Call it a Ram, call it a Dodge, call it whatever you want…but know one fact above all others about Ma Mopar’s pickup truck design theory: you wait until you’ve bled out every last cent from the last design before the designers get to work on the next generation. There might be mild workovers in between to keep things a bit fresh, but the bones usually last a long time. The first and second generation D-series trucks, which were close enough to be called the same thing, really, lasted a decade. The third-gen D-series/first gen Ram went from 1972-1993 with just one mild update for 1981. That’s twenty-one years, folks, or in auto-speak, forever. Even the current generation Ram has been around nearly a decade, which is surprising given how white-hot the market is for anything pickup-truck related. A new Ram truck has a different set of priorities to follow, though. A brute workhorse has been out of the picture ever since the 1994 Ram showed what a truck could truly be instead of four wheels, one bench seat and that’s all. And buying trends have shown year after year that a full-size truck is what many buyers are looking for.
Any fully-redesigned pickup truck is worth a lookover, but for Ram, a new truck is literally a reputation on the line. Trucks and work vehicles are all they do, and excepting the imported cargo vans, is purely made up of Ram truck. So bringing a new generation of truck to a company that boasts about having the most loyal customer base in the market is a very big deal in no uncertain terms. Win the loyalists, and you keep a base. Win over converts, and you grow. Mis-step in any one direction and bad times are ahead. We’ve driven a few examples of the current-generation Ram, including a top-tier Cummins dually, a standard-fare four-door half-ton, and a bare-bones shortbed Hemi-powered stripper. It might have been around for a while, but the current-gen Ram does what you want a truck to do and can be as work-based or as plush and overdone as you wish.
So, moving on to the 2019 example here that Martin Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Bowling Green provided for a test session. This is a well-optioned 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4, a mid-level trim truck with several options thrown at it. Since it’ll come up first, here’s the numbers: on the Monroney sticker, you are looking at $53,060, which is on top of a base price of $45,695. The spread on Ram half-tons goes from about $33,000 for a completely stripped Tradesman model to about $65,000 for a fully-loaded example. This is the first 2019 that I’m aware of in the state of Kentucky, so it’s no shock that it’s loaded out with all of the pretty toys…someone is going to pay for them just to have the first one on the block. Among the myriad of features this truck has is radar detection front and rear (which can be deactivated via toggle switches in the center stack), a limited-slip rear axle, the 5.7L Hemi VVT engine with cylinder deactivation, step rails, Uconnect 4C with navigation and the 8.4″ screen, 20″ polished wheels and a trailer brake controller. The list for standard items for the Laramie is surprisingly long…like most of the listing on the sticker long.
The first item that I discovered…was the button that automatically deploys the tailgate. Interesting feature…it’s not like a hatch on an SUV that is motorized…think of it more as a popper. Hit the button, tailgate drops. It scared my mother-in-law when I showed her. The second thing was the Ram Bin. There are two, both in the passenger footwell area underneath the floor mats. In a truck that already has tons of handy little storage areas, I’m not quite sure what you’d use a Ram Bin for…maybe a roadside kit or first aid kit. Either way, they don’t interfere with the passenger area and offer up more storage inside the absolutely cavernous interior. Seriously…front seat all the way back, well past my comfort level, and I could ride all day long in the backseat without a single bitch in the world. I promise you that “interior room” is high on the reasons why people buy these trucks…even Angry Grandpa’s generous interior isn’t going to match up to the Ram. AG also doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of USB ports and USB-C ports, or other methods of power supply to the cabin. I refused to count how many there were…but there were at least enough for every passenger to have two devices charging up. There’s a console in the center of both benches, a cubby in the center of the dash underneath the HVAC controls and toggle switches, a shelf hidden in the upper part of the passenger-side dash, and the glovebox. And that’s what I found…I probably missed a few locations. I didn’t miss the hidden CD player, though! And I’m all but certain that I wouldn’t miss the gigantic infotainment screen that is an option this truck did not have…the standard unit is plenty large and useful. Just don’t take away my heated and cooled seats. Especially the cooled seats.
Driving the Ram around, one thought above all others kept creeping into mind: “Damn, this thing is quiet!” Turn off the thumping sound system for a moment and you’ll realize that you don’t hear squat: no wind noise, no road noise, barely any engine noise when just cruising, nothing. That’s on purpose…FCA went nuts turning the interior into a vault. Acoustic glass, active noise cancellation and active-tuned mass modules on the frame, along with what has to be a ton of sound deadener make the Ram the quietest vehicle I have ever been driven. It’s eerie. When you punch the Hemi into life, you’ll hear it properly, but at a stoplight I found myself checking the tach because I thought that someone had snuck another stop/start vehicle on me. Acceleration is good…the 5.7L is good for 395 horsepower and 410 ft/lbs of torque still, and is backed by the 8HP75 eight-speed auto made by ZF. Handling is what you should expect from a large truck: the ride is nice and comfortable on a cruise, but try to take a corner at speed and you’ll get a lesson in some old-school body roll. It’s a truck, not a Viper. Brakes are impressive, and with less mass than the last generation truck to deal with, happier to bring the Ram to a stop.
So, what’s the first impressions? For a mid-trim truck, this thing is an Imperial with a bed. The interior is unreal in scope, both by technology and by pure room. The bones are solid, the powertrain proven, and the potential high for success. We aren’t fans of the idea, but the $50,000 truck taking the place of the full-size sedan or trimmed out SUV is here. For what you are getting, this is a LOT of truck to have…and there are still five other models in the Ram lineup: the everything-you-need, nothing-you-don’t Tradesman, the brazen Rebel, the uprated Laramie Longhorn and the all-out Limited models span the range. Figure out what suits your budget, figure out what options you really want or need, and pull the trigger. Or wait until the 3/4 and one ton models come out. Or jump on the incentives for the 2018 trucks on the lots now.