Last week, I flew to Arizona to spend some time driving the all-new 2019 Ram 1500. I drove the Big Horn, the Limited and the Longhorn on the open road while playing in the sand with the new Rebel, and every one of these trucks impressed me.

We did not drive either of the hybrid versions, but when equipped with the tried-and-true 5.7-liter Hemi – the 2019 Ram 1500 is a great replacement for the current models. The interior is bigger and more luxuriously-appointed, the ride is both smoother and quieter and the carried-over Hemi offers improved performance, capabilities and efficiency thanks to the reduced weight of the next gen trucks.

Hemi Power

While just about everything with the 2019 Ram 1500 is new, the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 in the new truck is the same engine in the current models. It still produces 395 horsepower and 410lb-ft of torque, but with the reduction of 225 pounds, the new truck feels a bit quicker from a stop. It should also get better fuel economy, but those numbers aren’t available yet and we weren’t able to accurately measure the MPGs during our time with the trucks.

More importantly, the 2019 Ram 1500 with the 5.7-liter Hemi is capable of towing 12,750 pounds when the truck is properly equipped. We didn’t pull any huge trailers, but we did spend some time towing an average 2-horse trailer with an overweight with (with ballast) of 4,600 pounds. I own horses and a load in the area of 5,000 pounds is a common one in the equestrian world, so the horse trailer setup was a great display of the new truck pulling a popular-sized trailer.

Not surprisingly, the Hemi-powered Ram 1500 pulled the horse trailer beautifully. Even in the heat of the Arizona desert, the new half-ton truck effortlessly made its way around my test route without breaking a sweat. In both tight turns and sweeping, higher-speed turns, the new Ram felt perfectly stable with the 4,600 pound load hooked up out back and even with the brake boost of the integrated trailer brake controller turned down to zero (for those folks running without a brake box), the massive brakes of this new truck brought the load down to a stop in a hurry.

Finally, while I mentioned that the new truck feels quicker with the same Hemi power as the current trucks, I want to revisit the performance of this lighter next-gen Ram 1500. Like the current Hemi Ram, the 2019 truck rips away from a stop as quickly as any truck in the segment. The retuned 8-speed automatic transmission shifts are quick and strong, popping from gear to gear as the Hemi pulls the big Ram up to speeds well beyond any posted speed limit. Also, when cruising along on the highway, putting the accelerator to the floor allows the new Ram to build speed in a hurry as the Hemi roars through the standard dual-outlet exhaust.

For those wondering, we did not drive any new Ram trucks with the hybrid version of the Hemi or the Pentastar, as the non-hybrid models will launch first with the traditional Hemi, with the two hybrid powerplants coming afterwards.

Playing in the Sand

While we spent the morning and the afternoon driving the 2019 Ram 1500 on the road, the middle of our day was spent driving the new Ram Rebel in the desert. Our course took us through a long, narrow path with deep, sandy footing making for tough travels. In many areas, the sand was deep enough to swallow a small car, but the rugged tires and the unique Bilstein suspension allowed the Rebel to make it through the trail with ease.

While much of the off-roading portion was flat, washed-out areas allowed us to test the approach angle and one large, steep hill let us experience the climbing capabilities of the new Rebel.

The Rebel is capable of far more than just driving through deep sand, but for those folks who go off-roading in the desert – this new Ram 1500 is a beast.

Super Premium Interior Features

The first few 2019 Ram 1500 pickups that I drove last week had the same basic 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system as the one featured in the current trucks, but later in the day, I went for a long drive in a new Laramie Longhorn with the new 12-inch infotainment system and the premium 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

The 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn has a gorgeous western-themed cabin with soft leather throughout, with real open-pore wood trim and a splash of silver accents on the doors, dash and center console. The seating surfaces are soft and very comfortable, with a new panoramic sunroof extending across the front and rear seats. The new cabin is four inches longer inside, three of which is between the front and rear seats. This opens up a ton more legroom for rear riders, allowing the engineers to design rear seats that decline by 8 degrees. No more does sitting in the back seat mean that you have to sit at an uncomfortable 90-degre angle, with this reclining seat and extra leg room giving the Ram 1500 the most comfortable rear seating area in the class.

When the 2019 Ram 1500 was introduced in Detroit earlier this year, the most popular feature was the new 12-inch UConnect system and having spent a few hours using that system – I can attest that it is worth the fuss. This system is stellar, taking the flawless functionality of the current UConnect system and applying it to a screen that is twice the size of the 8.4-inch system. This new system is literally the same size as two 8.4-inch screens, one stacked on top of the other, and that allows you to view more than menu at one time or one menu on great detail. With this system, you can view the sound system information or the navigation system on the whole 12-inch screen, or you can view both of them at once.

With the current UConnect system, you have to leave the nav screen to view the media screen or the climate control screen, but with this new system and huge screen, you can have the navigation open all of the time while making changes to the radio station of interior temperature. Plus, the big screen just looks fantastic in the dash, giving the Longhorn a super-premium look up front.

Also new for 2019 is the 19-speak Harmon Kardon sound system. The system in this Ram 1500 is similar to the one found in the Hellcat Challenger and it is fantastic. While cruising around Arizona, I listened to a little bit of everything and every type of music sounded great at high volume, so no matter what music you prefer – this new speaker system will impress.

In the end, the 2019 Ram 1500 improves on every aspect of the already-very good half-ton trucks from FCA. The interior is bigger and comes with more premium features, the lighter construction improves performance, capabilities and efficiency and in every trim that I drove – the cabin was whisper-quiet around town and at highway speeds. Some longtime Ram fans might complain about the departure from the crosshair grille design, but other than that one small change, it is hard to find faults with this next generation Ram 1500.