Having not seen a full redesign since 2009, the Ram 1500 is facing a lot of tough competition.
It’s no secret that the “Ram” nameplate is one of the best-known in the North American truck scene. Having started its reign at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Warren, MI in 1961, the Dodge D/W-series where the current family of trucks traces its heritage back to. Fully redesigned in 2009, the fourth-generation Ram was the model where the nameplate established itself as a separate brand from Dodge in 2010. This particular test unit is a 2017 Ram 1500 Sport 4×4 in Crew Cab configuration, painted in a Red Pearl with a black cloth interior.
The Ram is offered in numerous configurations on the 1500-series lineup, with endless permutations of powertrains, cabs, engines, and of course, appearance. Starting at the $31,395 Ram 1500 ST in work truck spec, the Ram 1500 goes all the way up to the $63,195 Laramie Limited. Our lightly-equipped Sport trim is a volume seller, and is a variation of one that many Canadians will be snapping up to add to their own garage. Sitting at an as-tested sticker of just below $60,000, this Ram 1500 Sport definitely looks the part of a workhorse with some added style.
The folks at Mopar equip the Ram 1500 with three engines, starting with the 3.6L Pentastar V6. A neat out-of-the-box choice is the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6, which boasts segment-leading economy. Our truck was equipped with the 5.7L HEMI V8, rated at 395 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 410 lb-ft. of torque at 3,950RPM. Though the offerings with the EcoDiesel and Pentastar have impressive performance on their own, the overall grunt and monstrous soundtrack that comes with the HEMI cannot be replaced. Power delivery is smooth and the all-American V8 makes great noises from the exhaust.
Though the aging six-speed automatic is still offered, this truck was optioned with the ZF-sourced 8HP eight-speed automatic transmission. This is the best pairing to the 5.7L, and helps considerably with efficiency, something that’s important with a V8-powered pickup truck. This unit is an automatic transmission benchmark as it is, but newer applications such as the 10-speed in the 2017 Ford F-150 (reviewed here) will quickly outdate it. Shifts are smooth, quick, and precise, with the gearbox knowing the right gear to be in for any situation.
The Ram 1500 Sport comes with a selectable 4WD mode for those tricky situations that you may find yourself in, although the beefy Goodyear Wrangler tires exhibit exceptional grip in the dirt and mud. We left the truck in 2WD mode for the majority of the test, as 4WD is just not needed on the street for three seasons. As it sits out of the box, the Ram has immense capability for Canadians, year-round.
Featuring a multi-link coil spring rear suspension, the Ram 1500 is capable of easily absorbing imperfections in the rough Canadian roads. Although the ride quality isn’t great with an empty bed – typical for a body-on-frame pickup truck – the 1500 Sport is pretty smooth and does have a quiet cabin. It easily keeps wind and road noise out, which is a huge challenge of the new Nissan Titan XD (reviewed here). Ride quality isn’t as sorted as the new F-150 (reviewed here), but the overall package of the Ram makes it just as good a value, if not better.
Like any other gasoline-powered pickup truck, fuel efficiency isn’t the greatest, but the Ram is by no means terrible in this regard. Suggested numbers with the HEMI V8 and the eight-speed transmission are 16.1L/100km city, 11.5L/100km highway and a combined rating of 14.0L/100km. Our test reported economy right in line with this, at 13.4L/100km on 87-octane regular. The V8 does have fuel-saving measures in play such as the MDS cylinder deactivation, which disables four of the cylinders at highway speeds.
On the outside, the Ram 1500 Sport is dressed up nicely, with distinctive styling cues such as the Ram signature grille, projector headlights with bumper-mounted fog lamps, stylish 20” chrome-alloy wheels on 275/60R20 tires, and dual polished exhaust tips. Two things that would freshen the truck up considerably would be the elimination of the 80s-style antenna and integration into the glass, and a bed access step like the Ford F-150’s. It’s a small touch, but the built-in stepladder on the Ford helps quickly to jump into the bed and easily load and unload larger items.
The interior of the current Ram is strategically laid out for the driver as well as passengers. With a massive center console bearing enough space for small and large items, there’s plenty of storage within the cabin. The black bucket seats, upholstered in premium cloth with vinyl side bolstering, provide great support and comfort for long distances. Head and legroom is plentiful for front and rear passengers alike, with fold-away rear seats that make for additional storage space should inclement weather prevent use of the bed. Tech on board includes then 8.4” Uconnect infotainment system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity – newer models from the Chrysler group are getting Apple CarPlay connectivity; it’s only a matter of time before this trickles down to the Ram.
Having not seen a full redesign since 2009, the 2017 Ram 1500 Sport 4×4 is facing a lot of tough competition. With huge powertrain and platform updates to the new Ford F-150 along with the GM twins, it’s a testament to how good the current Ram platform is that it has continued to remain both relevant and competitive. All of the Ram 1500’s powertrains are fresh enough to stay as they are, but we can’t wait to see what the team at Fiat-Chrysler has planned for the forthcoming Ram. It’ll undoubtedly be an improvement over the current model, which itself is one of the segment-leaders right now.
Take Two: 2017 Ram 1500 Sport 4×4 Gallery