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2019 Ram 1500 "DT": Making a top-rated pickup better

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by David Zatz

The 2019 Ram 1500 is all about engineering, as Ram scrambled to jump out ahead of the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150, the brand new Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and the almost-as-new Nissan Titan. Even as the body was strengthened, weight was cut out in new and ingenious ways, and gas mileage was pushed up with new technologies. The truck is a techie's delight, with care taken in areas normally ignored and a clear systems approach throughout.

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The cabs are bigger, the frame is lighter, larger, and stronger, and there are surprises throughout - including 360° view and a 12-inch center display (on higher trims), rear cross path warnings, automatic parking, and less-fancy "you're almost at the end of your space" warnings. Mainly, though, it seems as though engineers looked at every single part of their truck and asked what could be made better for drivers and owners - rather than just what would make it sell more easily.

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Powertrain: enhanced engines

Not everyone will appreciate what Ram has done under the hood, but we can't argue with the option for roughly 10% better fuel economy and more responsiveness, at little cost.

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eTorque is a mild hybrid developed by the Chrysler side, which replaces the alternator with a generator that can double as a motor. The Ram powertrain is now based on a 48-volt system, and provides faster stop-start as well as regenerative braking. In addition to better economy, the system provides some extra torque when it's needed most - during a launch and when the transmission is shifting.

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The system relies on an air-cooled 330 watt-hour lithium-ion Nickel Manganese Cobalt battery; the generator both keeps the battery charged, and converts power to 12 volts for accessories, the conventional 12V battery, and the conventional starter, which is used for cold starts. The big battery is cooled by dual fans.

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eTorque adds torque to the crankshaft during gear changes to reduce noise and vibrations, and add some responsiveness to the powertrain. The motor/generator is different on the two engines: the V6 model is liquid cooled and in front of the engine, while the Hemi one is air-cooled and "where the alternator used to be." Both use two belt-tensioners with an eight-rib belt.


eTorque doesn't add to the power ratings; the V6 stayed at 305 hp and 269 pound-feet of torque, on regular 87-octane fuel, while the Hemi stayed at 395 hp and 410 pound-feet. Buyers of most configurations can get the V6, even with four wheel drive and Crew Cab; and a Hemi without eTorque is available on lower trim levels and fleet vehicles but there is no eTorque-less V6.

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The Hemi's cylinder deactivation system operating zone was increased, thanks to active vibration dampers on the frame and Active Noise Cancellation in the cabin; that provides another 0.5 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway. The system operates between 1,000 and 3,000 rpm while continuing to enable V-8 power for acceleration and heavy loads. Replacing the old 400-watt electric/mechanical hybrid fan with an 850-watt electric fan reduces noise and allows more precise computer control.

What about the diesel? It's been promised for the 2019 Ram 1500, but later on.

Two more efficiency measures: the system that cuts fuel while coasting or braking now works in all gears, rather than being restricted to first and second; and changing the intake to face forward means cooler air going to the engine.

The 2019 Ram 1500 meets ULEV70 emissions regulations via revised computerized powertrain controls and upgraded emissions hardware (including a lifetime-use, no-maintenance hydrocarbon adsorption filter to cut evaporative emissions.)

It's eight speeds for just about everyone now; the V6 uses an FCA-made TorqueFlite 850RE, while the Hemi uses an upgraded ZF 8HP75, both having very similar designs and identical ratios, and with 40 individual shift maps. The eight-speed has been upgraded with weight reductions and durability upgrades.

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eTorque vehicles have a hydraulic pressure accumulator for instant response after stop/start.

The thermal management system has expanded beyond using heated coolant to warm transmission fluid and engine oil, now running hot coolant through the rear axle lubricant on RWD trucks. First priority goes to the passengers, depending on the HVAC setting; but then a valve sends coolant to the rear axle, warming the gear oil so the axle has less resistance and is more durable (especially during cold-weather hauling and towing).

A lighter, stronger, more intelligently designed frame, and other weight reductions

The new Ram 1500 uses the longest, lightest, and most efficient frame of any half-ton truck, according to the company, dropping a full hundred pounds from the 2018 1500; another 20 pounds were cut from the rest of the chassis. That allows a maximum payload of 2,300 pounds and maximum trailer tow of 12,700 pounds.

