Ram created a laundry list of upgrades for the 2013 Ram half-ton and the truth is there are likely to be more we haven't seen yet. For now, here is a closer look at most of the most interesting technology and new features the new truck has brought us. Some we'll see pretty quick, while others may take a little longer.
Adding to the list of industry firsts is the application of a new stop-start system, another fuel-saving feature that will be available on select 2013 Ram 1500 models. This system is said to improve fuel economy by up to 3.3 percent, an increase of about 1 mpg in city driving, depending on driving habits, vehicle configuration, and duty cycles.
The system increases fuel efficiency by shutting off the engine when the truck comes to a complete stop. Accessories such as radio, gauges, heating and air conditioning continue to operate. The engine restarts automatically when the driver releases the brake, allowing for seamless acceleration.
The setup monitors brake pedal position and vehicle speed over time to determine the appropriate engine shutoff, preventing frequent on/off cycling in heavy stop-and-go traffic situations.
As you’d expect, the system does require a few upgrades. Because of the additional high-use and electrical load demands placed on the starter, alternator and battery, these specific components use heavy-duty operation on models equipped with the stop-start feature. The starter is housed in a stronger case, the flywheel teeth are stronger, and a more robust starter solenoid is needed.
We’re told that during testing, the new starter was subjected to durability cycles in excess of more than two-and-half times that of standard units – more than 300,000 on/off cycles. The new battery generates 800 amps with a sealed lead-acid battery (using Absorbed Glass Mat technology). An upgraded 220-amp alternator is included in the charging system.
The system’s voltage is continually monitored through a battery sensor. If the battery’s charge is reduced, the truck will discontinue stop-start until the battery is recharged to an acceptable level. Stop-start is activated automatically and requires no input from the driver. A switch to disable the feature is on the dash.
So far, Ram has not announced exactly how the package will be introduced, but we understand it will be offered in both V-6 and V-8 configurations and could easily be adapted into a more aggressively upgraded hybrid or electric-truck powertrain. We'll drive the system in several variations at an upcoming media drive event and will report on its real-world applications then.
This doesn’t really fall under the “cool technology” banner, but it deserves to be included. And in an odd way, all the interesting changes and technology have led to this. The 2013 Ram half-ton will now be offered in a longer 149-inch wheelbase version. Astute Ram fans will know that Ram cleverly has squeezed three cab configurations and bed lengths out of just two wheelbases (the 140-inch Crew Cab with the 5-foot 7-inch RamBox shown above).
The new wheelbase is almost 10 inches longer, and it allows the creation of a crew cab Ram with two bed-length options: a 5-foot-7-inch bed and 6-foot-4-inch bed. When you combine this with the fact that a longer (6' 4") RamBox option was just introduced last year, this will allow Ram to offer both versions of the RamBox with the popular crew cab four-door. And when you combine that with the fact that the crew cab and 4x4 models can be ordered with the Pentastar V-6 and TorqueFlite 8 transmission, you can see why Ram guys are so optimistic about the 2013 truck becoming a hit with a much larger audience.
Expect the longer-wheelbase option to arrive late, by summer 2013.
Another in a long list of firsts for the 2013 Ram 1500, electric power steering uses a relatively small, efficient motor to power the truck’s rack-and-pinion steering. Rather than constantly turning a hydraulic pump, even when not needed, the new fully electric system adds about 1.8 percent fuel efficiency, which can also directly translate into an extra 5 horsepower once the parasitic drag is removed. The new system eliminates the pump, hoses and cooling gear. The new electronic system constantly monitors a set of sensors to make many small or large compensating adjustments for improved comfort and safety.
Active Grille Shutters
The hidden active grille shutters or louvers are one of the coolest features on the 2013 Ram, and it’s the first pickup to use such technology. The system automatically closes airflow through the grille when cooling is not needed, as determined by the engine control unit.
When the active shutters are closed, airflow is redirected over and around the front of the truck, enhancing the smoothness of the wind and creating much less turbulence than would otherwise exist if the air were allowed to pass through. Engine coolant temperatures and vehicle speed determine the shutter angles.
The shutters remain closed when less engine cooling is required and aerodynamic drag is at its highest; the system will open the shutters when the truck’s cooling demands more airflow, such as when the truck is pulling a heavy load up a steep hill.
Remote Central Locking
An advantage of completely redesigning an entire pickup truck is that you can build in the capability for future upgrades. Not only did Ram engineers take full advantage of upgrading all the electrical lines and supporting connectors for future use, but they also included some unique features, such as the ability to lock and unlock more than just doors.
In fact, depending on the configuration, a new remote central locking system allows the driver to lock and unlock both the tailgate and RamBox (if equipped) with a simple push of the key fob. This could make your pickup practically theft proof and could be the answer to missing tools from construction sites or dark driveways.
Simply put, the new transmission thermal management system is designed to raise engine and transmission fluid temperatures quickly. By raising fluid temperatures, parasitic losses resulting from low-viscosity engine oil and transmission fluid are reduced, improving fuel efficiency by 1.7 percent.
Unlike a mechanical thermostat, the new electronic thermostat constantly monitors engine temperature, allowing shorter warm-up time and maintaining the engine within the most efficient operating range. As the engine temperature increases to predetermined levels, warm engine coolant is circulated through a thermal exchange unit, which also contains dedicated pathways for transmission fluid and engine oil.
As the thermal exchange unit heats up, it also heats up the fluids. This action dramatically reduces warm-up time for the transmission, improving fuel economy, drivability and shift quality. In most powertrain configurations, the transmission heats up independently of the engine, delaying warm-up time and reducing efficiency over time.
The system will be standard on trucks with the TorqueFlite 8 and can also act as a kind of transmission cooler to help prevent the transmission from exceeding operating temperatures in situations when towing or hauling, improving durability and overall performance.
And, finally, an interesting computer-controlled electronic fuel shutoff sensor determines when it is and isn't appropriate to shut down the fuel flow to the engine (5.7L Hemi shown above). Called the Interactive Deceleration Fuel Shutoff (iDFSO) feature, the system can turn off fuel to the engine during downhill or deceleration events. The system will likely only be offered in the Hemi (and most likely combined with the Start/Stop technology) to offer the most fuel efficient Hemi Ram option for those consumers who need a V-8 and better fuel economy, which should be a pretty large number of truck buyers.