2013-2016 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks
The Ram 1500 leapfrogged Ford with an eight-speed automatic transmission and:
- Best in class gas mileage (V6 and V8): 20% better with either engine
- Power increases: 305 hp V6 and 395 hp Hemi V8 [details] with optional diesel
- Less noise with best-in-class aerodynamics (cD = 0.363)
- Air suspension for better mileage, ride control, loading, and clearance
- Stronger, stiffer frame with more high-strength steel
- New electronics with voice control, texting, software updates, and configurable 7” instrument screen
- New interiors with upgraded materials and features
- See the powertrain section for more on engines, transmissions, pulse width modulation, etc.
2015 changes include a new welcome screen for SLT (with Luxury Group) and Laramie, and a new paint, Black Forest Green. For 2016, all pickups gained a new center console design; Ram Rebel and Laramie Limited was added; Bluetooth connectivity was available on entry-level radios; front parking assistance was added; and there were four new “buzz models” based on the Ram 1500 Sport Crew Cab (4x2 and 4x4). All have the Hemi V-8 with eight-speed transmission, 3.92 gears, dual exhaust, vented sport hood, and 20-inch wheels; colors are Ignition Orange, TorRed, Stinger Yellow, and Ceramic Blue, with body color accent stitching, embroidery on the seat backs, Ram heads on the headrests, and colored accent mesh on the seat inserts. Finally, the diesel’s towing capacity rose when a formerly optional cooling package was made standard.
For 2014, the state-of-the-art VM diesel (originally scheduled for 2013 models) appeared as a $2,850 option, and the 4.7 V8 was dropped. A class-exclusive front parking assist system was added as an option, and gasoline-V6 towing capacity was dramatically increased, to 7,450 lb, thanks to a stronger parking pawl. (More on the diesel later on this page.) The refrigerant switched to F1234yf (possibly midyear).
Ram SLT buyers get a standard UConnect 5.0; this system appears to be a Fiat-Microsoft design with all the usual apps, eight “hard buttons,” and two knobs, easier to use than the older Fiat touch-screen stereo.
Laramie Limited, a high luxury version, comes with standard Hemi, eight-speed automatic, air suspension, 20-inch wheels, black leather seats, glossy black accents, keyless entry, and wheel to wheel side steps. One insider told us the Limited was added for those who wanted an upscale pickup without the cowboy theme.
For 2014, the V6/eight speed is standard on Outdoorsman, SLT, and HFE; optional on SXT, Tradesman, and ST. Hemi (390 hp) is standard on SXT, Express, Tradesman, and ST, possibly the first time a V8 is on base trucks while a V6 is on premium models. The Hemi eight-speed (395 hp) is standard on Sport, Laramie, Longhorn, and Big Horn, optional on all others except SXT and ST. Finally, the diesel is optional on Laramie Limited, Longhorn, Laramie, Big Horn, Outdoorsman, SLT, and Tradesman.
The shifter knob was designed to have a mechanical feel, and to be usable by touch; hard limits at Park and Drive prevent overshooting, and there are sizeable gaps between gears, with clear detents. Visual feedback comes both in the gauge cluster and just above the knob itself. Drivers can manually move gears using Gear- and Gear+ buttons; the system reacts quickly and, much of the time, the only indications it worked are small changes on the tachometer and the gear number changing in the gauge cluster.
The 3.6 had more than sufficient grunt to get the 1500 moving, traversed hills with ease, and passed with confidence. It revved a little more than the 5.7, but nothing that a consumer would notice if they aren't starting their day in the Hemi.
My drive in the Hemi 8-speed was thoroughly enjoyable. The shifts were unnoticeable and the acceleration was beyond crisp. I was in a 4X4, and my driving partner was able to squeal all four on a paved rural road. I took a 5.7/8 4X4 out of a mud pit with a 15° grade; the climb was effortless.
The cab is comfortable and quiet; the new Uconnect nav system is cool, rendering topography like mountains in faux 3D and displaying realistic curves in the roadway so that you know you're about to go over a hill. It also gives you lane choice guidance on the highway in graphic format, showing how many exit lanes are coming up for your exit, and where you need to be to follow your intended route.
While CEO of Ram, Fred Diaz said that the 2013 Ram was meant to be a mild refresh: new grille and headlights, interior tweaks, and the like. Sergio suggested they go deeper, and they did — right down to the frame and electronics architecture. The Ram 1500 with V6 engine has 42% more horsepower and 13% more torque than the old V6, while the Hemi V8 boosted gas mileage by 20% (with the late-availability eight-speed automatic) and is on track to take the V8-truck gas-mileage crown. Gas mileage for the Ram 1500 V6 is rated at 18/25, while the best Ford mileage is 17/23; Chevrolet lags at 15/20. (Other configurations’ mileage have not been released. The 4x4 Hemi is apparently 15/21.)
