It is a great time to be a truck guy right now. There are new sport trucks being introduced, diesel has found its way back into the segment at every level and R&D dollars are hard at work looking for new technologies to make trucks tough, while being economical at the same time.
|1. The Ram 1500 can be had with the 5.7L V8, but our tester came with a 3.6L V6 making 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. 2. The Ram 1500 can be had with a four-corner air suspension and an eight-speed transmission. 3. Pricing for the Ram 1500 starts at $23,585, with out tester ringing in at just about $40,000. 4. The Outdoorsman package includes unique graphics, a towing package, upgraded shocks and more.|
Ram has been leading the charge when it comes to new, untested technologies in pickup trucks. The 2013 Ram 1500 can be outfitted with four-corner air suspension and an eight-speed transmission, two features that no one else offers right now. So does all this new technology come together to enhance the Ram half-ton, or have all these new items caused growing pains?
FOR THE OUTDOORS MAN
In our case, we tested a Ram 1500 Outdoorsman. The Outdoorsman package is designed specifically for hunters, fishermen, campers and boaters, and includes features like upgraded shocks, a towing package, Ram boxes and an appearance package. To try and make it stand out the truck gets a blacked-out grille with body colored surrounds and a two-tone paint job. It works.
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Design and style on the 2013 Ram are packaged just right. The truck’s flat nose juxtaposes the large sweeping curves on the hood, giving it a mix of toughness and elegance that no one in the else in the segment has been able to capture.
FUEL ECONOMY AND POWER
Powering this truck, Ram offers the 5.7-liter HEMI that makes 395 hp 410 lb-ft of torque, but our tester arrived with the more economical 3.6-liter V6 that produces 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Hooked up to the eight-speed gearbox, this truck gets a fuel economy rating of 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. And this truck delivers.
Our time with the Ram 1500 returned an average of 19 mpg, pinning it right to where it needs to be. On the highway, it occasionally could be coaxed to give up to 25 mpg, though it took a light foot. Point is, this V6 Ram combo returns class-leading fuel economy.
Usually, that fuel economy would come with a torque tax, as manufacturers have to make a decision between power and consumption. Luckily, the eight-speed gearbox facilitates a strong feeling engine, making that 269 lb-ft of torque feel like a lot more.
It doesn’t quite surge ahead like a HEMI, but the engine doesn’t’ feel as though it’s wheezing to pull the truck up to speed like so many V6s in the half-ton market used to. Instead, it delivers a firm amount of power in the lower gears and comfortable cruising rpms.
BUT CAN A V6 TOW?
Depending on configuration, V6-powered Rams are outfitted to tow up to 6,500 lbs, when fitted with the 3.55 rear end like our tester. This truck handles that weight quite well and we’d wager it could even take. Again, the combination of the eight-speed and the drivetrain pull the most out of the 3.6-liter working under the hood, providing smooth power. Towing does work this V6 quite hard though, and fuel economy predictably goes in the tank once weight is hooked up.
Helping to increase confidence is the air suspension system. Outfitted on all four corners of the truck, the airbags offer numerous advantages. First, and most important to someone towing, the bags will automatically level out the back end of the truck once a trailer has been hitched up, in essence acting as an equalizer hitch. That means that the weight is spread more evenly over all four tires, a factor which helps make this truck feel so solid under load.
Secondly, the different height settings that the airbags offer help make this truck more versatile on road and off. In off-road two mode, the 1500 picks up 2-inches of ground clearance, while on the flip side, entry/exit mode drops the truck by two inches, helping it squeeze into parking garages. Dropping the bags is also beneficial when loading or unloading something out of the bed.
Long-term longevity of the airbags seems to be about the only downside, though that may prove to be a non-issue.
LIKE THE BODY, INTERIOR IS FUNCTIONAL AND GOOD LOOKING
Step inside and this pickup truck continues on its win streak. Ergonomics are done well, with large plastic buttons and knobs. Generally the cabin has a look that’s both modern and robust.
Also included on the dash is a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, a very handy addition when it comes to using the truck as an office.
The trailer brake controller is the lone item that could have been placed better. It is close to the driver on the left-hand side, but it is low down on the stack, making it hard to grab in a hurry.
THE RAM BOX TRADE-OFF
One last addition that the Outdoorsman package tacks onto this truck is the Ram Box. These are two lockable, lit, waterproof storage boxes that are on either side of the box. While they offer some important usability additions, there are some downsides. On the plus-side, wet, muddy or oily tools are kept away from the interior of the truck, but the boxes pinch the bed width and also cost just over $1,000 as a stand along option, quite a bit of money when you consider all you get.
Truly, it is hard to knock just about anything Ram is doing right now. The company is innovating and adding new levels of usability to its half-ton that is making the rest of the industry stop and take notice. This Ram 1500 Outdoorsman is a marriage of everything right with the Ram brand right now, and proves that sometimes going out on a limb can really pay off.
Trailer provided by Reinhart Trailer Sales