First Drive: Does the All-New 2019 Ram 1500 Deliver?

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The all-new 2019 Ram 1500 delivers an impressive amount of advanced technology, a new look and is now upgraded in almost every metric, but Ram may need to pull a few more tricks from the magic hat if it wants to catch its two major competitors.

This new version of the Ram half-ton pickup truck, which dates back to the early 1900s, could be considered the 15th (or so) generation of the model, depending on how you cut it. That's a long time to be building and improving on a pickup truck, but if you know how competitive the half-ton class is nowadays, you know this is not the time to be shy. As best we can tell from our first drive of several of the new trim levels, there's plenty here to give the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 a run for their money.

The 2019 Ram 1500's trim levels have decreased to six: Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel, Laramie, Longhorn and Limited (although Canada does get a separate Sport trim).

We drove several versions in and around San Antonio, each configured with either crew or Quad cabs, all 4x4s, and each with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. A separate drive event this summer will feature both the V-6 (305 horsepower/269 pounds-feet of torque) and V-8 (395/410) engines equipped with a 48-volt battery pack that allows for a stop-start feature and can add as much as 90 pounds-feet of torque to the V-6 and 130 pounds-feet for the Hemi. This eTorque mild-hybrid system will be standard on the V-6 and a $1,995 option on the V-8. Note that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the EPA are in the settlement stages regarding the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 for the 2018 model, but the company expects to have the diesel engines certified for the 2019 truck before the end of the year.

If you're wondering about regular-cab Ram 1500s, Ram plans to build a lower-cost, current-generation Ram 1500 with regular, Quad and crew cabs at one plant indefinitely, while an all-new plant will produce 2019 Ram 1500s with just Quad and crew cabs. Ram will decide when to build the new generation exclusively based on demand for, and profitability of, the older models. We're guessing both generations will be sold for at least a year.

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How Are the Interiors?

Interiors are becoming the most important part of the half-ton puzzle and Ram seems to be owning it. For most buyers doing direct comparisons, the previous-generation Ram 1500's interior quality would have been at or near the top. But this new model resets the bar.

Designers got more focused and deliberate about material and design choices at each trim level. The most dramatic interior upgrade is the largest information screen in a pickup, the all-new 12-inch touchscreen Uconnect system that allows for multiple types of screen configurations with the added feature of being able to prioritize which apps appear as shortcut buttons at the bottom of the screen. You can change the order around to suit your needs, just like on your smartphone.

The entry-level Tradesman interior offers thicker and tougher cloth seats, with all the same cubbies as the higher trim levels and a fold-forward center seat that becomes an armrest, plus a convenient under-seat storage bin for out-of-sight security. For 2019, crew cabs will also have a flat rear cargo floor with larger hidden storage bins underfoot as well. Big Horn versions get more trim accents and leather seat options, while the Rebel and Laramie versions up their game with impressive anodized and aluminum accents around consoles, doors and the dash. Naturally, upper trim levels like the Laramie Longhorn and Limited include more exclusive (and expensive) leathers, woods, logos, labels and, in one case, even a special brand seared into the dashboard wood.

Look inside the center armrest console and you'll find a few "Easter eggs" in the form of a small cargo divider etched with four silhouettes of the most recent Ram 1500 generations. Likewise, just in case you need a few formulas or angle identifiers, Ram has included some job-site math solutions on the underside of the armrest.

Lastly, to call this new Ram's interior quiet is an understatement. Although we didn't do any instrumented testing, a significant improvement in cabin quietness is evident, with upgraded door seals and thicker insulation sprayed all around the cabin. In addition, the 1500 has noise-canceling technology in the cab that is also tied into a vibration canceler on the frame to help mitigate any bad resonance that would be perceived in the cabin when the Hemi V-8 goes into V-4 mode.

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How It Drives on Pavement

The first Ram we drove was a mid-level Laramie with the newly retuned coil springs and all-new frequency response damping shock absorbers. The easiest way to describe these new shocks is that they seem to accommodate both harsh and slow inputs in the same way a more sophisticated and expensive remote-reservoir shock — or even an active air-ride suspension — would be able to do. This setup is likely to be one of the most popular trims, a good way for buyers to keep the overall price down.

