Panoramic sunroof, 22-inch wheels, and bigger everything: The 2019 Dodge RAM 1500 presents a truly modern full-size truck. So I took it for a test drive.
The 2019 RAM 1500 is an upgrade in nearly all ways over the outgoing RAM, and it will be a serious competitor in the full-size truck market.
I got to play with this beefed-up truck in Scottsdale, Ariz., this week. To get a feel for it, I drove it both on road and off for some early impressions before it hits dealer lots later this month.
In short: The RAM 1500 drives like a truck – a quiet, comfortable, technology-packed truck – but still a truck. It is bigger in every way but remains easy to drive anywhere.
2019 Dodge RAM 1500 Review
The 2019 RAM is bigger in nearly every way, with the primary focus on offering more interior comfort and storage. Somehow, the engineers at RAM were able to go big while reducing weight up to 225 pounds. Even the dual exhaust tips, which fit nicely into the shaped rear bumper, are a half-inch larger!
Yet, at the same time, engineers also reduced wind resistance by up to 9 percent.
The main size difference is a wheelbase that adds an extra 4 inches to the cab. In the crew cab, this amounts to an extra inch of front passenger leg room and a whopping 3 inches of rear passenger leg room.
While every seat in this new truck feels very spacious, the rear passengers will for sure travel first class. How many trucks offer rear-seat passengers heated and cooled reclining seats?!
2019 RAM 1500 Seat: Leather vs. Cloth
Let’s talk about those seats, one of the most overlooked and important aspects of any vehicle. What other part of a vehicle do you come into more contact with? The new RAM seats are highly adjustable in all the right ways and offer good lumbar and leg support.
At 6 feet 3 inches tall and 170 pounds, I found the leather seats to be wide, flat, and firm. While the seat-cooling option on the leather seats is super nice, especially in the Arizona desert heat, I wouldn’t recommend the leather seats for anyone under 250 pounds. I found that I slid around a good bit due to the wide bolstering. Regrettably, my ass fell asleep way too quickly with the firm foam.
On the flip side, the cloth seats were comfortable, supportive, and offered a unique look. The material is tweed-like and looks as good as it feels.
The foam contouring on the cloth seats is considerably more supportive and compliant for my athletic frame, but I did find the seat base to be a bit flat. While you can’t get the cloth seats with cooling, RAM does offer them with a heated option.
RAM continues it’s more than 100-year heritage of big-rig styling with this 15th-generation pickup. Frankly, you’re either going to love or hate its looks.
But I’m impressed with how much the RAM’s design departs from all the other big U.S. trucks. Everyone is going with the flat-sided, chiseled, angular look, while RAM continues to offer rounded-edged, muscular designs.
2019 RAM Engines: Hemi, eTorque Hybrid, & Eco-Diesel
All the trucks I drove were Hemi V8-powered, with 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque on tap. This engine carries over from the current line, and it offered a great exhaust note and plenty of grunt.
There will be a new mild-hybrid eTorque system standard on the base Pentastar V6, and an option to add it on the Hemi V8. Both of these engine options are highly anticipated and unique but won’t be available until summer. The system should offer more off-the-line power and torque while improving fuel economy by about 10 percent.
Meanwhile, the new RAM Eco-Diesel model won’t hit the market until 2019. Ford and GM will both offer diesel power plants for half-ton pickups this year. This comes after years of RAM offering the only option in this space.
While RAM claims the new Eco-Diesel will best all the competition, we’ll have to wait and see, as there is no confirmed info on what it has to offer.
Mileage ratings on the truck are not yet available, but improved aerodynamics, lower weight, and the optional mild-hybrid system should combine for some impressive numbers in this big truck.
RAM 8-Speed Automatic Transmission
Power courses to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission for all announced engine options. There is no plan for a manual option on any new RAM 1500, mostly because a manual can’t compete with the fuel economy of the eight-speed automatic.
During my drive, I found the Hemi V8 suffered a bit of lag in power delivery from a standstill. But it offered plenty of smooth power once the truck was in motion.
Probably my least favorite part of the 2019 RAM was the gear selection. The primary selection is made with a rotary e-shifter dial on the dash. If you want to manually select a gear – for downshifting on a big hill to save brakes, for example – there are small up and down buttons on the bottom right of the steering wheel.
Both of these controls are a bit tedious to use and require your full attention, versus more traditional steering column- and console-mounted shift mechanisms.
2019 Dodge RAM 1500: Six Models
The new RAM 1500 comes in six models: Tradesman, Longhorn, Limited, Big Horn, Rebel, and Laramie.
MSRP starts around $33,000 and quickly climbs to well over $57,000.
Think of the Tradesman, above, as the work RAM, offering a vinyl interior, single exhaust, and a tiny infotainment system.
The Longhorn, above, offers a properly refined cowboy feel, with impressive Western-themed details throughout. At the other end of the luxury spectrum sits the Limited, offering loads of real wood, metal, and leather accents, and the latest in infotainment technologies.