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The new frame, composed of 98% high-strength steel, is also torsionally stiffer than the prior one, helping stability and cutting noise and vibration. The frame was designed to allow for new powertrain, air suspension, and C-pillar hydraulic body-mounting technology for greater comfort. Side rails are taller, and fully boxed; new side-frame-mounted active tuned-mass modules (ATMM) work with active noise cancellation on Hemi-powered trucks to cut ambient sounds down to just 67.1 db, making the quietest Ram 1500 ever. Rear cross members are double sheer welded to the inside and outside of the frame for improved durability and roll stiffness.

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A new, patent-pending front splayed frame rail creates an efficient energy-absorbing structure for all types of crashes, including front-offset; frame-mounted high-steel tire blockers behind the front tires force wheels outward in an impact.

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The new frame lengths are 140.5 inches (Quad Cab long bed), 144.5 inches (Crew Cab short bed), and 153.5 inches (Crew Cab long bed); the latter two are four inches longer than the prior frames. Yet, the turning radius was cut to 46.2 feet.

The body has also dropped by over a hundred pounds, with greater durability. Some materials include 210 (MPa) bake hard steel on the fenders, doors, and roof, and 340 (MPa) high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) in the bed. 6,000-series aluminum drops 10 pounds from the hood and 15 pounds from the tailgate. The supporting structure surrounding the engine bay and forward wall is 760 (MPa) multi-phase steel. The A-, B- and C- pillars use a 1300 MPa press hardened steel. Within the door shell is also a 1300 MPa press-hardened steel door beam. Overall, the body is 54% high-strength steel.

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For those keeping count at home, it's over 120 pounds cut from the chassis and over 100 more from the body - overall, the new Ram dropped 225 pounds from the 2018 Ram 1500, and made it safer and, according to the company, more durable.

The aluminum tailgate is dampened while opening, and has lift-assist measure using a nitrogen- and oil-charged strut, which gives consistent assist in even the coldest or warmest climates and through the entire tailgate swing. The latch-and-lock mechanism is now electronic, eliminating moving parts and allowing owners to drop the tailgate with the interior switch or key fob, or unlock/open with passive entry - helpful for customers with arms full. The tailgate also has a class-exclusive "tailgate-ajar" notification in the cluster.

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The upper front suspension control arms (integrated with a steel structure), and the air dam structure are made from, or combined with, composite materials. The weight reductions compensate for heavier convenience, comfort, and entertainment features - not to mention the thermal management, eTorque, and active aerodynamics systems.

To cut nine pounds from the exhaust, Ram optimized the thickness of the exhaust pipes and used aluminum for the hanger brackets; they kept the "throaty roar" from the dual exhaust tips.

Inside and design

The new 2019 Ram 1500 is lighter, longer, and wider than the prior model, with a four inch longer wheelbase and cab, 0.5 inch greater width, and 1.5 inch taller bed.

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The 2019 Ram 1500 styling theme is "interlocking," with elements influencing each others' shape for a more cohesive, durable looking truck. For example, the grille, hood and fenders share pieces of each other, as well as the instrument panel, cluster and center console. The forward-leaning grille remains (with six different designs); the new frame with splayed rail ends moves the tow hooks outward and down (even as fog lamps moved to the corners), while a steel bumper has larger openings for cooling and allows a six-count wind-drag reduction. Larger openings also make it easier to use the tow hooks. The new raised hood, in addition to helping aero and cutting noise, has a new badge area for the powertrain that is consistent across trucks.

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More than 20 sensors are integrated into the design, in trucks roughly one every three feet; front parking sensors are hidden in the bumper and fog lamps. There are now three headlamps - halogen, LED, and LED with adaptive front lighting (AFS). They have up to double the brightness of past lighting; the AFS system pushes beams up to 15° in the direction of travel. The LED systems light all four projectors in both high and low beam situations, for a full quad lamp pattern; and have "lit signature" elements that stay on normally, while the twin projectors only come on in darkness.

