Pros: Longer bed on 2013 Ram 1500 Crew Cab, upscale interior, smooth ride, powerful engine lineup, great fuel economy on V6 model, 8-speed transmission, UConnect infotainment and connectivity options.

Cons: New V6 only available on HFE and SLT, awkward 8-speed's rotary gear selector, styling may prove too much for conservative truck buyers.

What's New: For 2013, Ram has completely overhauled its half-ton workhorse, giving the Ram 1500 a new suspension, 8-speed transmission, V6 engine and interior. Cutting-edge infotainment and connectivity features make the Ram one of the most sophisticated pickups on the road.

The 2013 Ram 1500 half-ton pickup elevates what is possible in a full-size pickup with a host of innovative new features. Topping the list is a new 3.6-liter V6 engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission, a setup Ram says will give the 1500 the best fuel economy and best tow rating of any V6 truck. An available air suspension helps smooth the ride and provides four adjustable ride height settings, as well as auto leveling when towing. Inside, the Ram 1500 cabin looks as if it were plucked from a Chrysler 300, rich in detail and craftsmanship and loaded with a wide array of electronics including the full suite of UConnect apps, voice-activated navigation and even a Sprint-backed wireless hub.

Additional improvements are found in the bed area, where Crew Cab models can now be equipped with a 6-ft 4-in bed. Ram Box side storage bins further increase versatility, while a new locking rear tailgate helps deter likely thieves (a common problem for pickup truck owners). Lastly, the Ram 1500 offers the most powerful and fuel-efficient line of engines to date, with the HFE model reported to top 25 miles per gallon highway.

Comfort & Utility

Inside the Ram 1500 pickup is an interior that sets new standards in design and execution. Even the most basic models feature intricate door panels, comfortable and supportive seats and an elegant dash. Color and fabric choices run the gamut from simple and durable fabrics of the Tradesman and Express trims, to plush leather and wood combos found on the Laramie Longhorn. On models equipped with the Torqueflite 8-speed transmission, a dash-mounted rotary gear selector replaces the console shifter. This new design frees up more space in the center console, but we're not too sure truck buyers will embrace it with open arms.

As for utility, the Ram 1500 offers three cab sizes: Regular, Quad and Crew Cab. Quad Cabs feature full rear doors hinged at the front, making it easier for rear passengers to get in and out. Regular Cabs features an 8-foot bed, while both the Quad and Crew Cab offer either a 5-ft 7-in or 6-ft 4-in bed, all of which can accommodate the Ram Box lockable side storage compartments and a removable bed cover. A spray-in bedliner is offered, as are numerous bed tie-down and utility upgrades. Side step rails that run to the edge of the rear wheel well assist when accessing items in the bed.

Technology

The centerpieces of the Ram 1500 are its upgraded UConnect infotainment system and configurable LCD information screens. The available UConnect 8.4 system uses an 8.4-inch display screen, wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, streaming Bluetooth and voice recognition controls for the phone, texting, music, radio mode and navigation. The new system is also fully upgradeable, allowing Ram owners to keep current with the latest technology even as their vehicle grows old. The design can even accommodate navigation added to the non-navigation UConnect 8.4 system at a later date, should the owner so desire. Multi-media input access for USB, SD card and auxiliary input are provided, as well as an available CD player in the center console. On the information front, the Ram 1500 can be equipped with a 7-inch multi-information screen that displays data in both text and graph form covering everything from digital speed readout to specific vehicle status information such as fuel economy, trailer towing information, outside temperature and trip data. It also displays the level modes for the optional adjustable air suspension.

Other tech-minded features of note include available Alpine audio, adjustable air suspension (allows the vehicle to be raised or lowered by 2 inches), Keyless Enter n' Go, ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear backup warning sensors, 911 assist, SmartBeam automatic high beam control, rain-sensing wipers and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity.

Performance & Fuel Economy

For 2013, the Ram 1500 will offer a choice of three engines. Standard on the entry-level Tradesman is a 4.7-liter V8 rated at 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. Optional on the Tradesman and standard on all but the HFE and SLT is the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that delivers 395 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque. This engine can be equipped with either a 6-speed or new 8-speed automatic transmission. Lastly, the HFE (High Fuel Economy) and SLT trims feature the new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6, rated at 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. This engine is available exclusively with the 8-speed automatic. Fuel economy figures have not been finalized, but Ram expects the V8 models to post best-in-class figures some 10 percent higher than the 2012 Ram 1500. Fuel economy estimates for the V6 model are expected to be around 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway on 2-wheel-drive models and one to two miles per gallon lower on trucks equipped with 4-wheel drive.

Safety

Standard safety equipment includes front side thorax airbags and full-length side curtain airbags, as well as electronic traction and stability control, trailer sway control, hill-start assist and automatic reverse pinch protection on the windows and sunroof. Rain Brake Support uses the brake pads to occasionally brush water away from the rotors helping to keep them dry and better able to stop the vehicle.

Driving Impressions

The Ram 1500 delivers one of the best rides we've experienced in a full-size pickup to date. The cabin is solid and well insulated from outside noise, and the new seats are supremely supportive. The new electric power steering setup delivers good feedback and on-center feel; it also helps improve fuel economy by taxing the engine less. When equipped with the available air suspension, the Ram 1500's ride is nearly luxury car smooth, absorbing most road imperfections with ease. Off road, the air suspension allows the Ram 1500 to bound over dips and hills without bottoming out, all while keeping tight control over body movements that usually translate into passengers being tossed about the cab.

The new 3.6-liter V6 is a capable workhorse, delivering good off-the-line acceleration and impressive fuel economy. But for heavy towing and rapid passing power, the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is still the best choice for this big, heavy truck. The V6 is tow-rated at 5,630 lb, while the Hemi V8 tops out at 11,500 lb (Ram 1500 Tradesman Heavy Duty).

Other Cars to Consider

Chevrolet Silverado - Although its design is much older than that of the Ram 1500, the Silverado is still a capable, if not slightly antiquated, competitor with a proven track record.

Ford F-150 - The F-150 offers all the style and luxury of the Ram 1500, with more model choices and a turbocharged V6 engine. The F-150's resale is also stronger than that of the Ram, but the Ram offers a better powertrain warranty.

Toyota Tundra - The Tundra isn't as large, luxurious or powerful as the Ram 1500, but its resale and reliability ratings are tough to beat.

AutoTrader Recommends

If you're pulling heavy loads, there is just no substitute for the power and torque of the 5.7-liter V8. We'd get it in the Sport or Laramie editions, which are nicely equipped and reasonably priced. If your truck use is on the lighter side (just moving jet skis or mountain bikes), the new V6 in the SLT is hard to argue with. It has plenty of power, delivers impressive fuel economy and can be equipped with most of the most desirable options in the Ram inventory.


author photo

Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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