On the San Antonio freeways and the outer-ring highways, the suspension tuning was a standout feature, turning choppy ruts and expansion joints into invisible obstacles — at least from the perspective of our highly tuned butt dyno. If there's one way the extra weight savings (roughly 225 pounds) shows up in this new pickup, it's how the standard coil springs can hold the chassis level and quiet, even over bumps and broken tarmac — not something the previous models did very well. We're guessing the redesigned independent suspension and the more sophisticated electric steering setup play a part in the more stable and sensitive feel as well. New upper (composite) and lower (forged aluminum) control arms, along with a relocated anti-sway bar (now behind the front axle), combine to give the Ram's front end an extra-confident feel, even when diving into decreasing-radius downhill corners.

On a small two-lane Texas Hill Country byway that wound through creek beds and rolling valleys, the front-end feel was sharp when it needed to be, turning down into the rough corners, but rebounding smoothly into the transitioning straightaways. We didn't sense any of the usual (especially with leaf spring pickups) rear-end toss coming out of the corners, or any need to make steering adjustments when the truck's center of gravity shifted from one side back over all four wheels.

If we had a complaint about anything during this section of driving, it would be that the eight-speed transmission didn't have a Sport setting: We noticed a small hesitation in throttle response during our winding-road sections that could have been much more fun with some kind of new software accommodation in the carryover transmission and engine controls to tighten up the shifts and give us a little more throttle sensitivity. (The conservative programming did yield us about 20 mpg on the vehicle's fuel-economy calculator.) Likewise, the only way to shift this truck manually, as before, is to move your thumb under the center section of the steering wheel — something impossible to do if you happen to be turning the wheel at the same time.

It's worth noting that the new 1500 has much bigger front and rear disc brakes, and it's clear Ram spent a lot of time improving their around-town feel, as well as their overall power and strength. Although we didn't get to do any performance testing at a closed track, we dynamited the brakes a few times to see if we could determine any of the previous limitations, and we found the new brakes offer a more solid and assured feel.

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How It Drives Off-Road

Once we got to the off-road ranch, we were guided to a trio of Rebels — two crew-cab 4x4s and one newly minted (Ram never offered these before) Quad-cab Rebel 4x4 Off-Road Package with coil springs. The Quad cab model gets the longer 6-foot, 4-inch bed. RamBox box-side storage compartments are an option on all Rebels, but none of our test trucks were so equipped.

This new Quad-cab Rebel will likely be the option more of the rough-and-ready four-wheelers will purchase because it will be lighter and much easier to modify with an aftermarket suspension lift and bigger tires. As it stands, even when sitting in factory clothing, the standard coil-sprung Rebel (as opposed to the Rebel equipped with Ram's exclusive four-corner air suspension) has a taller stance than other Rebels. Technically, coil-sprung Rebels have ground clearance equivalent to the Off-Road 1 setting of Rebels equipped with the air springs.

We had the chance to do some off-angle, rocky trail exploring, some sloshing through the greasy mud of a well-worn two-track and even some higher-speed dirt road running in 2nd and 3rd gear. The Rebel still offers the high-performance mono-tube Bilstein shocks and extra skid plating (under the engine and transfer case) but now also includes bigger 32-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac mud tires that do a great job of grabbing and slinging mud and rocks on the trail. New 4x4 Rebels offer a new set of push-button controls for the transfer case, locking differential and hill descent control alongside the rotary transmission dial. The new location positions all the important off-road controls in a single area within easy reach.

We also got some time behind the wheel of a new Rebel with the four-corner air suspension that allows adjustable heights: two for off-roading (Off-Road 1 and Off-Road 2) as well as an on-pavement Aero mode for improved fuel economy and a Park mode for easy entry, exit and cargo loading. We liked the new toggle switches on the lower center control panel; the suspension readout appears cleanly in the information center near other important gauges, although we do wish the icons and type were a little larger (getting old stinks).

Although the Rebel does not offer front or rear sway-bar disconnects (like the bigger Ram 2500 Power Wagon does), which would allow the axles to flex more comfortably over obstacles, it does offer a new locking rear differential that can be locked in either four-wheel or two-wheel drive. We used the locker only once, when we found ourselves stuck backing down a hill: Our slick, mud-filled tire decided to slide sideways off the trail and wedge the truck between two large rocks. No worries, though; we raised the air suspension to Off-Road 2, locked the rear axle and pulled ourselves back on the main part of the trail and up to the dirt road. The only feature missing from our wish list is a 360-degree camera setup for any of the off-road modes, which would give drivers and passengers better visibility of the trail around them.