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All navigation, Wi-Fi, radio and satellite tasks are handled by a shark-fin antenna, making the new 2019 Ram 1500 the first full-size truck without a mast antenna. A new 33.3-inch by 43.4-inch panoramic sunroof gives ten square feet of sky view and additional natural light.

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The rear power-sliding window moldings are darkened for a cleaner look, while side windows are outlined with bright chrome. A structural beam creates another body contour across the beltline, catching light, front to rear, and helping create the industry's most optimized use of the door shell. A convenient new, flush fuel-fill cap door removes the thumb tab for push/click access, and removes an interruption on the body.

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Bed rails were aligned with the beltline to help the horizontal profile; the higher bed height cuts drag by three counts, and eight more were shaved with the new spoiler. The lockable RamBox now has an AC outlet, and the lights are in the box lids; Rambox buyers can also get a bed divider/two-foot bed extender/cargo rail system.

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There are three different types of tail lamps: halogen, LED, and LED with Blind-spot Monitoring. Amber rear turn signals increase safety and visibility; new smoked lens versions are available on select trims.

A segment-exclusive full-width chrome stamped-steel rear bumper has a larger stepping pad on the corners; the hidden lower bumper valence hides parking sensors. Dual exhaust tips, now 4.5", are styled in. Sixteen new wheel designs, all six-lug, range from 18 to 22 inches.

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With Mopar add-on step

There are twelve colors, including four new paints, and the first Ram use of Tri-coat paint: Billet Silver, Tri-coat White, Patriot Blue, and Diamond Black Crystal. Three two-tone color options carry through newly designed fender flares and the lower body.

The suspension

A new front suspension uses lightweight composite upper control arms and aluminum lower control arms, with hollow stabilizer bars to save weight; moving the front stabilizer bar behind the front tires increased roll stiffness by 20%. A new front coil-over shock design is standard on all Ram 1500s.

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Ram's exclusive, Jeep-influenced multi-link, coil-spring rear suspension was first launched in the 2009 pickups; with better articulation than leaf springs, it immediately gave Ram an advantage in handling and ride. Now, new progressive rate coil springs help with load leveling even under heavy payloads or towing; and more robust link bushings increase durability. The five-link coil design supports the body at all major points of force, while resisting unwanted axle rotation and providing better lateral support than leaf springs. The system also reduces vibration and unsprung mass, eliminating "stick-slip" friction, and cutting forty pounds from a leaf spring setup.

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The Ram 1500 now has Frequency Response Damping shocks on all four corners; the valves adjust for the type of vertical wheel input, for far better handling and suppleness on rough terrain. When the Ram 1500 has a slower input, common during cornering and heavy braking, the bypass valve is closed for more aggressive damping and stability. When driving normally or exposed to faster shock inputs, common on rough roads or at higher speeds, the valve opens for comfort and control.

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The 2019 Ram 1500 is the only full size pickup with an optional four-corner air suspension system, which helps performance, ride, and load-leveling. The system changes spring rates with ride height, firming rates in Off-road 2 and softening in Aero. It has five height settings (four on Rebel) that operate automatically or may be controlled via console or key fob:

  • Normal: 8.7 inches from the base of the door sill
  • Aero: Drops 0.6 inches, increasing efficiency by up to 1%; activated by speed
  • Off-road 1: Lifts to 9.1 inches of ground clearance
  • Off-road 2: Lifts to 10.1 inches
  • Park: Drops 2 inches from normal height

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The four-corner system delivers four inches of lift span. That brings the lowest step-in height (20.9"), biggest ground clearance (10.1"), and highest departure and breakover angles (27.3° and 23°).

Aerodynamics

Ram was able to improve the aerodynamic profile of the 1500 by 9%, bringing a drag coefficient of 0.357 on the Quad Cab with rear wheel drive. Part of that comes from the active front air dam, standard on all Rams, which drops down by 2.5 inches (except on air suspension and Rebel) at around 35 mph; it has a clutch-release system to avoid damage if it hits something.

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The optional air suspension drops the whole truck by 0.6 inches. The active grille shutters continue from the past Ram, but it's now standard; when the shutters are closed, air is diverted over and around the front, for better aerodynamics and faster warmup.

