First Drive: 2019 Ram 1500

First Drive: 2019 Ram 1500

Story and photos by Howard J Elmer, additional photos courtesy of FCA Canada

The 2019 Ram 1500 marks just the second generation of this half-ton brand that has been a stand-alone company, under the FCA umbrella, since 2009. Despite often still being referred to as the Dodge Ram, it’s been on its own for a decade now; a very successful decade in fact, with sales up by 191 percent since inception; hitting almost 700,000 sales worldwide in 2017.

While there was a mild Ram refresh in 2014 (along with the introduction of the 3.0L diesel engine), this new Ram promises innovative updates in line with an incubation period this long – and at first glance, it doesn’t disappoint.

The look of the new sheet metal is just different enough to announce this new generation with LED adaptive front lighting anchoring a flatter, swept-back hood that now wears the brand badge – well, that and the new grille. The iconic cross-hair grille, long associated with the Ram, is now fully retired. From now on, Ram will lead with its name squarely embossed on its nose.

This truck is slightly larger than its predecessor, yet it’s 225 lb lighter. Weight savings are thanks to the use of more high-strength steel and a wider use of aluminum.  The stronger frame, larger brakes (14.9-in) and retuned suspension components also offer gains in payload and max trailer towing. Payload has increased to 2,300 lb and the top tow rating is now 12,700 lb; numbers that make it competitive with any of its rivals.

The new aluminum tailgate is now damped and also has an integrated lift-assist feature. Inside the cab, I see the rear floor is now flat. Both of these features have been found in other trucks for a few years now – so, while noteworthy, these and a dozen other small things I saw are just examples of Ram catching up to the field.

In some cases though, they’ve done that and more. This new Ram also offers Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, Blind-Spot Monitoring including trailer coverage, Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Ready Alert Braking, Trailer-sway Control, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Parallel and Perpendicular Park, and Hill-start Assist, which uses ultrasonic sensors to help the driver perform technical manoeuvres.

What is unique, though, is the four inches that have been added to the frame, which results in a huge new Crew Cab backseat – one in which the seatbacks will even recline 8-degrees. This feature was previously found only in the HD MegaCab.

Supporting that frame at all four corners is a new shock system called Frequency Response Damping (FRD shocks). This technology employs a bypass valve in the shock which opens and closes as needed to soften the ride or offer firmer control during cornering.

Other tech innovations include: Updated Multilink coil spring rear suspension, Active-Level four-corner air suspension, next-gen TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission, auto-retracting front air dam and frame-mounted active tuned mass modules along with active noise cancellation that makes this Ram interior the quietest ever.

Ram’s cabin design and decor have always been good, but now it gets even better with new materials and features like an all-new switch bank with toggle switches, wireless charging dock and up to five USBs, including four type C/A ports. The new centre console also has 12 different storage configurations above which you’ll see the first 12-inch fully configurable touchscreen (optional) which includes tailor-made graphics for various Ram models. It features the fourth-generation Uconnect multimedia system with SiriusXM, in-vehicle connected services including 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and 360-degree surround view camera with bird’s-eye view. A new powerful harman/kardon audio system is now available as well with 19 premium speakers, 900-watt surround sound amplifier, 10-inch subwoofer and active noise cancellation.

Canadians buy twice as many Ram pickups (per capita) as do Americans. This fact went a long way towards the request, and creation of, a Canadian exclusive model for 2019 – the Sport. This truck will include all the most commonly ordered appearance features in one package. It includes a monochromatic exterior theme, body-colour door handles, mirrors and grille with all-black badging. Also a sport performance hood, dual black exhaust tips, 22-inch black accent wheels and all-black Sport-themed interior design. This includes cloth/vinyl bucket seats, black satin chrome, black headliner and a 7-inch centre cluster with Sport splash screen.

Engines and transmissions in this next generation remain mostly unchanged with the 3.6L V6 Pentastar still being the standard. The 5.7L Hemi V8, though, is still the most popular choice in Canada; however, up to 20 percent of buyers are now ordering the 3.0L EcoDiesel.

Pricing for the new Ram starts at $46,095 MSRP for the 4×4 Quad Cab Tradesman and walking up through the trim packages to $74,195 MSRP for the 4×4 Crew Limited Edition. New Rams are available to order now.

Categories: Driver Plus, First Drives