The eight speed transmission is standard with the V-6 gasoline and diesel engines, and optional with the Hemi (depending on trim level). The transmission is controlled by a heavy-duty-truck inspired knob; six-speed transmissions keep the old shifter.
ST, SLT and Sport models get a black rubber over mold with chrome surround, while all Laramie models include a solid, spun-aluminum knob finished in silver.
Diesel engine option
The VM 3-liter V6 powered Ram 1500 set a best-ever full-size-pickup 28 mpg in EPA highway testing (in Canada, 7.1 l/100km, or 40 mpg), beating all current mid-size and full-size pickups. The half-ton pickup also set a new combined city/highway benchmark of 23 mpg, matching the best four-cylinder midsize pickup’s record and beating all full-sized pickups.
The Ram 1500 diesel is rated at 20 city, 28 highway, and 23 combined, where the Toyota Tacoma, with a four-cylinder engine and manual transmission, is rated at 21 city, 25 highway, 23 combined.
Ram chief Reid Bigland said, “To put the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel in context, it gets 6 mpg better fuel economy than the best F150 EcoBoost.” Peak torque is unsurpassed among V-6 and base-engine V-8 pickups, at 420 lb-ft; in comparison, the base F-150 and Silverado 1500 were rated at 15 city, 21 highway. The Ram 1500 diesel is rated to tow 9,200 lb.
The diesel engine adds $2,850 to the cost of the 2014 Ram 1500, but includes the eight-speed automatic. Ram 1500 diesels are built in Warren, Michigan (which has assembled more than 12.5 million trucks since it started operations in 1938) except for regular cabs, which are made in Saltillo, Mexico. VM engines are made in Cento, Italy, while the eight-speed automatics are made in the United States. See our Ram 1500 diesel review.
The Ram 1500 has an optional air suspension system (which alters height with air pressure), with built-in load-leveling. It has five height settings that operate automatically or manually:
- Normal: Stays at 8.7 inches of clearance (from the base of the door sill)
- Aero: Lowers the Ram by 1.1 inches, increasing gas mileage by up to 1%; activated by highway speeds
- Off-road 1 and 2: Rises to 9.9 and 10.7 inches of clearance, respectively, to clear obstacles
- Park: Lowers the truck to a height of 6.7 inches for easy entry/exit and cargo loading
The system uses the tanks shown in blue as reservoirs; it does not use outside air.
The result brings Ram to a best-in-class step-in height of 21 inches, best-in-class ground clearance of 10.7 inches, best-in-class departure angle of 27.8°, and best-in-class breakover angle of 24.2°.
It is supported by four-corner air springs, whose spring rates depend on the ride height. In Off-Road 2, the rate is firmer, while in Aero mode, the rate is softened. A separate button on the key fob gives the operator the ability to manually lower the truck, allowing for ease of passenger entry and bed loading.
Despite a bolder and more aggressive front end, the Ram 1500 boasts best-in-class aerodynamics and, with active aerodynamics, a 6% aerodynamic improvement on the new truck (cD is now 0.360, vs 0.386 in the 2012, for regular cab / 4x2). The front air dam was extended downward to create a 0.6% improvement in fuel economy, while a new thermo-plastic material is more malleable, preventing breakage.
A new wheel-to-wheel tubular side-step adds 0.5% to fuel efficiency (vs the 2012 one) by allowing air to pass around the truck more smoothly, while easing access to the forward portion of the bed.
Select 2013 Ram 1500s have a standard, segment-exclusive locking tri-fold tonneau cover. It both protects bed storage and increases fuel economy by 0.8%. Owners can use one, two, or all sections of the cover by folding the system on top of itself. (It also appears to be a $1,500 option on the Laramie.)
The Ram 1500 is the first truck to use an active grille shutter system (similar to the one on Dart), closing airflow through the grille when cooling is not needed. It increases gas mileage by 0.5%, cuts drag roughly 4%, and cuts warm-up time/defrost time. The computer closes the shutters when cooling is not needed.