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The elevated hood moves air from the wiper area, cutting wind noise, while a venturi roof design directs air back to the rear spoiler; it's claimed as the most effective pickup roof treatment to date.

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Bed rails were raised by 1.5 inches to reduce drag, and a new spoiler was added to the tailgate. The bed-to-cab transition is sub-flush, and a new wheel-to-wheel tubular side-step was used, to reduce body disturbance - the latter adding 0.5% to fuel economy on its own, while helping customers to get to the forward part of the truck bed. A segment-exclusive lockable, flexible tri-fold tonneau cover increases economy by 0.8%.

Off-road, 4x4, and axles

The Rebel is being joined by a robust 4x4 Off-Road Package on nearly every trim; that includes a one-inch suspension lift, with or without the four-corner air suspension, an electronic-locking rear differential, and 32-inch tires on 18-inch (or optional 20-inch) wheels. The setup also has Hill Descent Control, off-road-calibrated shocks, skid plates for the transfer case, steering, engine and gas tank, and tow hooks.

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The Ram 1500 Rebel was given a boost and an optional Quad Cab configurations; it has new 18-inch wheels with Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac 33-inch tires driven by an electronic-locking rear differential. The formerly standard air suspension is now optional; the tow hooks have wide bumper openings for easy use, and the full skid plate treatment. On Rebels with the Off-Road Package, there is a special off-road biased rear suspension geometry; and new Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs to keep the shocks cool.

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Four-wheel drive buyers can choose between two electronically controlled transfer cases: the BorgWarner 48-12 for part-time 4WD operation with Hi and Low ranges; and the BorgWarner 48-11 for on-demand 4WD. Both transfer cases engage via a push-button control mounted underneath the rotary gear selector on the instrument panel. Both have been internally upgraded with a larger-diameter main shaft, relocation of the chain and sprocket for improved bearing support, and improved lubrication; the on-demand system was upgraded for quicker responses and higher front output torque capacity.

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The 48-12 part-time transfer case provides three operating ranges 2Hi (2WD), 4Hi (4WD) and 4Lo (low-range reduction 4WD) plus a neutral position. 2Hi is designed for any road surface at any time, while 4Hi and 4Lo are for off-road use or slick surfaces. The driver can switch between 2Hi and 4Hi while the truck is in motion. The low-range reduction ratio (crawl ratio) for 4Lo is 2.64:1.

The on-demand transfer case has 4Auto, 2Hi, 4Hi and 4Lo selections. 4Auto provides full-time 4WD, responding automatically to provide maximum traction in all road conditions. 2Hi, 4Hi and 4Lo function equally to the part-time transfer case.

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The axle has also been reworked; the standard 235-mm rear axle has many changes, including different materials in the carrier and tubes, and dropping the brake adapter plates, to cut more than 10 pounds from the assembly. The wheels are both six lugs. Final drive ratios are 3.21, 3.55 and 3.92 - each with an open or limited-slip differential.

The Ram hasn't had an electronic locking differential, but now it does. It's available with the 3.92 axle, and on other trucks with a lifted suspension and 4x4.The system gives the driver the capability to lock or unlock the differential on demand while traveling up to 10 mph.

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The new Max Tow Package, with a 3.92 final drive ratio, provides up to 12,700 pounds of towing capability, using a Dana Super 60 center section and open differential with a 256-millimeter gear set, and 35-spline axle shafts. It is available on rear-drive Hemi/eTorque trucks.

Inside the Ram 1500

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The 2019 Ram 1500 now boasts Uconnect 4C NAV on a 12-inch configurable touchscreen; it can house one application, such as the navigation map, across the whole 12-inch screen, or can be divided in half. An toggle switch bank gives physical control, and redundant HVAC controls are on both sides of the display. Other center stack designs use the standard 5-inch display or an 8.4-inch display; all have a sunglass tray and 12V outlet.

All the 2019 Ram 1500s have push-button start, an electronic parking brake and a redesigned shifter dial.

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The center stack was raised and brought closer to the driver, who has nearly an inch more seat height and a new telescoping steering wheel; the manual gear shifter has been changed for easier thumb access.

The new HVAC system has nearly 25% more airflow at lower noise levels, with 50% more airflow in back.