The Rebel, below, is the sporty off-road adventure machine that many of us will gravitate toward, with expanded options and configurations now on offer.
Sadly, it won’t initially come with the massively awesome new 12-inch touch screen, but it does have aggressive styling inside and out and a full host of off-road-capable parts, like Bilstein shocks.
While there is no word yet on a single-cab option for the 2019 RAM 1500, it does come in two bed sizes and two cab styles.
This amounts to three overall configurations available across all trim levels: a 140-inch wheelbase quad cab with 6-foot 4-inch bed; a 144-inch wheelbase crew cab with 5-foot 7-inch bed; and a 153-inch wheelbase crew cab with 6-foot 4-inch bed.
Compared to the smaller quad cab, the crew cab offers LOTS more rear passenger and storage volume.
2019 RAM 1500: Storage
Extra storage space and options seem to be the story for all new full-size, light-duty trucks. The RAM is no different, with updated and innovative storage solutions inside and out. And that’s in addition to its increased size everywhere.
A rear flat-load floor with recessed “RamBins” on each side, along with 20–40 liters of storage contained under the rear bench seat, provide a ton of secure interior cargo capacity.
Also, the center console has a cavernous 151.1 liters of storage space; nearly double the volume of the current truck and all competitors. The console has room for hanging file folders, a 15-inch laptop, a tablet, cell phone, two drinks, and plenty of miscellaneous stuff.
In addition, the truck bed is taller by 35 mm. That not only increases the truck bed volume, but it offers better aerodynamics and a more muscular side profile. While the unique RamBox option at $995 isn’t inexpensive, it does offer a lot of very useful locked storage.
It’s a great place to store smelly trail-running or paddling gear after a day of adventure. It promises to keep all contents secure while preventing stench from entering the cab – and that’s priceless!
Ram 1500 Off-Road Capability
Currently, the Rebel stands as the pinnacle of off-road ability in the RAM 1500 lineup. It offers things like aggressive styling, a 1-inch lift, skid plates, aggressive 33-inch all-terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, and a rear e-locker.
For 2019, the Rebel is available in a quad cab and comes standard with coil springs (with an option of air springs). This is in contrast with previous crew-cab Rebel models that had air spring configurations only.
Many of Rebel’s off-road goodies now grace the full range of RAM 1500 via the “4×4 Offroad” package. The package will set you back $795 and offers a 1-inch lift, taller and more aggressive tires, off-road valved shocks, skid plates, tow hooks, and a rear e-locker.
This means you can make a super luxurious Limited model into a super capable off-road truck, right from the factory.
The RAM 1500 is also a fully coil-sprung truck, which offers great on-road and off-road ride comfort and control. You can also get this truck with the optional air suspension, for $1,795, which offers three ride heights and an extremely plush ride, especially when the road gets rough.
Technology Inside the 2019 RAM
The first thing you’ll notice when you peek your head into many of the new RAM 1500 builds is the HUGE 12-inch touchscreen dominating the center dash. It comes standard on the Limited and is an option on the Longhorn and Laramie. One of my favorite features is its split-screen function, where you can run two different applications at the same time (e.g., navigation on the top and radio controls on the bottom).
While many have complained the multitude of buttons and knobs around the touchscreen are redundant, I’d have to differ. It’s really nice to have glove-compatible functionality on all key climate and radio functions, and have navigation on the full screen while adjusting the cabin temp or radio station quickly and easily. Who likes to dig through menus while driving?
Other awesome tech features like LED lighting, wireless phone charging, and a 360-degree camera system live throughout the truck. One tiny feature I found ingenious was a small notch in the double cup holder at the back of the center console. It is designed to hold a tablet upright so that rear passengers can watch the screen.
Plus, the aluminum tailgate on this truck is also pretty cool, as it has a dampened drop on all but the lowest trim level. And it drops with a button on the key fob, in the cab, or on the gate itself. There is even an indicator on the dash that lets you know if the gate is down.
2019 Dodge RAM 1500: Impressions
The RAM engineers joke that the only carryover parts from this generation of the 1500 are the Hemi and high-strength steel floor in the truck box.
The redesign of nearly everything on the truck aims to keep up with the light-duty, full-size truck buyer, who continually asks for a more SUV-like interior and driving experience while simultaneously wanting more and more ease of use and functionality.
Somehow, RAM managed to create a truck that carries more weight, tows a heavier load, stops better, has improved fuel economy, and is bigger, lighter, more comfortable, and much quieter.
The brand managed all this while taking care of both hardcore work truck and off-road enthusiasts yet still appealing to the everyday street truck customer.
The 2019 RAM 1500 is ready for adventure and is for sure a compelling option in the full-size truck category. And if you’re interested in checking out more, you can build and price your ultimate 2019 RAM 1500 now with the online builder RAM launched this week.