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How It Tows

We also drove Big Horn and Laramie V-8s and found them to be solid and competent at towing trailers, each weighing about 5,000 pounds and using a conventional 2-and-5/8-inch ball setup with what looked like the proper 10 percent tongue weight on the rear bumper. Our Big Horn was the only one equipped with the carryover, pivotable trailer mirrors, which made it easier to keep the tires on the narrow pavement.

One of the subtle upgrades we're happy to see is that the 2019 has moved from five-lug axles to six lugs; that means stronger axles and a wider margin of safety when towing a trailer. The lighter vehicle, stronger frame and bigger axles result in a higher maximum tow rating of 12,750 pounds with the dedicated tow package and two-wheel drive only. To be specific, Ram now offers a heavy-duty Dana 60 rear axle option for its half-ton with the Max Tow Package, as well as an interesting thermal management system that pipes transmission fluid to the rear diff to warm it on cold mornings and cool it during high-heat heavy towing up steep hills through the desert. We hope the tech comes to other models and packages.

If there's a weak point to towing with the new Rams, it's that they offer a single Tow-Haul mode that shifts only a touch more aggressively during acceleration but doesn't seem that aggressive when downshifting on its own to induce higher engine rpm for better control. We tried to get it to downshift a few times on some hill descents and had trouble getting it to drop a gear. With that said, we like the small gear readout when in manual mode, but Ram still needs to figure out a way to get rid of the awkward thumb switches for something more usable. The steering wheel will always be a weird place to downshift your tow rig.

Other details we liked during our short towing loops included the ability of the backup sensors to scan and determine the size of your trailer and adjust the blind-spot warnings. We also liked the 360-degree camera system and the zoom-in ability of the backup camera that allows you to see with more precision, making trailer hookup a one-person job. Because all of our test trucks were basic Hemi V-8s, we suspect the addition of the eTorque mild-hybrid system and its torque-when-you-need-it could provide even more confidence when towing a heavily loaded trailer. We can't wait to test it.

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What's Missing

This new Ram half-ton truck is improved in almost every measurable way. But there are a few things Ram seems to have left on the table. For starters, with some of the quality advantages in both the 12- and 8.4-inch touchscreens, it's a shame not to offer more personalization and customization for the owner, whether that means screen backgrounds or fonts or more differences tied to trim level. For example, why not give more off-road or traction data or undercarriage information to the owner of a Rebel? Why not give more horse trailer tips or western sporting event info to the buyer who opts for the Laramie Longhorn? And why not provide more vehicle maintenance or a list of all the tool shops to the guy who opts for the Tradesman?

Additionally, regarding the upgraded eight-speed transmission that really has only two settings — Tow/Haul on or off — we're sure there could be something more here. If you have the mild-hybrid providing 130 pounds-feet more torque, why shouldn't there be a Sport mode to allow more off-the-line punch? Why not give the driver the option to slip into an Eco mode to provide bigger fuel savings?

Finally, there needs to be some upgrade or improvement in the amount of bed technology, be it hidden storage, tailgate tech or reconfigurability. The RamBox is a good start, but what about side rails that give buyers more cargo-carrying or tie-down options? Front-end design is important, but the back-end of a pickup is what defines it. Give it some touches that facilitate helping neighbors, supporting hobbies and hauling camping gear to the great outdoors.

Value and Pricing

As mentioned, 2019 Ram 1500s will be offered only in Quad- and crew-cab configurations for at least the next year. Base pricing for the 4x2 2019 Tradesman Quad cab will start at $33,340 (which includes a $1,645 destination fee — up $250 from 2018) and tops out at the 4x4 Limited crew cab with the 12-inch Uconnect multimedia screen at $58,140 with destination.

This pricing, when compared with similarly equipped Ford F-150 and Silverado 1500 models, marks a solid value player, delivering more content with similar or better capabilities.

We have no doubt plenty of buyers who decide to jump into the middle of the Truck Wars will be quite happy with this new Ram 1500, but they could find it lacking in a few areas if they spend a lot of time with a full bed. The softer coil springs still do a bit of uncomfortable drooping when loaded; however, for many new-truck buyers, that's not likely to happen very often. This is a good shot at the big players and likely to have the competition scrambling for a substantial response. photos by Mark Williams; manufacturer images


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Can you get a 2019 Ram 1500 without that imbecilic dial shifter or is that the only choice now?