Storage volume has nearly double the interior storage than "the competitor," with 151 liters of storage volume; the new center console went from 23 to 39 liters, with 12 stroage combinations and optional wireless charging and a tub large enough for a 15 inch laptop, along with tablet storage for rear passengers. There are five USB ports in the center console (two for rear passengers); three of these connect with Uconnect. The four inch length gain helped; both front and rear doors are an inch larger on Crew Cab, though the rear door is an inch shorter on Quad Cab.

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Along with the largest cab in the segment, the second-row features eight degrees of slide-recline with best-in-class leg room of 45.1 inches for passenger comfort and an exclusive Smart Fold center armrest that creates a captain's chair experience. The four-way adjustable rear headrests include a power release-and-drop feature, giving the driver greater visibility when the second row is empty.

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There are two three-pronged 115-volt AC outlets, one for each row; a third is used in the optional Rambox, capable of dealing with 400 watts for power tools. The new upper glove box and locking lower glove box have been revised (in Tradesman and Bighorn trims, the upper glove box is an open shelf; on higher trims, the box is covered by a wood and metal accent that can slide upwards). Optional six-passenger, front bench seat setups have a new toolbox-slide-action lower center stack drawer. Even the door speakers were moved up for better acoustics and storage.

A true flat load floor provides increased rear passenger comfort and usability; designers challenged themselves by fitting an oversized 55-inch TV box, using the flat load floor and folding seats. When the rear bench seat is folded, it reveals grocery hooks on the bottom of the seat cushion and 20 liters of space with under-seat compartments; with the fold-out feature, contained storage doubles, to 40 liters. Ram made the space available by moving the subwoofer, and putting the 48-volt battery behind the seats instead of under them. Ram Bins on either side of the truck are 5.5 inches longer than on the previous trucks; they can hold larger items, including up to a four-inch drop hitch, and have tie-downs to keep cargo secure.

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Even the key fobs were redesigned, with a button for the power-release tailgate and branding for higher trim levels; the batteries are now good for up to six years.

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There's one more bit of future-proofing: using both USB-C and original USB ports, for maximum compatibility now and in the future.

2019 Ram 1500 models

Tradesman: black exterior, optional chrome accent, black mesh grille and header, halogen lamps, 18-inch steel wheels (optional aluminum up to 20 inches). Interiors are black and Diesel Gray in vinyl or cloth, with Construction Yellow gauge needles, a new 3.5-inch greyscale screen in the cluster, plated finished door handles, and durable textured paint. (No photo available at this time.)

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Bighorn: Ram's volume trim level includes chrome bumpers and trim, with optional LED lighting, with optional Sport and Black Appearance Packages. The 18-inch aluminum wheels can be upgraded to 20-inch chrome or painted wheels. Inside, there are two levels; the optional level has a closed, badged upper dash door, power driver's seat, and 8.4 inch screen. It's available in black-and-gray, black and light brown, light frost and black, or all black, with cloth seats (five-passenger bucket or six-passenger bench).

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Rebel: "Off-road" grille building on the 2018 Rebel design, with powder-coated black steel bumpers, skid plates, and tow hooks; standard LED lamps, black fender flares, Sport hood, and 18-inch polished and painted wheels with 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires. Inside, it has laser-engraved machine-finish Dark Ruby Red accents with high-durability Black/Dark Ruby Red vinyl/cloth seats including Goodyear tire tread mesh inserts. Graphics on the 8.4-inch center console touchscreen and gauge cluster receive a smoked appearance; a 7-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) cluster is divided into separate digital gauges to organize content.

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Laramie: Full chrome billet grille, chrome header, mirrors and door handle accents; LED lighting; fog lamps and body-colored wheel flares accentuate the sculpted body. Sport, Black and Chrome Appearance Packages are available. Laramie Black comes with a Sport hood and massive 22-inch wheels (standard wheels are 18-inch aluminum with optional 20-inch size). Inside, leather front seats are heated and vented; rear seats can also be vented (as an option). The upper dashboard, center armrest, and door panels have gray stitching.