Dave Sowers pointed out that the active shutters was normally either fully open or fully closed. When closed, air pressure quickly builds up in front of the slats, deflecting oncoming air over the truck, which has the lowest drag coefficient of any pickup on the market. At all times, there’s airflow over the radiator from other openings. The idea was to avoid drag from radiator capacity which is seldom needed, while still being able to cool the engine under any reasonable conditions. (He also said that riding with the tailgate down increases drag, while a tonneau cover makes the truck much more aerodynamic.)
[Dave also discussed pulse width modulation — see our powertrain section]
2013 Ram 1500 chassis and frame
The 2013 Ram 1500’s frame was redesigned with greater stiffness to increase stability and handling while cutting noise and vibration up to 30%. Front rails have 20% higher yield strength due to high-strength steel. The new frame design has new powertrain, air suspension, and body mounting technology.
Portions of the frame are hydroformed for dimensional accuracy (hydroforming reduces the amount of welding that leads to distortion), and side rails are fully boxed. The front frame section has high-strength steel that maintains strength and durability while saving around 30 pounds. Larger body mounts are on the front frame rails and at the C-pillar. Two frame lengths are available: 120-inch and 140-inch.
In 2009, the Ram 1500 introduced an exclusive multi-link, coil-spring rear suspension, standard on all except Ram 1500 Tradesman HD; it improveds ride and handling with no loss of capability. A coil-spring design centralizes and absorbs bumps and impacts, while reducing the amount of friction in the spring system. This design weighs 40 pounds less than a leaf-spring configuration. For 2013, more robust ball joints on the front suspension yield greater durability and have improved sealing methods.
Other engineering features
The 2013 Ram 1500 uses electric power steering (EPS) — the hydraulic pump is replaced by an electric motor, improving fuel efficiency up to 1.8% and adding 5 horsepower. EPS reduces complexity, eliminating the hydraulic pump, hoses, and cooling apparatus. In addition, each Ram 1500 model can be calibrated to optimize steering effort and precision, regardless of body or powertrain; it also senses constant input from the driver, for example a crown in the road, and compensates for improved comfort. EPS will be needed if a hybrid version is produced in the future.
New box floor cross-members in the bed cut 7 pounds, and a new front bumper removes 4 pounds, in addition to up to 30 pounds in weight savings from the new frame. Aluminum upper and lower control arms in the front suspension cut more weight, also improving handling, while an aluminum hood saves 26 pounds. Underneath the hood, the V6 model powertrain is 76 pounds lighter, while the eight-speed used with the Hemi is 30 pounds lighter.
The 2013 Ram 1500 has low-rolling resistance tires to minimize wasted energy; the new brakes have a relocated ABS pump for reduced vibration, and has shorter brake pedal travel. A new hydraulic-boost compensation unit enhances brake pedal feel and performance during emergency stops.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on all 2013 Ram 1500 trucks. Front rotors measure 13.2 inches (336 mm) in diameter and are clamped with dual-piston calipers, while rear rotors are 13.8 inches (352 mm) and utilize single-piston calipers.
New features include power folding mirrors, a power rear-sliding window with defrost, and a six-foot-four-inch bed option on the Crew Cab. The central locking system now includes the RamBox® cargo management system and tailgate power locks. Auto rain-sensing wipers and SmartBeam® are also available.
2013 Ram 1500 models
Models/packages for 2013 are ST, Tradesman, Express, SLT, Big Horn, Lone Star, Outdoorsman, Sport, R/T, Laramie, and Laramie Longhorn. There are again three cabs (regular, Quad, and Crew), and three boxes (5’7”, 6’4”, and 8-foot). Production of the 2013 Ram 1500 is scheduled for third quarter of 2012, with all regular cabs assembled in Saltillo, Mexico; and Quad and Crew Cabs in Warren, Michigan.
The 2013 Ram 1500 is built at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant (Warren, Mich.), which has built more than 12.5 million trucks since it started operations in 1938. Regular Cab models of the 2013 Ram 1500 are built at the Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Saltillo, Mexico.
Dave Sowers noted that the demonstration “cutaway” truck at auto shows was assembled from different models: a Laredo interior, Sport wheels, and SLT body. (The Laredo comes with a Hemi and they wanted to show the V6.) He pointed out the new, greatly improved body mounts and the unique air suspension, toughened up to meet long-term needs of pickup buyers. He also said that the 4.7 was currently available and had a market, though most retail buyers choose the Hemi; he said they were hoping to attract more people to the V6, and would not make any predictions regarding 4.7 availability in the future. [The 4.7 did not return for 2014.]
See what we predicted before the unveiling, at the end of the “Interiors, Styling, Stereos, Lighting, Safety” section