Wow chingon just wow

Glad they improved upon the old model. I remember being so impressed with the 2009 Dodge that I bought. It was great for about 50,000 miles and then problem after problem continually for the next 100,000. Not huge problems for the most part, but very annoying problems and one after another. Never had any truck spend so much time in the shop. One day the truck just wouldn't start. Or the ac wouldn't work. Or the windows wouldn't go down. Or the blower would only run on high. Or it would flash some warning about something wrong that didn't seem to be. Or the battery would quickly die for no apparent reason. Or the radio quit working. Usually some electrical issue probably caused by some small defective part. It's interesting that case ih and ram are related companies because I can say the same for my case tractors. Tons of electrical Gremlins, though they have seemed to improve the last few years. Hopefully this new ram proves to be reliable, but I have little interest in it after my last bad purchase.

I admit it's a great truck, just can't deal with the "dial shifter" and the plastic chrome hubcaps
it reeks of cheapness but at a premium price

On looks alone its gonna be a hit.

The interior is impressive.

When they get around to shedding a few hundred pounds of unnecessary weight in body steel they will have fully caught up or be at or near the front of all major catagories.

Continuing to build the old version truck for fleet sales will definitely grow their market share in that arena as they will be lowest price in that class.

Im wondering with the mixed reviews/feelings on the new Chevy's looks if this Fiat might rush the Gov boys to give it a more handsome facelift.

Fiat is cranking up the heat in the battle for 2nd place.

Good looking truck but it still looks like a Durango, that has been out for 5 years!

Interior is what will attract buyers...looks great

This new Ram doesn't have the appeal of the model it is replacing. It once had a bold design and that help establish and grow market share. It looks like it dropped the attitude and put on a suit for a more borrowing, business like appearance. RAM appears to have lost it way in design for this model. The good news for pick-up trucks lovers is that GM has two new bold and beautifully designed full size twins that has been generating excitement once again.

On looks alone its gonna be a hit.

The interior is impressive.

When they get around to shedding a few hundred pounds of unnecessary weight in body steel they will have fully caught up or be at or near the front of all major catagories.

Continuing to build the old version truck for fleet sales will definitely grow their market share in that arena as they will be lowest price in that class.

Im wondering with the mixed reviews/feelings on the new Chevy's looks if this Fiat might rush the Gov boys to give it a more handsome facelift.

Fiat is cranking up the heat in the battle for 2nd place.

Posted by: Clint | Mar 16, 2018 6:08:43 AM


Mixed feelings?

Plenty of people have mixed feelings about the other two trucks as well.

While some people like the new ram, a lot of complaints about the toned down look are out there. Not big rig enough for a lot of the loyal ram buyers.

The current F-150 gets flack for looking too much like it's previous steel bodied brethren. The look is already dated and when these new trucks show up from Ram and GM, you can bet a major body refresh will need to show up.

That Rebel looks dang good! Like you have my attention and Chevy better get this'19 right good!

Looks good. Lots of options.
Too bad its an unreliable Fiat Chrapsler and I would never again buy one.

The E-torque is not a $1,995 option on the V8. It is a $800 option on the V8.

the E-torque Hemi is, however, a $1,995 option over the V6.

What would be the purpose of a lever shifter if all it does is move a switch. Having a dial shift knob takes getting used to and I no longer find myself bumping the shift lever with my coffee cup.

it reeks of cheapness but at a premium price
Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Mar 16, 2018

@ecoboost rules

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? You claim to have a Ford 150, which is the most plastic pickup around. The RAM is classy compared to the F150

"Wow chingon just wow
Posted by: Leon "

It is nice to know that I am the only one that feels that way. And I own 4 Fords.

This truck is full of good stuff and is stealing a lot of thunder from GM's upcoming release even though it sounds like it is going to be a great truck also. It is going to be a great time to shop for a new truck when all of these are in production.

I still want to see an American builder offer to pull the spare tire from the same bin as the four on the ground so that I can do a 5 tire rotation. I would gladly pay the extra cost, just offer it already!

After driving the other two vehicles last weekend, I am holding out to drive the 2019 Ram. Can't wait for them.


So how are they going to differentiate the naming between this and the current-generation Ram? Especially I'd they continue selling both for a year or more. If they are both called "2019 Ram 1500" that'll get confusing.

I'll be honest, this article came off as slighty anti-Ram. I'm looking forward to some of the 2019 1/2 ton shootouts that should pop up later this year.

I'm praying the Rebel or Laramie crew cab will be rated for truck camper duties. Otherwise, it'll be a GM for me.

I would gladly pay the extra cost, just offer it already!
Posted by: Walt | Mar 16, 2018


Huh? Just buy one, then! Why bitch about it?

