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Ram takes Manhattan: an odd test drive

by David Zatz on

Yesterday, FCA provided a number of local writers with a chance to take the 2019 Ram 1500 through midtown Manhattan. If there was ever a chance to test the sound insulation of a vehicle, this was it; all around was construction, diesel trucks, pedestrians, buses, and all the usual sounds of a densely packed midtown area.

driving a Ram truck in Manhattan

We took out two Rams, a high-end Laramie and an off-road-focused Rebel; both had the Hemi V8 without any hybrid boost, along with the 8.4-inch center screen. The interiors had different characters in terms of styling, but under the skin, everything was, as one would expect, essentially the same.

The feel of the two trucks was also quite similar — highly cushioned but busy, on Manhattan’s well-abused city streets. So was the route we took: from 39th Street down to 11th Avenue, south to 34th, west to the West Side Highway (not quite a highway in these parts), then a right turn onto 44th, down to 9th, and returning to 39th. That let us do some acceleration, stop-start, sharp turns, and negotiations around various parked construction vehicles, trucks, taxis, and confused drivers, along with that fine New York sport, “turning through the pedestrians.”

My first and last impressions were that this was an incredibly quiet vehicle — regardless of Rebel, with its off-road tires, or Laramie. I can’t tell whether it’s the active noise reduction or heavy acoustic insulation, but when I shut the door, the air pressure went up a bit, and the sound level went down a lot. The people shouting directions outside disappeared; passing buses were barely audible if the radio was on. You could still hear the outside world, but it was very muted — even as I carefully passed a jackhammer crew (nothing like taking someone else’s brand new truck through a tight squeeze, with parked cars on one side and a blasé work crew on the other.) I could hear the jackhammer as a distant, muted sound, with the harshness and volume slashed to quite comfortable levels.

The ride was similar to the noise reduction; the uneven Manhattan streets led to a fairly busy ride, but well cushioned so there were no sudden shocks or jolts. The few deep potholes along the route barely had an effect. I’d love to take this truck on the Chelsea off-road course, to see exactly how civilized it can make the trails.

The engine was responsive even without the electric motor, certainly giving more power and acceleration than I would ever need in Manhattan; with less weight and the same power ratings and  tight, efficient eight-speed automatic, I have no doubt that acceleration’s improved since the last generation. Handling was good for the class, too, always helpful when all your turns are at 90° angles.

2019 Ram 1500 windshield

Fuel economy was, well, what you’d expect from a place where a one mile trip takes twenty minutes, and we’ll leave it at that. We have EPA ratings for a reason, and the Ram’s should be quite impressive when the V6 and hybrid V8 show up. Indeed, a hybrid is the perfect answer to a Ram in the city, where you spend far more time stopped than started.

Both interiors were attractive; the 8.4” screen looks more natural with the curved surrounds, even though it juts out more. I liked the ability to customize seven points of the center display, including having some information (such as oil pressure) show up as analog  gauges. The only real complaint I had was the tiny street names on the navigation system, which Ram can, and hopefully will, address someday with a system update.

navigation system

The driver’s seat was comfortable; rear seats vary by trim. Getting in and out is easy with the newer cabs, and the automatic step (which retracts when the doors are closed, for better aerodynamics) is surprisingly fast to come out when needed. As with all Rams since the 1994s first came out, this one seems to have been created by watching how people use their trucks.

The mirrors came in handy, but I could have used the 360° camera in a couple of spots, including one of the inevitable turns through a crowd of pedestrians — just to make sure. The exterior of the top trims is festooned with sensors, just to make sure you don’t overlook anything or anyone.

The 2019 Ram 1500 is a thorough redesign, a new generation; while most of the changes are evident only if you take off the skin, so to speak, it seems like everything has been moving in the right direction. I’m looking forward to a longer test — and, if I have to go into New York again, a hybrid engine for those insanely long traffic lights.

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