram, which needed 7.0 seconds to hit 60 mph and 15.5 seconds to cross the quarter-mile marker at 87.7 mph. The 2019 Ram 1500 handles better, too; it lapped the figure eight in 28.6 seconds at an average 0.60 g, besting the 2013 model’s 29.1 seconds at 0.58 g. Just about the only measurable places the new Ram doesn’t improve on are braking and fuel efficiency; the 2019 1500 Laramie ties the 2013 1500 Laramie’s 122-foot 60–0 brake performance and also matches its 15/21/27 mpg city/highway/combined EPA rating.
Arguably Ram’s biggest engineering challenge with the 2019 1500 was simply improving on the old model. The 2018 1500 was so nice to drive on the road that there really wasn’t a ton of room left for improvement—yet Ram managed to pull it off. The single greatest improvement in how the Ram 1500 drives on the road is in the way it rides, which was already comfortable. The 2019 1500 now rides like a big SUV in the best way possible. Even without the optional air suspension, the Ram floats over bumps big and small without any impact harshness or gut jiggle. Only on the biggest bumps do you get secondary body motions, but even those are dispatched fairly quickly.
The 1500’s steering is SUV-like, as well. Despite a touch of wander when driving straight at highway speeds, the Ram’s electric power steering system is low-effort and accurate. This platform will be an excellent jumping-off point for Jeep’s upcoming Wagoneer.
The Hemi V-8 remains powerful and more than capable of handling whatever task you throw at it. At the same time, one is left with the impression that it’d rather just loaf around below 2,000 rpm. I suspect the transmission is the issue. Ram tuned the latest version of its eight-speed automatic to get to eighth gear and stay there. The transmission upshifts quickly and smoothly, but when you kick down the throttle to pass slow traffic, there’s a noticeable hesitation before it responds. The transmission makes this nearly 400-hp pickup feel slower than it is.
The interior is the place where Ram made the biggest improvements. Not only is the cabin bank-vault quiet, but there are also noticeable upgrades to both interior quality and fit and finish. Gone are the hard plastics and janky switchgear; in their place are thick, soft leather and high-quality satin-finished plastics and metal accents. Although our tester wasn’t equipped with the new 12.0-inch infotainment screen, the standard CarPlay-compatible 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment screen features a high-resolution display, an intuitive interface, and snappy response. The cabin itself is quite comfortable, with more than enough space to shuttle four adults—five in a pinch—without issue.
Prices for the base 2019 Ram 1500 start at $33,340. Throw down $42,335 for the 1500 Laramie, and you’ll get leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, and an Alpine stereo system, among other things. Our 1500 Laramie 4×4 tester was well equipped, with 20-inch wheels, the Level 1 Equipment package (which includes driver-assist features like blind-spot monitoring), plus some other options, for an as-tested price of $55,430.
Although the 2019 Ram 1500 may not be the disrupter the previous-generation pickup was, there’s no doubt that it’s a solid step forward for the brand. Besides, with the electrified eTorque engine soon expected to roll off the production line, that disruption we’ve been waiting for could be just around the corner.
|2019 Ram 1500 Laramie 4×4 (CrewCab)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$55,430|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||5.7L/395-hp/410-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,515 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||228.9 x 82.1 x 77.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.7 sec @ 93.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||122 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.74 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.6 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||15/21/17 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||225/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.13 lb/mile|