While some people like the new ram, a lot of complaints about the toned down look are out there. Not big rig enough for a lot of the loyal ram buyers.
The current F-150 gets flack for looking too much like it's previous steel bodied brethren. The look is already dated and when these new trucks show up from Ram and GM, you can bet a major body refresh will need to show up.

Posted by: andrwken | Mar 16, 2018 7:55:21 AM

I really like this new Ram and I have never bought anything but Ford trucks. I have owned a few Chrysler products, Grand Cherokee, Durango and Wranglers, but never bought a Ram. If previous Ram owners were satisfied with their trucks, they'll be back even though some of that big rig styling is gone. They are now focusing on pulling people away from Ford and more likely, GM trucks. Ford does BTW, have an "all new" F-150 scheduled for 2020. Not sure that it will be "all new", but more likely a significant revamp, so kudos to Ford for continuing to update and improve an already very good truck. I can tell you right now that I would not consider either 2019 GM truck due to their continued hideous styling, but this Ram will get shopped when I'm looking to buy.

“HAS ANYBODY SEE THE NEW BRONCO? It looks amazing too bad is covered.” - CHINGON

WOW, That’s just sad and funny at the same time...

The more I see this new Ram the more I like it. I could get use to the dial shifter especially since it does not take up space on the console. I tend to leave my automatics in drive and don't downshift that much. I am not in the market for a truck and if I got a new truck it would be midsize but I believe this truck will sell and capture some additional sales from Ford and GM loyalists.

@Jeff S

Agree re the Ram 1500

That's just the way I see it. Ram is better than GMC and Chevy which are on the bottom of my list. I am glad you agree.

NOt the real Jeff S

@papa jim--Correct not the real Jeff S. I believe the new Silverado and Sierra will be excellent trucks as well. All the full size trucks have their pros and cons but Ram and GM will have the newest trucks and therefore up the stakes for all. Would be good to see if Toyota came out with all new Tundra and Tacoma.

@papa jim--Correct. I believe the new Silverado and Sierra will be excellent trucks as well but not as good as the competition and I would never buy one. All the full size trucks have their pros and cons, such as the carryover GM interiors, which is a disgrace for a supposedly new truck, but Ram and GM will have the newest trucks on paper and therefore up the stakes but how can Ram be all new with carryover powertrains? Would be good to see if Toyota came out with all new Tundra and Tacoma, but that is just a pipedream if mine as we all know.

That is the real papajim because he is that stupid.

Just look at Fords endless recall list. That will tell you everything you need to know. Garbage.

Yawnnnn!!! What a boring looking truck. Give a 2019 silverado LTZ!

@Bmbvideo There will be an aseptic, generic and boring 2019 RAM 1500 and a cool 2019 RAM 1500. If the old platform gets a price drop after the release of the new, I guess its sales will remain strong

Great looking in and out ....good improvements in most areas.

Same powertrains with etorq added...not sure this will allow it to compete on the level of Ford and GM.

Capability, while improved is not going to be up with Ford and GM . Engine performance wont either.

It will sell on its looks and value.

Its 150+ pounds and an improved Hemi away from being on par.....


Quit whining about the dial shifter. After 3 weeks, you'll be trying to shift your other vehicles and end up turning up the blower speed.

Posted by: TOM | Mar 20, 2018 5:01:27 PM

Consider the source. I read the article but i dont weigh to much on them for my purchasing descision. After all its my hard earned money. I look at what i am going to use the truck for. After 16 years of Ram truck ownership neither Ford or Chevy even came close on options and capability for the money.

Someday soon all these giant touch screens they are putting in vehicles are going to fail. They have a limited life span and are going to be crazy expensive to repair. Mark my word, people are going to regret getting these giant touch screens.

Mark my word, people are going to regret getting these giant touch screens....Posted by: Lefty54 | Mar 23, 2018

Totally agree! Just like a CD player or other electronic accessory the shelf life for this stuff is short. More important perhaps is the short life of these things before they're made obsolete by the next generation of products.

This is something the industry has not satisfactorily addressed for the great majority of buyers who hold a vehicle longer than a 3 year lease.

Looks pretty wimpy and toned down compared to the competition! Looks like Ford will continue it's domination for many years to come.


I wish they would have put a regular gear shifter in this year model...
I was considering a new Ram because I like the new body style and my two best friends have the 2015 and 2016 Ram Trucks and I ride with them sometimes and I love the trucks but I guess I’ll spend this $50,000 on a new GMC that has a manly gear shifter that you can hold on to and shift manually if you want, not a girly knob like a big radio least make it an option!

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