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2017 Ram 1500: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2017

The 2017 Ram 1500 remains a highly desirable pickup despite tracing its roots back to the last decade and facing a lineup of competitor trucks that have all been redesigned. The trick is that it has always been ahead of the game, or perhaps more accurately, has always blazed its own trail with innovative and worthwhile features like its coil-spring rear suspension, available air suspension, 8-speed automatic transmission, RamBox storage system and efficient, tow-ready EcoDiesel engine.

It's a similar story inside. The Ram's cabin still manages to look handsome and modern despite going largely unaltered for nearly a decade. Materials quality is quite good and its touchscreen interfaces, though not fancy, are feature-rich and easy-to-use. Of course, the RAM 1500 also offers the requisite wide range of body styles you'll find in any pickup, with varying bed lengths and a multitude of cab configurations to choose from.

In essence, the Ram 1500 excels at just about anything -- and that means its only real problem is the competition. Its primary rivals -- the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado -- are indeed recently redesigned, and despite simply catching up in many regards, they still exceed the graybeard RAM in certain respects. As always, we suggest cross-shopping them all to see which might be a better fit for you.

What's New for 2017?

For 2017, the Ram's 6-speed automatic has been dropped from the lineup, leaving the excellent 8-speed as the lone transmission choice. The Outdoorsman trim has also been dropped.

What We Like

Available diesel power; smooth ride; muscular engine lineup; 8-speed transmission; easy-to-use tech options

What We Don't

Showing its age in some areas; no telescoping steering wheel; lower tow ratings than rivals; no accident avoidance tech

How Much?

$26,500-$53,600

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Ram 1500 offers three engines. Base models use a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. Like every Ram engine, it is mated to an 8-speed automatic. Fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive (2WD). It is 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy and 19 mpg combined with four-wheel drive (4WD).

The available 5.7-liter HEMI V8 produces 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. It returns 15 mpg city/22 mpg hwy and 17 mpg combined with 2WD, but it's effectively the same as the 4WD.

Perhaps the most appealing engine, however, is the available 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 dubbed "EcoDiesel." It produces 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, making it a great choice for towing. However, it also returns great fuel economy. Official fuel economy estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency were not available at the time of this writing, but in the past, the 1500 EcoDiesel Ram returned 20 mpg city/28 hwy and 23 mpg combined with 2WD, and effectively only 1 mpg worse with 4WD. That's a massive improvement over gas-powered trucks.

Standard Features & Options

The Ram 1500 is offered in a complex array of body styles, trim levels, engine sizes and drivetrain options. We've summarized the trims here, but note that there may be some variation in features and pricing depending on the truck you choose.

At the bottom of the Ram lineup is the commercial-oriented Tradesman ($26,500), which comes with only the basics: steel wheels, vinyl floor coverings and seats, air conditioning and a locking tailgate. You won't even get features such as keyless entry, power locks or power mirrors, though those items are optional.

The Express ($30,600) is essentially a base truck with some fancier trim, including 20-inch wheels, body-colored exterior pieces and interior carpeting.

Next up is the HFE model ($31,700), which stands for High Fuel Economy. Only offered with the EcoDiesel and 2WD, the RAM 1500 HFE also includes a 3.21:1 axle ratio, a start/stop engine that shuts off when idling and a tonneau cover -- all geared toward improving gas mileage. It also includes cloth upholstery and power accessories as standard equipment.

The first Ram trim level that's more daily driver than commercial work truck is the SLT ($31,200). It adds alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a power-sliding rear window and a 5-in touchscreen. This is the Ram's volume trim level and shoppers can add many options to equip it in just about any way they desire.

Then comes the Big Horn ($31,200), or, should you live in Texas, the Lone Star. It adds a backup camera, remote ignition, power driver seat, better cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a WiFi hot spot and an 8.4-in touchscreen.

The Sport ($36,600) is equipped similarly to the Big Horn, but adds 20-in wheels, special styling flourishes, better headlights and power-adjustable pedals. The Sport is even more sport-oriented with the regular cab, as it is uniquely equipped with 22-in wheels, a limited-slip differential, its own special styling and standard rear-wheel drive. It also gets special R/T badging.

To the Big Horn equipment, the Laramie ($42,000) adds leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory, a heated steering wheel, a power passenger seat and a 10-speaker upgraded audio system.

Topping the range is the crew-cab-only Longhorn ($49,600), which adds special styling of its own plus keyless entry and push-button start, a spray-in bedliner, parking sensors, better leather upholstery and a navigation system. The even pricier Limited ($53,200) builds upon that with a special grille, automatic wipers and highbeams, further upgraded leather and the self-leveling air suspension that's optional on lower trim levels. Indeed, most of the upper trim level equipment can be had on lesser versions.

Moving outside the trim level for a moment, there is also the off-road oriented Ram Rebel that includes special wheels, tires, shocks, tow hooks, styling flourishes and interior trim, plus a selection of desirable feature upgrades.

Safety

Standard safety equipment includes front-side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags, as well as electronic traction and stability control and trailer-sway control. You can also get a backup camera, automatic high beams and front and rear parking sensors.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests, the Ram 1500 earned four overall stars. That rating included four stars in frontal tests, along with five stars in NHTSA's side-impact assessment. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 1500 extended and crew cabs the best possible rating of Good in its moderate overlap front and side crash tests, but it got the second-worst rating of Marginal in its small overlap front and roof strength tests.

Behind the Wheel

The Ram 1500 delivers the best ride we've experienced in a full-size pickup, capably absorbing most road imperfections without the sort of jiggling motions typical of a pickup. Credit goes to the unique, coil spring rear suspension, which also aids in handling and trailer control. Improving things further is the available air suspension, which when taken off road, 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. Regardless of suspension, we've also found that the steering delivers good feedback and on-center feel.

The 3.6-liter V6 is a capable workhorse, delivering good off-the-line acceleration and impressive fuel economy. Plus, with its 8-speed automatic, you'll be shocked at how capable it is when towing. However, for heavy towing and improved passing power, the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 or 3.0-liter EcoDiesel are superior choices. Of the two, we strongly recommend the EcoDiesel given its substantial fuel economy advantage.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 -- The Chevrolet Silverado and its GMC Sierra twin offer a well-rounded blend of attributes, including an efficient V8 engine, user-friendly tech, a quiet cabin and top crash scores.

2017 Ford F-150 -- The F-150 boasts excellent turbocharged V6 powertrains, along with strong fuel economy numbers and a strong driving experience and interior. Even if you're a die-hard Ram driver, the latest Ford is worth a look.

Used RAM 2500 HD -- If you need even more capabilities than the Ram can offer, you might find that the brawny 2500 HD is more to your liking. Unfortunately, prices can be pretty high, which is why we suggest checking out a used model. On the upside, little has changed over the years, so the differences between new and used will be slight.

Autotrader's Advice

You'd be surprised at just how capable the base V6 is, but as long as the EcoDiesel engine gets emissions certified for 2017 (still up in the air at the time of this writing), we think it's the way to go. It betters the HEMI V8's torque, while thoroughly besting both gas engines' fuel economy. You'll save hundreds of dollars at the pump every year. As for trim level, we would suggest looking at a Big Horn/Lone Star as it has a good selection of features at a reasonable price.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Ram 1500: New Car Review - Autotrader