WINDSOR, ONTARIO – Previously sold under the Dodge nameplate, Fiat-Chrysler deemed RAM important enough to spin off into its own make just a few short years ago. The 2019 model year marks a fully redesigned RAM 1500 pickup truck, and this latest iteration adds features and technologies never before seen before in a light-duty truck. Unique to the Canadian market, we traveled to picturesque Amherstberg, Ontario for a first drive in the 2019 RAM 1500 Sport. This happens to be our first go in the new RAM 1500 as a whole, as well.
Considering the RAM brand represents 39% of Fiat-Chrysler’s total Canadian sales for 2017, it is of utmost significance. With models ranging from the base work truck-spec examples, the off-road oriented Rebel, and the luxurious Long Horn and Laramie trims, there really is a RAM 1500 for every buyer. The styling is unmistakably RAM, with a large and imposing fascia. A huge grille has the “RAM” logo up front and centre, with available LED headlights that smarten up the front end nicely. The profile doesn’t vary all that much from the outgoing model, but that’s not a bad thing – the RAM is subjectively the best-looking truck in its segment right now.
Three powertrains are available on the new RAM 1500, starting with a 3.6L Pentastar V6 with eTorque mild-hybrid technology. This model is good for 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft. of torque, and has idle stop/start technology as standard fare. A 5.7L HEMI is available with eTorque tech as well, which is good for 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft. of torque (with up to 130 lb-ft. of launch torque). This eTorque V8 also has idle stop/start technology. A regular 5.7L HEMI with the same power and torque numbers is available without the mild hybrid system, and both V8 engines include MDS cylinder deactivation.
The suspension on the new RAM 1500 has been fully re-worked, including a 20% increase in roll stiffness in the front, and variable rate springs in the rear. Frequency response damping (twin-tube shock absorbers) is on board on both the front and rear suspension systems. As a result, the 1500 remains body on frame but the ride is exceptionally compliant, and is notably less bouncy with an empty bed than its predecessor was. Ride quality at highway speeds is immensely comfortable, a definite upgrade over the current Ford F-150 (reviewed here).
Out on the open road, the biggest improvement to the new truck that was immediately observed by both my driving partner and I is the quietness. The active noise cancellation and active tuned mass modules work in tandem with an acoustic windshield and front windows. All of this sounds like marketing speak, but the reality is that this is one quiet truck. It’s extremely easy to just establish your own personal quiet zone inside the RAM with great music and the open road, with all of your troubles and disappointments vanishing with the outside world.
One of the RAM 1500’s exclusive setups is the Active-Level four-corner air suspension. This system automatically will adapt to the load on board by detecting the weight, or the driving conditions. It can also be triggered by the driver and also adjust ride height. The available modes within the Active-Level feature are Normal, Aero, two Off-Road settings, and an Entry/Exit mode that will be considerably useful for shorter drivers or those who have issues getting into taller vehicles. RAMs not equipped with air suspension receive the multi-link coil spring setup in the rear.
Maximum payload capacity on the new RAM 1500 is 12,750 pounds when properly equipped, which happens to be a 20% increase over the comparable outgoing model. Similarly, the bed can handle a maximum payload of 2,300 pounds, a whopping 22% more than the last truck. FCA took into account that many buyers use these trucks for what they’re meant to do – haul – rather than relegate them to the local Costco parking lot for the weekly grocery run. As such, there is real capability engineered into this machine.
RAM’s engineering team has made it their mission to ensure that the new 1500 will optimize efficiency without compromising any of its capability. A 98% high strength steel frame contributes positively tot his, along with aluminum for the hood, tailgate, engine mounts, and more. As such, the 3.6L Pentastar has been updated with a cooled EGR, a two-step valve lift, and increased compression ratio. The HEMI gets improved cylinder deactivation and an 850W eFan. Additionally, the RAM 1500 gets an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission and an eTorque mild hybrid system.
The interior is vastly improved over the previous-generation vehicle, with an additional 4” of rear legroom in the Crew Cab truck (Quad Cab model dimensions are unchanged). This makes for 150L of total interior storage in total. Higher-trim models will get heated and ventilated seats both front and rear, and a dual-pane panoramic sunroof is also available. Up until now, the F-150 was the only truck that offered this feature. The steering wheel now tilts and telescopes thankfully, meaning attaining the perfect driving position is easier than in the outgoing model. The material used for the seats feels more upscale and the seats overall have more bolstering and support, a welcomed update.
A 12” UConnect screen is now the largest screen available in any pickup truck, which also has a variety of controls. This system is extremely user friendly and features plenty of connectivity including Apple CarPlay. This remains optional, and 8.4” and 5” systems are standard on most trim levels. Wireless charging, a 7.4” TFT instrument cluster display, and three 115V charging ports are available on the RAM 1500.
Safety features on board the new RAM include adaptive cruise control with stop and go, parallel and perpendicular park assist, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and a 360-degree surround view camera. A radar-based blind spot monitoring system is available, and also includes trailer length detection factoring in whatever you’re hauling when alerting you for objects in the vehicle’s blind spot.
Okay, so the new RAM 1500 is pretty sweet, but what’s unique about the Sport? For starters – it looks positively badass. It employs a monochromatic exterior paint scheme, large aluminum wheels (20s standard, 22” with black accents available), and dual exhaust. It looks great, sounds great, and coming from someone who isn’t exactly a truck aficionado, this is one truck I’d love to have in my garage. It packs the torquey 5.7L HEMI and eight-speed, and enough bits to make for not only a powerful truck, but also one that’s actually fun to drive. One surprising thing is a lack of paddle shifters on the more athletic model; instead some small buttons on the wheel are the only way to change gears manually.
Inside the RAM 1500 Sport is an interior fully unique to this model, with premium cloth and vinyl bucket seats that are surprisingly nice. A 7” instrument cluster has a “Sport” splash screen that’s not seen anywhere else in the RAM 1500 lineup. The Sport also includes LED headlights and fog lights, the 8.4” UConnect screen, active grille shutters, hill-start assist, remote dampened tailgate, power pedals, heated seats/steering wheel, and ParkView reverse camera. This trim starts at $56,595 for the Quad Cab 4×4, sitting above the Tradesman and Big Horn models.
On its own, the 2019 RAM 1500 Sport is a niche example within a comprehensive lineup of trucks. The new RAM 1500 as a whole is not only a vast improvement over its predecessor, but a great truck even when considering the competition. The GM siblings (Silverado and Sierra) have been overhauled and are set to hit showrooms this fall, and the F-150 has also been redesigned recently. The outgoing RAM was still quite competent despite its age, and this new one is on track to not only retain loyal customers, but also bring in new blood.