There are many reasons to like the Ram 1500, the redesigned full-size pickup that’s selling well and recently copped the industry’s two biggest awards, North American Truck of the Year and Motor Trend Truck of the Year.
The North American award, voted by an independent jury of 49 media members, was announced Jan. 14 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Even though the Ram just hit showrooms in late fall, it was No. 5 on the US sales charts in December, trailing Ford’s perennially leading F-Series (68,787 sold) and the Chevrolet Silverado (50,699). However the Ram’s 31,407 sales figure wasn’t far behind the No. 3 Honda Civic (33,118) and No. 4 Toyota Camry (31,407).
It was a timely coincidence that we were driving a Ram 1500 Sport Crew Cab 4x4 the week before the award was announced.
There was nothing negative in our experience, unless you consider the sheer size of the Crew Cab at 229 inches (19.1 feet)—more than twice as long as two Smart cars (106 inches long) placed end-to-end. We likened parking the Ram to docking a cruise ship (more on that later), but on the road it was as smooth as one of those cruise ships on a quiet sea.
Pickup trucks aren’t cheap—one of the profitable reasons automakers love selling them—and the Ram is no exception.
Our test truck was a Sport model that carries a base price of $42,500 (including destination) but a slew of packages and stand-alone options drove the bottom line to $53,050.
Power was from a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 making 395 horsepower and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That combination is in the process of seguing to a new eight-speed automatic that should make the engine’s impressive power transfer to the wheels even smoother. The accompanying circular gearselector knob to be introduced with the new tranny should make shifting from reverse-to-drive even easier.
Meanwhile, we were impressed by the Ram’s power—especially the way it moved a 5,556-pound vehicle—the handling, electric power steering, air-adjustable suspension, looks, and sound.This is an all-encompassing redesign that is subtle and evolutionary rather than transformative.
Here are 10 reasons we loved the Ram 1500:
1. That Hemi. With 409 lb.-ft. of torque, the four-wheel-drive available at the turn of a knob, and the smooth transmission there wasn’t much not to like, even as we averaged 16 miles per gallon on a couple of road trips to visit relatives and watch some sled dog races in Westbook, Maine. I love the sound of a tuned exhaust—hey, even Mrs. G likes the rumble of the Flowmasters on my El Camino— but the throaty note on this Ram was something special on the Sport model.
2. Parking. The Ram was so long it was necessary to back it into one of our three parking slots, which are at right angles to the driveway.The Ram’s backup camera ($200) and ParkSense rear park system ($250) were musts, especially the overhead view that shows just how close that rear bumper is to the fence and adjacent cars. It turns out we didn’t need a pilot boat to guide us the way they do the aforementioned cruise ships.
3. Interior. Former Chrysler and now SRT boss Ralph Gilles made interior design and comfort a priority. The new Ram interiors go from very nice to exceptional with quality leather, state-of-the-art LED lighting, and an up-to-contemporary standards Uconnect infotainment system.
4. Console design. The center console is huge but unique with a flat surface for phones and devices, a separate USB charging port, and SD plug-in slot. It’s also at the perfect height for an armrest.
5. RamBox cargo management. The builtin cargo boxes on the sides of the pickup box and tailgate all lock simultaneously with the doors.
6. Air suspension.The system has five height settings: normal (8.7 inches of ground clearance); park mode (6.7 inches) for easier entry/exit; two off-road settings (up to 10.7 inches); Aero mode (8.1 inches) to improve fuel economy and aerodynamics. A button on the key fob will lower the truck two inches for ease of entry.The chrome wheel-to-wheel side steps ($600) are a sturdy aid to entry or exit.
7. Power rear-sliding window. It’s a long way back behind that three-person rear seat so we like this option. It works at the touch of a button, and it has a defroster.
8. Heated steering wheel. It won’t mean much in Miami, but it’s one of driving life’s great pleasures in the Northeast, part of a $1,875 leather package that upgrades the (heated and ventilated) leather seats nicely and adds the heated wheel and 10-way power seat adjuster for the driver and six-way for the passenger. Mrs. G appreciated both the power seat and lighted vanity mirror. Her point: “Be nice to the vehicle’s future passengers.”
9. LED lighting. In a few years, we may become jaded by such light treatments, but the Ram uses LEDs all over (including mirrormounted turn indicators) to add luxury (and safety) touches along with halogen projector headlights.
10. Stylin’. There are subtle changes to the grille design, plus the headlight treatment, LED parking lights and turn signals, and lowmounted vertical fog lights.The Ram folks took a nice design and evolved it to another (higher) level. Well done … and well won.Bill Griffith can be reached at WGriffith@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.