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Review: 2013 Dodge Ram 1500
Packed with performance features, this new truck is a great addition to any family.
One of the three traditional domestic half-ton pickup trucks, the Dodge Ram started life in 1981. Recently, though, parent company Chrysler spun Ram off as its own brand, helping separate the rugged image of a pickup from the Dodge performance ethos.
The redesigned 2013 Ram 1500 has no shortage of rugged capability, but we see fuel economy becoming a top priority for Ram for the first time. The EPA results are in, and the 2013 4x2 model with a V6 engine achieves 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway; four-wheel drive drops those numbers to 16 and 23, respectively.
In comparison, EPA numbers for the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2WD show that model’s V6 achieving 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. A similarly equipped 2012 Ford F-150 (2013 numbers are not available yet) gets 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.
To achieve the fuel economy improvements, Ram designers combined the new 3.6-liter engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission, introduced start/stop technology that shuts down the engine at stops, improved aerodynamics, reduced the weight of the truck by nearly 130 pounds, added electric power steering and optimized the engine’s fuel delivery. With all the technology, the V6 delivers 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque for a respectable towing capacity of 5,900 pounds.
For V8 loyalists, the eight-speed automatic transmission will also be added to the company’s 5.7-liter Hemi V8, coming mid-production year. The Hemi model develops 395 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. Ram representatives did not have the exact EPA fuel-economy results for the V8 yet, but they claim it will beat the current best-in-class 2012 Ford F-150, which achieves 22 mpg on the highway.
Minor modifications were made to exterior and interior styling based on consumer feedback—the previous generation of Ram 1500 has been a sales success, so engineers focused on improving what was already working. Certain trims will offer both a seven-inch multi-view cluster that can be customized to your usage needs and an 8.4-inch touchscreen atop the dashboard for moving through entertainment options.
What may be most surprising for truck buyers is the new rotary dial for shifting gears, located on the lower left corner of the dashboard. The dial is intended to make shifting while looking over your shoulder to check blind spots easier than using the old "stick on the steering column," but we found ourselves reaching for a non-existent shift lever out of habit anyway.
On the outside, Ram’s signature crosshair grille gets slightly taller (30 mm) and adds a beveled edge. Wheel designs are all new with options up to 20 inches in diameter. Badging has been refreshed and the location of the badging has been modified to help business owners who buy these trucks more easily add their signage without needing to remove emblems. For Ram buyers who utilize tow hooks, the hooks are now bigger to give users more room to tie or secure items.
What’s It Like To Live With?
We love the way the new Ram 1500 looks and that designers spruced up the looks without a complete restyling. We were particularly impressed with the wide variety of grille treatments we could see when several trim levels were parked in a tidy row. From blacked-out to bright-chrome mesh, each version boasts a defining grille in addition to other trim-specific accents.
Our first leg of the driving experience was in a base model V6 4x4 with cloth seating and a black and grey interior. The cabin wasn’t anything to get excited about, but seating was comfortable, highly adjustable and finding lumbar support was a pleasant surprise. The first thing that earned a raised eyebrow from our crew was the rotary shift knob located in the center console area. Here’s where we have to ask, "If it isn’t broken, why try to fix it?" Spinning the dial into reverse or drive felt a bit unnatural. We’re not sure how truck lovers are going to respond to the change, but we’re told the new design works well even when wearing work gloves; so does a column shifter, though.
Another new feature for 2013 is air suspension with auto load leveling that offers four inches of vertical travel. There are five modes to this suspension:
* Normal ride height—Offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance.
* Aero mode—Lowers the vehicle 1.1 inches from normal ride height for improved fuel efficiency.
* Off-road 1—Lifts the vehicle 1.1 inches from normal ride height.
* Off-road 2—Lifts the vehicle two inches from normal ride height.
* Park mode—Lowers the vehicle two inches for ease of ingress/egress and loading.
Aero mode is automatic and will seek the most efficient height when the truck exceeds speeds of 62 mph. We didn’t notice the truck lowering as we increased speed, but the action is intended to be seamless. Auto load-leveling, on the other hand, is noticeable, and does have a party-trick-like novelty. Simply load a few friends onto an open tailgate, start up the truck and watch as it adjusts its height about 20 seconds after start. Fun times.
Earlier we mentioned the 8.4-inch touchscreen for working your way through music options, temperature choices and navigation, but what really impressed us about this screen was how clearly it displayed the view from the backup camera—it may as well have been HD. The option to make your truck a Wi-Fi hot spot is now available, too—a feature Ram has partnered with Sprint to provide.
As we hit the road, we were anxious to see how the increased focus on fuel efficiency would translate to the performance side. Sadly, we thought the V6 lacked the playful oomph we were gearing up for, but it was smooth and delivered fine touring and cruising comfort. The brakes were not as quick to grip as we would have liked and the pedal felt slightly spongy, but more time behind the wheel would likely see us adjusting quickly.
Who Should Consider This Vehicle?
Trucks are a no-brainer for tradespeople, adventurers and farmers to be sure, but we think a crew-cab with plenty of space for three adults in the backseat is also great for families. The 2013 with the V6 will be able to tow 5,900 pounds, so if you have a moderately-sized boat or trailer, the Ram V6 will accommodate. Trucks are a lot of fun and very functional; new-and-improved fuel economy may help buyers make a case for one.
What Other Cars Should I Consider?
The competition is steep for the Ram 1500. Trucks are popular, and there are a lot of outstanding options out there, including the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Ram’s V6 likely has the best fuel economy for now, but we don’t think the others will lag behind for very long.
Sherrice Gilsbach is an associate online editor for shopautoweek.com, an authoritative online resource for anyone researching a new, used or certified pre-owned vehicle. Browse information on nearly 20,000 models here.
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