The Yankee full-size pickup truck genre has never been known for its leanings towards being enviro-conscious or luxury-focused. But Ram has — to an extent — thrown the form book out the window with its all-new fifth-gen 1500 series truck, which sheds about 100kg from its girth while adding some welcome refinement and opulence to the blue-collar hauler.
Having played third fiddle to the evergreen Ford F-150 (revitalised in latest form with aluminium-body construction) and redesigned Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, the 2019 Ram hits back with a sleeker new bodyshell and upgrades throughout the vehicle that make it more efficient and better to drive.
You would have gleaned from the accompanying pics that the newbie ushers in a much cleaner front-end design featuring a hexagonal grille (with active shutters) flanked by wraparound headlights with daytime-running lamps. Apart from being more aesthetically pleasing, the new Ram is slipperier through the air, as reflected by a tidy drag coefficient of 0.357. The old crosshair motif on the front grille has also been done away with, and now taking centre stage is a thrusting Ram logo. The look of the front fascia varies depending on which trim level you choose, but they’re all nicely executed, and one could argue the latest 1500 is the most stylish truck in its class.
Speaking of trim levels, the new 1500 range kicks off with the Big Horn (from Dh161,590), and further up the pecking order are the Laramie (from Dh179,950), Rebel (from Dh190,970) and Limited (from Dh227,695). That’s a lot of moolah, and it makes the 2019 Ram a pricier proposition than its direct rivals. That said, the old Ram 1500 is being continued under the ‘Ram Classic’ designation, and it lowers the price of entry to around the Dh120k.
You may also like: 2018 Ford F-150 Limited review: King of the hill
The trusty 5.7-litre Hemi V8 carries over, eking out 395bhp and 556Nm, channelled to all four wheels via the excellent ZF eight-speed auto that’s also used by multiple Euro brands. Apart from fuel-saving start-stop and displacement-on-demand (which shuts down four of the eight cylinders when coasting), there’s also an optional eTorque mild hybrid that uses a belt-driven motor generator and 48-volt battery pack to kick in an extra 176Nm of torque when needed. In case you’re after something more frugal, there will also be the availability of a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 (pushing out 305bhp and 364Nm) that features in various Chrysler and Jeep models.
The new Ram 1500’s 100kg weight loss is the result of a frame and body structure largely made up of high-strength steel, and the tailgate, engine mounts, and lower control arms are all fabricated from aluminium. Mind you, the vehicle is still no lightweight at 2.5 tonnes, but every gram lost is a step in the right direction. Crucially, the workhorse can still stow a payload of 1,050kg and tow up to 5,800kg.
We drove the full-spec Limited, which comes with adaptive multi-level air suspension, and the system now features additional modes for off-road use, as well as a mode that lowers the vehicle by 5cm to allow for easier entry/egress and stowage of bulky items in the load bay. All you do to activate this feature is press a button on the key fob.
Our maiden drive in the newbie was in the full-spec Limited, which makes a noticeable step forward from its predecessor in terms of cabin ambience. Its innards are a far cry from the hard-plastic-lined interiors of yesteryear Rams, with plush leather, real wood and soft-touch materials used pretty much throughout. The Limited’s dash/centre console layout is also much better executed, with the highlight being the huge 12.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system (lesser models are offered with an 8.4-inch screen) that sits vertically atop the centre console. Regardless of trim, every Ram 1500 features a rotary shift knob, plentiful interior storage, and easy-to-read gauges.
Models with front bucket seats feature a centre console with 40 litres of storage space, and the bottom of the bin features the outlines of the first four generations of Ram pickups. Cute. There’s Bentley-esque levels of legroom in the back, and even the rear pews can recline to make full use of the sprawling space.
You may also like: 2019 GMC Sierra review: A time to work... and play
Right, time to hit the road. Fire up the Hemi and your ears are greeted by just the right amount of V8 burble. It’s audible without being intrusive. Despite the Ram’s gargantuan bulk, the powertrain propels the truck with decent vigour, and the eight-speed auto goes about its work seamlessly. The transmission shifts up early when you’re pootling along but is quick to respond with downshifts when you stamp on the gas.
The 2019 Ram might be a tidier handler than its predecessor, but it’s still a bit like steering the Titanic. You need to pre-plan your braking as the weight shifts to the nose when you hit the anchors hard. There’s copious body roll as you tip it into corners, but the Ram copes just fine as long as you don’t try and over-hustle it. On the whole, the Limited lopes along effortlessly, with the air suspension soaking up most road-surface irregularities.
As part of the launch drive, we tackled a short off-road loop over rocky terrain, and the Ram’s generous ground clearance and tenacious traction meant this presented no problem whatsoever, even on the 22-inch rims and road-biased tyres our car was shod with. That said, we did suffer a puncture when a sharp rock had an unfortunate meeting with the sidewall, but that can happen in such terrain. For those who regularly venture off the beaten track, we’d point you towards the optional 4X4 Off-Road Package, which includes a factory-fitted suspension lift, electronic locking rear axle, tuned shocks and off-road tyres.
Verdict? The 2019 Ram 1500 comes across as a well-executed full-size pickup that’s a significant advancement on its predecessor in almost all respects. We’d need a back-to-back test with its rivals to determine if the Ram is best-in-class, but the hatful of awards it’s already bagged in the US suggests this is the case. Job done. I just wish I’d worn a ten-gallon hat.