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Interior colors include Mountain Brown/Light Frost or all-black leather seats with suede inserts. Ambient lighting is piped through the cabin; an optional monochromatic package eliminates wood accents. Laramie trims have an optional 12-inch touchscreen (also optional on higher trims). Rear passengers have an optional eight degrees of slide recline, and a Smart Fold center armrest that creates a captain's chair look and feel.

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Laramie Longhorn: Laramie features, plus... chrome slat grille and header, LED lamps with AFS; chrome bumpers, tow hooks, and side steps; wheel flares; two-tone color options (include RV Match Walnut Brown); new 20- or 22-inch wheels with a variety of finishes; belt buckle badging. Inside, hand-wrapped, full-grain leather-wrapped dashboard, door-panel coverings and armrests in Southwestern style. A new alligator skin embossed surface covers the center console, instrument panel, seats and door panel inserts. Other details include satin warm chrome accents with a brushed-nickel metal badge flush with the console lid and burned-in "Longhorn" branding. with real barn wood accents. Wood tandem doors on the center console. Interior colors include Mountain Brown/Light Mountain Brown and Black/Cattle Tan full leather seats with contrast piping.

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Limited: Corrugated mesh grille leads, chrome badge, dark chrome accents around the added inlets. Chrome bumpers, tow hooks, body-side molding, mirrors and door handle accents, with standard 22-inch wheels (or optional 20-inch wheels with painted inserts; or a body color bumper). Automatic power side steps and body-colored fender flares are standard.

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Inside, there is a full-grain hand-wrapped leather dashboard, door-panel coverings, and armrests, with aluminum and wood accents throughout; the wood upper glove box door has a metal inlayed "Limited" badge. The 12-inch touchscreen is standard. An optional 900-watt, 19-speaker Harman Kardon system has stainless steel speaker grilles. Interior colors include Indigo/Light Frost or all black leather.

UConnect updates

There are now over 200 satellite channels on trucks with the 12-inch UConnect 4C Nav system, including many that were previously only available on-line; one can access thousands of hours of recorded on-demand programming as well. Profiles can be synched with mobile phones for more personalization. There are both Alpine and Harman Kardon systems; the latter includes the most powerful system available in a pickup.

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The base system has two instrument panel speakers, and a 6x9 in each door (Tradesman, Big Horn, Rebel). Active noise cancellation is included with the Hemi engine, adding four microphones. The Alpine Premium ten-speaker system (optional on Big Horn and Rebel, standard on Laramie and higher) adds two headliner speakers, a ten-inch subwoofer behind the rear seat, and a 12-channel amp and has noice cancellation. The 19-speaker system has four in the instrument panel (3 x 3.5", one coax), five speakers in each of the front doors, two in the rear doors, three in the headliner, and a boosted Class D 12-channel amp.

Driver displays

The base 3.5 inch grayscale display is controlled from the steering wheel, and includes full trip computer functions, turn by turn navigation (where applicable), truck information, and a speedometer. A color version is used on midlevel trucks. The new seven-inch display is similar to Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler seven-inch systems, but is tailored for Ram; it can show a good deal of infromation at a glance.

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Brakes

With 18% more pad area, the 2019 Ram 1500 has the largest front brake rotors in its segment (14.9 inches), which helps with stopping force and wear; all 2019 Ram pickups have four-wheel disc brakes. The front calipers are dual-piston; the rear rotors are 14.8 inches and have single-piston calipers. The electric parking brake drops 20 pounds from the earlier system. If the driver's door is open and the seat belt is off, it will automatically apply the parking brake.

Various clever efficiencies

A revised electric power steering system cuts six pounds off and is tuned to be lighter and quicker; using an electric rather than hydraulic system saves 5 hp and cuts maintenance. The electric system lets Ram easily optimize steering effort and precision for each body and powertrain.

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Pulse-width modulation continues; the system reduces parasitic electrical load, increasing durability of some systems. It's applied, among other things, to fuel delivery and the forward cooling fan - adding 0.4% in fuel efficiency while increasing fuel pump and fan life.

Standard low-rolling-resistance tires are 10% more efficient in terms of rolling friction. A new tire-fill-alert system chirps the horn once you have reached the recommended pressure, when filling the tires.

For more, see the specs and "what did we get right or wrong?" page...



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